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  4. China's bid for media control in Pakistan draws concern, says US report

China's bid for media control in Pakistan draws concern, says US report

China has been actively working with Pakistan to combat disinformation through initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Media Forum, where it has set up the "CPEC Rapid Response Information Network."

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 Washington Published on: October 05, 2023 7:38 IST
Image Source : PEXELS Chinese and Pakistan's flag.

China has been working to exert influence over global media narratives and aims to gain significant control over Pakistan's media, according to a recent report from the US State Department. The report highlighted China's efforts to partner with countries like Russia to counter unfavorable narratives and noted Pakistan as a prominent example. In its cooperation with Pakistan, China has sought to combat disinformation and deepen ties through initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Media Forum. The report mentioned the establishment of the "CPEC Rapid Response Information Network" and the planned launch of the China-Pakistan Media Corridor (CPMC).

“With Pakistan, Beijing has sought to deepen cooperation on ‘combating disinformation’, including under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Media Forum,” said the report.

In 2021, China reportedly attempted to negotiate significant control over Pakistani media under the CPMC, proposing the creation of a jointly operated "nerve center" to monitor and shape Pakistan's information environment. While Pakistan didn't appear to seriously entertain this proposal, the report noted that it exemplified China's ambition to exert direct control over a close partner's domestic information landscape.

China's draft concept paper suggested the establishment of a "nerve center" to monitor Pakistan's information environment, involving inputs from various sources, including think tanks, media organizations, and Confucius Institutes. The proposed mechanisms aimed to influence public opinion, provide embassy reports to Pakistan's press release system, and address public criticism about China.

“The proposed nerve centre would have relied on “three mechanisms” and “two platforms” to carry out this mission. The mechanisms would have provided means to convert important reports into Urdu products to sway popular opinion; provide PRC Embassy reports directly to Pakistan’s official press release system; and monitor and respond to public criticism about the PRC,” said the State Department.

The report also highlighted China's substantial annual spending on foreign information manipulation, using false or biased information to promote positive views of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Simultaneously, China suppresses critical information that contradicts its desired narratives on issues such as Taiwan, human rights, the South China Sea, its domestic economy, and international economic engagement.

Overall, the report emphasised China's efforts to cultivate a global environment that encourages foreign entities to accept its preferred narratives and avoid criticism of its actions.

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