CBS Affiliate Partners With Chinese State Television To Promote Party Narratives to US Viewers

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Logo in stone outside headquarters of broadcaster CBS in Manhattan, New York City, New York, February 6, 2020. A California CBS affiliate partnered with a mainland Chinese television station to openly promote the Chinese Communist Party to a U.S. audience.
Logo in stone outside headquarters of broadcaster CBS in Manhattan, New York City, New York, February 6, 2020. A California CBS affiliate partnered with a mainland Chinese television station to openly promote the Chinese Communist Party to a U.S. audience. (Image: Morse Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

A CBS affiliate network has partnered with a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) television and radio outlet to broadcast productions created “to showcase the achievements China has made under the CPC leadership.”

The announcement was made in a July 20 press release by Chinese state-run Zhejiang Radio & TV Group, who promoted the launch of an “International Media Convergence Campaign” over the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist of China designed to play the Party’s narrative to the world. 

The release stated that CBS KCFJ 570AM, in California, is the project’s U.S. re-broadcaster. KCFJ lists programs such as 60 Minutes on its program schedule and calls itself “the gold standard of news.” The Chinese broadcaster also partners with stations in France, South Korea, Croatia, and with Congo’s national broadcaster. 

The partnership states it will produce a “Beautiful Zhejiang” short video contest, calling for the creation of five-minute documentaries with themes such as “I’m in Zhejiang,” “100 Years of Zhejiang in my Eyes, ” and “The Most Beautiful Foreign Experiencers.”

CBS KCFJ already runs a similarly-themed project called “Looking China” in partnership with the CCP’s Beijing Normal University. The Looking China website is hosted on the KCFJ website and describes itself as a “Youth Film Project,” using non-standard English verbiage rife with Party rhetoric. 

According to National Pulse, the Looking China documentaries are broadcast in the mainland on the Communist Party’s primary controlled mouthpieces CCTV, Xinhua, and People’s Daily. The short films are neither of a particular quality nor do they show China’s 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture, unsurprising since it has been deliberately destroyed by the Cultural Revolution.  

In the piece The Taste of Changchun, the subject is a young mid-20s Canadian man from Vancouver who travels to Changchun to film a documentary about Chinese culture and becomes enchanted with the city’s culinary delights. However, the entire piece is composed of overlaid low-quality photographs of his trip as he talks to a camera from a modern western apartment and focuses on domestically available dishes such as ginger beef, dumplings, Chinese BBQ, and hot pot. 

Promoting blind loyalty to the Party’s murder of Chinese citizens

More concerningly, Looking China is pushing more than a poor understanding of Chinese culture. One of the pieces, titled A New Spring, focuses on 94-year-old Lan Tianye, an actor and a director with a Beijing-based performing arts company he joined in 1952.

In a June 30 article by state propaganda outlet Global Times, Lan was issued a glowing endorsement for his lifetime of service to the regime as he was awarded the ‘July 1 Medal’ by the Communist Party, an award named after the day the regime was founded and described as the “Highest honor given by the Party to outstanding CPC members in different development phases of the country.”

Global Times referred to Lan as “a red artist” and extolled his lifelong devotion to the CCP.

In A New Spring, Lan promotes Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution to a western audience, revealing what the title of the short film actually refers to, “After the Cultural Revolution, we felt that a new spring had come for society, for our country, and for our culture.” But it meant Mao’s destruction of traditional Chinese culture and the millions of citizens killed during his rampage were labeled as a “tide of progress” that “was very strong in terms of societal and cultural norms.” The Party devotee said it was these “cultural changes,” in addition to the CCP itself, who inspired him to join “the revolution,” claiming, “The Chinese Communist government was founded on October 1st, 1949. In Tiananmen Square, I participated in the founding ceremony of the People’s Republic of China.” 

The real China revealed

By comparison, Shen Yun Performing Arts, classical Chinese dance and performing arts show that tours globally runs its 2021 tour under the slogan “China Before Communism,” and showcases the unique characters, feelings, stories, principles, and moral lessons provided by China’s dynasties. The show uses a wide array of colorful and historically accurate costumes, a part-western, part-eastern classical orchestra, and the world’s most skilled dancers in Chinese Classical Dance techniques. 

“For 5,000 years, divine culture flourished in the land of China. Through breathtaking music and dance, Shen Yun is reviving this glorious culture. Shen Yun, or 神韻, can be translated as: ‘The beauty of divine beings dancing’,” reads the Shen Yun website.

Communist Party buying influence with US media

Earlier in 2021, it was revealed through Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings that U.S.-based lobbying firm BLJ Worldwide had been representing the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a CCP United Front Work Department arm, since at least 2011, to influence nearly all leading U.S. media outlets, including CBS News, by arranging “private dinners in New York and Washington DC” between CUSEF and U.S. media. 

BLJ Worldwide also, “Promoted CUSEF’s interests and activities in the U.S., including expanding third party supporters, generating media placements, and arranging visits for delegations to China,” ran the official CUSEF Twitter account, and promoted the ChinaUSFocus.com website, which is composed of Beijing-friendly U.S. narratives.

FARA documents revealed BLJ worldwide raked in almost a half-million dollars in fees and expenses from CUSEF in 2014 alone. In 2011’s filings, BLJ’s principal Peter Brown reported in a letter to Claire Lo, CEO of CUSEF Hong Kong, that his work resulted in “28 media placements generated as a result” of trips arranged by his firm for “four high-profile journalists” to China. 

Brown was also pleased with the success of their efforts, as they “directly influenced the publication of 26 opinion articles and quotes within 103 separate articles” published on behalf of the CUSEF as what were effectively unlabelled advertorials in the U.S. media.

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.