While president Trump ridicules reporters and declares the media the "enemy of the people," China is spending millions to fortify its media and overseas propaganda institutions in a bid to promote its image in the US and throughout the world, according to a study released last month by the Hoover Institution.
"While Americans are well acquainted with China’s quest for influence through the projection of diplomatic, economic, and military power, we are less aware of the myriad ways Beijing has more recently been seeking cultural and informational influence, some of which could undermine our democratic processes," reads the 191-page report called, "Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance."
It contends "China’s influence activities have collectively helped throw the crucial relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the United States into a worrisome state of imbalance and antagonism."
That campaign comes as US media are slammed as "fake news" and under financial siege from both advertisers and the Internet.
The Chinese Government, in turn, stepped up its "grab the right to speak" effort from western media and independent Chinese-language outlets, which it claims distorts news about China and sullies the country's image.
The public policy think tank reports that state-owned Chinese media companies have established a significant foothold in the US in print, radio, TV and online.
China's main English-language newspaper, China Daily, has opened offices throughout the US. It also gains influence by lavishly funding its China Watch propaganda inserts in top American outlets like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
The Stanford University institute notes that it's often difficult to tell that material from China Watch is just propaganda for the PRC. For instance, Trump highlighted a China Watch piece that ran in the Des Moines Register as "real news," according to Hoover.
Meanwhile, China's government has "severely limited the ability of US and western media outlets to conduct normal newsgathering activities within China, much less to provide news feeds directly to Chinese listeners, viewers and readers in China."
The country also has stepped up efforts to silence critical voices in the Chinese-American community, by dispatching officials to the US to pressure them or family members living in China.
Hoover calls on the Trump administration to demand reciprocity for American journalists attempting to do their professional work in China. "To the extent that they are prevented from doing so as a result of visa denials and restrictions of access, the US State Department should respond in kind by restricting visas and access for Chinese journalists in the United States," says the report.
Hoover recommends that media advancing the Chinese government line be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. It suggests that employees of "these organizations should be given a disclosure package making them aware that they are working for a foreign agent institution."
The US also should help independent Chinese media survive by "using grants via the Fulbright program or other vehicles, such as the State Department International Visitors or Speakers’ Bureau."
Domestically, the US should aid independent Chinese-language media through manufacturing credits for printing press operations, and nonprofit tax designations to allow journalism business models to survive the current transitional crisis."
Hoover stresses the need "to strike a balance between passivity and overreaction, confidence in our foundations and alarm about their possible subversion, and the imperative to sustain openness while addressing the unfairness of contending on a series of uneven playing fields."