#CCPinCEE | Chinese influence in the Czech Republic

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There is ample evidence of China’s attempts to manipulate public discourse and media behavior in the Czech Republic, aided by media consolidation. Chinese officials write editorials, pay premiums in print media, and attempt to shape public discourse through propaganda and disinformation.

For example, when CEFC invested in Czech media company Empresa Media, China’s coverage in big business, owned by Empresa, Tyden magazine went from balanced to totally positive. Another Empresa property, TV Barrandov, famous for its weekly interviews with Czech President Miloš Zeman, has started covering the Belt and Road Initiative more frequently than any other Czech media outlet.

Besides programs in English, German, Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish, the state-owned company China Radio International broadcasts and manages websites in seven other languages ​​of EU countries: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian. Although CRI’s coverage area is limited and its appeal to CEE audiences is questionable, it could help influence local audiences, including the second- and third-generation ethnic Chinese diaspora.

The Czech Republic has been the target of propaganda about the origin of the coronavirus, disseminated mainly through alternative and fringe media and Chinese media, such as CRI. MapInfluenCE’s research found that in addition to highlighting alleged achievements of “masked diplomacy”, Chinese social media accounts in the Czech Republic have attacked the United States, including with reruns of disinformation stories about COVID-19 from USA. However, this content was not personalized for the local audience, indicating a rather passive repost of content created elsewhere.

Finally, China has slowly built its presence on social media platforms in the Czech Republic, a trend that accelerated in 2019-2020. The Chinese Embassy in Prague established its Facebook page in 2015 and opened a Twitter account in February 2020, following the trend of other Chinese embassies around the world. Both channels have become particularly active during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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