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Will outlets like the NYT be captured by Chinese influence and if so, when?

by ChristianKl1 min read8th Jun 20214 comments

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John Cena apology for suggesting that Taiwan is a country by saying “Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9” illustrates how China has immense power over Hollywood. As China's influence growth in the world they will try to exert influence on more Western institutions. Should we expect outlets like the NYT to change in a way where calling China a country is a bad career move? If not, what will stop China from expanding it's influence in such a way that it has similar influence over the NYT as it currently has over Hollywood? It it does happen, how long will it take?

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Epistemic status: speculating mostly from first principles with no expertise.

I don't think the NYT specifically will be captured. I believe the NYT is currently censored in China. Further, I think that most likely the NYT is quite far from being uncensored; substantial changes in editorial policy would be required. For instance, the NYT is willing to publish opinion peaces from democracy advocates in Hong Kong. The NYT also probably doesn't have an existing customer base in China (partially due to this censorship). This is unlike Hollywood. For instance, Marvel movies are quite successful in China, and Marvel (Disney more generally) targets its movies for Chinese audiences and to appease the Chinese censors already. Further, the NYT generally seems to follow a center left or maybe somewhat progressive political stance and China is generally quite unpopular among this cohort at the moment.

While I suppose it would be possible for the corporate managment to greatly alter the editorial policy to gain access to the Chinese market, I think this would cause a huge backlash in the US unless the typical center left and/or progressive stance on China changed substantially. This backlash would include the journalists working at the NYT and I think the attitudes of the journalists greatly shape the overall stance and policies of the NYT.

So, for the NYT to be captured I think that a considerable shift in the standard US center left and/or progressive political views on China would have to occur. This would also have to be accompanied with radical changes to the editorial policy (no publishing of pro-democracy opinion pieces from Hong Kong for instance). This isn't entirely unprecedented. For instance, a NYT opinon editor resigned after an editorial by Tom Cotton was heavy critiqued (at least in left wing circles). This is despite the fact that the NYT will publish editorials by the Taliban! See also "I can tolerate anything except the outgroup" by Scott Alexander.

It's hard for me to see how such a large political shift would occur.

As far as the capture of other large US media institiutions, I think a good indicator would be if they are currently fully censored. If so, probably the institution is unlikely to be captured anytime soon - there isn't a clear feedback cycle which would lead to capture.

EDIT: also, I commit to responding to comments on this answer for the next 2 weeks.

Further, the NYT generally seems to follow a center left or maybe somewhat progressive political stance and China is generally quite unpopular among this cohort at the moment.

Hollywood also mostly follows center left norms and John Cena did apologize despite it creating predictable domestic backslash. 

I think that most likely the NYT is quite far from being uncensored; substantial changes in editorial policy would be required.

Of course it would require changes in editioral policy. Annie Alden Sulzberger is currently head of research for the TV series ... (read more)

2ryan_greenblatt6moI think we have different models/understandings of how Chinese capture is happening. My understanding is that the driving force is the 'soft pressure' of access to the Chinese market without being blocked by the great firewall or other barriers. In other words, I think organizations and individuals are self censoring for fear of losing access. I don't believe the Chinese state is typically directly threating or applying leverage to individuals; they are applying that leverage indirectly via the carrot of a large market. From reading what you wrote it seems that you think that the driving force is somewhat 'harder pressure' or at least more direct intervention by the Chinese state. A related question is how much the Chinese government cares about control over media which isn't (very easily) available in China (like the NYT). From my understanding, they probably don't care very much. Thus, they wouldn't try to apply leverage to alter the content of the NYT. I think this may be the crux of our difference in beliefs: you think they do care a lot. Here are some reasons to think they do care: * Funding Confucius Institutes [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute] * Chinese goverment english news sites and Chinese government representative social media accounts * The fact the celebrities and other entities self-censor even when mostly adressing US audiences Here are some reasons to think they don't care: * I don't think Chinese state media aimed at the US is as well produced/popular as Russian media (RT) * China hasn't yet engaged in US misinformation campaigns to the same scale as Russia (as far as I am aware...). * I am not aware of any accounts of China pressuring media companies which don't do much business in China. I think that in the future the Chinese government might care more and be more willing to apply direct pressure. However, there are some reasons to suggest that direct pressure could be less effective in the case of
2[comment deleted]6mo