Talk of the Town
On Aug 25 the 5th Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation was held in Beijing in a hybrid offline-online format. According to China Daily, over 240 media professionals and diplomats from China and 42 African countries attended. The forum was organized by China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), Beijing municipal government and the African Union of Broadcasting and was given a high level of prominence in China’s state media-political signaling ecosystem, featuring on Xinhua’s evening news on Aug 25.
This was in large part due to Xi Jinping, by proxy, delivering an address to the forum on the theme of “new prospects, new development, new cooperation”. Xi’s address, delivered by the head of the CCP’s Publicity Department, Huang Kunming, called for Chinese and African journalists to be “advocates for development, to tell the stories of the new era in China-Africa cooperation well, and promote the common values of all humankind.”
From the African side, the event was attended (virtually) by Macky Sall, president of Senegal and current co-chair of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, Moussa Faki Mahamat of the African Union Commission, and ministers of media related departments from Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Republic of Congo.
The Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation, held biannually and held alternately in China and Africa, is now in its 10th year. The last session was held in Nairobi in 2020 and focused on the more concrete theme of media and the fourth industrial revolution.
While to Chinese stakeholders, Xi’s call to “tell stories well” – an extension of a domestic media campaign – may primarily concern telling positive stories of the China-Africa relationship, from the African side perhaps the most critical need is understanding of and access to China and Chinese stakeholders. In his address at the forum, CEO of the African Union of Broadcasting, Gregoire Ndjaka, noted the training opportunities China has provided to African journalists as one of the most beneficial aspects of the media cooperation relationship. A China Daily article last week stated that over 3,000 African journalists have taken part in such training programs. While these training programs invariably try to show the most positive sides of China and its development story to participants, there is little evidence that they directly censor the reporting of journalists. In a few weeks Panda Paw Dragon Claw will publish a profile of one Nigerian journalist who participated in a reporting program for African journalists run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs back in 2018. Keep an eye out for that for a more in depth look at how these programs operate.
A similar program is now being run through the China Public Diplomacy Association, a “national non-profit organization”, the latest round of which reportedly began in June with over 90 journalists attending. According to Nigerian outlet The Sun, addressing the cohort of participants, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying expressed a desire to see more African news outlets establish operations in China.
Last year’s FOCAC in Dakar promised cooperation on “people-to-people” exchanges, under which media is listed as one example, and on the hardware of digitalization such as internet and 5G infrastructure. Xi’s address to the FOCAC8 also included a promise to “invite 10,000 high-level African professionals to seminars and workshops” in China.