An army of Western social media influencers, each with hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok, Instagram or Twitch, is ready to spread positive stories about China during next month’s Winter Olympics.
Concerned about the international backlash against the Beijing Games amid a wave of diplomatic boycotts, the government has hired Western public relations professionals to spread an alternative narrative through social media.
In November, as Joe Biden contemplated a diplomatic boycott, Vipinder Jaswal, a news week contributor and former Fox News and HSBC executive, signed a $300,000 contract with China’s consulate general in New York to “strategize and execute” an influence campaign promoting the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the US .
The contract, which has been registered with the US Department of Justice, sets out a detailed public relations strategy. Under the agreement, between November 22 and March 13, when the Paralympic Winter Games end, each influencer will be asked to produce three to five “deliverables,” meaning content designed to fit the target audience. . Jaswal claims that his company has received as many as 50 pitches from influencers ranging from former Olympians to entrepreneurs.
The contract states that 70% of the content will be related to culture, including the history of Beijing, cultural relics, people’s modern life and new trends. Another 20% will highlight “cooperation and anything good in China-US relations,” including high-level bilateral changes and positive outcomes.
Jaswal, who was born in the United Kingdom, received $210,000 shortly after the contract with Chinese diplomats was sealed, he told the Observer. He promised Beijing that his influencers would generate approximately 3 million impressions on social media platforms frequently used by young Americans.
He said he was well aware of the controversies surrounding China’s policies in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, but “what we are trying to do is just highlight the integrity and dignity of the Olympics,” he said. “Boycotts do not help mutual understanding… I do not support boycotts. They are ineffective, irrelevant and inconsequential.”
Jaswal’s Beijing contract comes at a time of precarious bilateral relations between China and the United States. He is under intense scrutiny since his contract with the Chinese consulate. On January 3, Republican Senator Rick Scott urged in a letter to news weekhigher-ups to “reconsider their relationship with Vipp Jaswal”.
Last month, Biden announced that his administration would organize a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, in a show of disagreement with the Chinese government’s treatment of people in the Uyghur region of Xinjiang. Since then, several US allies, including the UK and Australia, have joined calls not to send government officials to China.
For more than a decade, China has been ramping up its overseas messaging effort through state-sponsored media outlets. He spent nearly $60 million in the US in 2020, according to Open Secrets, a Washington DC-based organization that tracks money in US politics. The funding included money for the US branch of state broadcaster CCTV and the Chinese Daily Newspaper.
American companies, including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Airbnb, Intel and Visa, are among the top 13 partners for the upcoming Games. Other backers range from Japanese carmaker Toyota to German financial services firm Allianz and French information technology consultancy Atos.
In November, human rights organizations accused Western corporate sponsors of “wasting the opportunity” to pressure China to address its “appalling human rights record.”
“Businesses need to know that under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, they have a responsibility to identify and mitigate human rights risks, and to help [the] The Chinese government’s whitewashing risks being complicit in these abuses,” said Wang Yaqiu, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The Chinese government has consistently denied allegations of human rights abuses within its own territory.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism