Propaganda comes in all sizes, and communist China wants a piece of Times Square now.
Xinhua, the state-controlled propaganda agency of the Chinese Communist Party, has leased a long-term advertising billboard space in Manhattan’s iconic Times Square, renting a huge LED sign called a spectacular in U.S. advertising parlance.
But Xinhua is not a brand. It is the mark of branded disinformation and propaganda, and Americans need to know that.
Like the former Soviet Union, China thinks that it can fool the Western world with glass skyscrapers, space flights and glowing Times Square signs.
But the West knows better — or does it? — and Xinhua is merely flexing its public-relations muscles as it tries to pull the wool over gullible eyes in America and Europe.
Xinhua is a news agency? Let’s be honest: It’s the propaganda arm of a one-party state in an undemocratic land ruled by fear, which uses trumped-up jail terms to keep dissidents in line. Xinhua is akin to the old Soviet propaganda machines of yesteryear. Remember Tass?
It’s one thing for Times Square to open its advertising space to private brands from across the globe, and surely Chinese brands such as Haier and Levono are welcome to showcase their logos there. But a so-called news agency that prints blatant falsehoods and untruths about events inside China and in the West, and has the gall to call its workers journalists? Whoever let Xinhua into Times Square ought to have their heads examined.
New York real-estate firm Sherwood Equities, which owns properties that include some on Times Square, seems to think there’s nothing wrong with pocketing the hefty monthly rental fees from Xinhua. After all, America wants to be pals with Beijing, which holds much of our debt, and what better way to show it than to let them say “ni hao” (hello) in Times Square.
Why China’s soft public-relations push in Times Square? Well, for one thing, Xinhua has introduced a CNN-like 24-hour English-language broadcast service — China Network Corporation (CNC World) — which seeks to reach millions of gullible viewers around the world with state-sanctioned propaganda of the most nefarious and sophisticated kind.
Xinhua is also flexing its propaganda tentacles with an English-language wire service, hoping to compete with such veteran news agencies as The Associated Press and Reuters.
Behind the Times Square sign is China’s desire to counter what it insists is “widespread bias against China” in the Western media, from CNN to the New York Times.
But as the Times itself said recently about the new sign, Xinhua has some work to do:
“Reports by Xinhua on topics like Taiwan and Tibet, which are of considerable political concern to its government bosses, are not necessarily known for being objective.”
Welcome to Times Square, Xinhua wolves in sheep’s clothing. Maybe you’ll learn something about freedom and democracy while you’re there.
Dan Bloom is a Taiwan-based freelance writer.