China is continuing to extend its "soft power" around the world through a number of carefully planned strategies, an exiled Chinese writer has claimed.
Yu Jie, the U.S.-based author of a book about China's president titled "Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping," said that a key strand in wielding the influence of the ruling Chinese Communist Party on overseas university campuses is the more than half a million Chinese who study abroad.
Chinese students overseas, whose numbers are projected to swell still further in the next few years, are often members of the government-backed Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), which earlier this year slammed graduating student Yang Shuping for "insulting the motherland" in her commencement speech at the University of Maryland.
Influence is also wielded via the network of Confucius Institutes, which have sprung up at hundreds of universities and teaching institutions around the world in recent years.
Partnering with local academic centers, their aim is to teach people to speak Chinese, as well as broadening people's experience of Chinese culture in general.
But Yu said they also have considerable perks to offer foreigners who toe the party line.
"For example, if you say nice things about China, the Confucius Institute will invite you on a trip to China, in which you stay in a nice hotel, and maybe even meet some officials for a meeting or a meal," he said.
"If you criticize China, the Confucius Institute will make a collection of your comments or writings, and you will be put on a blacklist, and won't even be able to get a visa to visit China," Yu said.
Increasing media penetration
The Chinese government also regularly takes out four full pages of advertorial in The Washington Post newspaper, titled "China Watch," Yu said.
"Every couple of weeks there will be a four-page insert with the words "China Post" at the top of it, made to look exactly like a newspaper," Yu said. "It is inserted into the main newspaper, and it has the words "China Observer" at the masthead."
"If you don't look carefully, the words "China" and "Post" might seem to mean reports on mainland China, but right at the bottom of the page, there's some small print explaining that these pages have been supplied by the government of the People's Republic of China."
"This must earn millions of dollars a year for The Washington Post," he said.
Yu also cited a number of local newspapers in the Washington D.C. area that have been bought up by companies backed by Beijing.
"There are around 10 free Chinese-language newspapers in the D.C. area, where I live, that are now controlled by [Beijing], and which often reprint entire articles from the People's Daily," he said. "They are also starting to encroach on Western mainstream media territory, harming national security in the United States."
"There are experts in Washington who have revealed that even Hollywood movies have to be approved by Beijing's censors at the propaganda ministry before they can be shown," Yu added.
He cited the case of "soft power" being wielded via China's state-owned travel agencies to target any country that displeased Beijing.
"There was a story yesterday about a hotel manager who refused to supply a venue, saying that there were already too many Chinese tourists in his hotel," Yu said. "This really annoyed Beijing, and suddenly the supply of guests was just cut off."
Seoul's deployment of a U.S. missile defense shield in March sparked anti-Korean protests and the closure of many stores in the South Korean convenience chain Lotte across the country.
Chinese travel agencies, which fly Chinese tourists into South Korea on mass vacations arranged by state-owned enterprises, began boycotting the country as a destination.
Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.