Formed in April 2016, the “Belt and Road” Media Cooperation Union (“一带一路”媒体传播联盟) claims to bring together more than 150 media from 43 countries and regions to promote what the China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC) calls “diversified media cooperation programs.” It is a common tactic of the Chinese government and associated institutions to invite foreign participants to professional and business forums, and then to lend these forums an official and summit-like air, even admitting guests — who might suppose they are simply in town for a conference or networking opportunity — as “members” in a formal alliance based on supposed common interests.
From the beginning, the MCU’s support from the State Council Information Office was openly acknowledged, and officials made clear that the group was an extension of Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative. The opening address at the MCU’s formation was delivered by Cui Yuying (崔玉英), a deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department and deputy chief of the State Council Information Office.
The MCU was developed on the basis of “advanced training courses” for overseas Chinese-language media (海外华文媒体高级研修班) held regularly by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, which in the past have combined interviews and training, with participants first visiting and touring several places in China, with a deliberate focus on China’s development lessons, followed by exchanges and discussions with experts and scholars on topics such as China’s diplomacy, economy, journalism, ethnicity, and religion. The courses have been attended by directors, editors-in-chief, and editorial leaders of Chinese-language media from around the world, as well as journalists from central overseas Chinese media.
The 11th Advanced Training Course for Overseas Chinese Media, held in June 2014, focused on “Reporting on Tibet” (涉藏报道), with visits arranged for journalists for overseas Chinese media to Tibetan areas in Sichuan. The 16th workshop, held in May 2017, focused on the “Belt and Road” initiative and the promotion of related concepts to overseas Chinese media. At the completion ceremony of the course in 2014, Qiu Yuanping (裘援平), then Director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, asked overseas Chinese media to introduce “a true, multi-dimensional and comprehensive China” (真是立体全面的中国) to the outside world, and to “tell the Chinese story well” in order to improve international public opinion about China.
The China Intercontinental Communication Centre (CICC), which operates the MCU, is a state-owned entity under the SCIO that conducts a wide range of foreign propaganda activities. For more, see “Documenting China’s Influence,” an investigation of CICC and its links to a UK-registered company.