On New Year’s Day, China Central Television (CCTV) unveiled its newest “soft power” entertainment media venture, whose purpose is to extend China’s global media influence. Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the overriding directive of this new collection of television stations and news agencies will be to “follow the party line and promote ‘positive propaganda as the main theme.’”
The CCTV announcement compounds the growing risk that increased Chinese investment will entice Hollywood into volunteering itself as a propaganda division of the Communist Party of China (CPC). And if these trends continue, the Western world’s outlet for Chinese dissenters will be closed.
China’s film industry has in recent years grown approximately 34% annually and generated $6.8 billion in 2015. While many applaud the very modest political reforms that sometimes complement China’s market liberalization, one should be wary of the country’s iron grip on its entertainment industry.
China’s industry players are inextricably bound to the CPC, as evidenced by the ascent of Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man. Jianlin’s successes are a product of quid pro quo arrangements between himself and the CPC’s top officials. Further, Jianlin is a delegate to the CPC congress and was a high-level advisor in China’s faux legislature from 2008 to 2013. Today, CPC delegate Jianlin can count several American awards shows, including the Golden Globes, the Billboard and American Music Awards, and even AMC Theaters as part of his recently accrued collection.
Today’s Young Voices Podcast features Young Voices Executive Director Casey Given and YV Advocate Dan Kingon the state of free speech in France since the attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015 and the future of free speech in America under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Saturday, January 7, marked two years since armed Islamic terrorists stormed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 11 people following the magazine’s feature of a drawing of the prophet Mohammed. Yet while the French people briefly rallied around the magazine with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie,” free speech remains under assault due to French hate speech laws.
In the aftermath of the attack, the PEN American Center, one of the world’s foremost free speech advocates, decided to award the French magazine its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. However, dozens of writers who were supposed to attend the gala withdrew, stating that they felt Charlie Hebdo promoted “cultural intolerance.”
That line of thinking is ever-growing and dangerous, and it is strengthened by systemic failings in France that allow such attacks to take place. France’s laws regarding hate speech, namely Section 24 of the Press Law of 1881 on preventing speech that “incites discrimination hatred, or violence on the basis of one’s origin or membership (or non-membership) in an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group,” are incredibly restrictive and essentially embolden and justify the attackers.