The advertorials, called China Watch, were paid for by Chinese state-run English language paper China Daily. They typically contain articles with a pro-Beijing slant that tackle U.S.-China relations, the Chinese economy and Chinese culture. According to Chang, the China Watch inserts allow the regime to propagate its own narratives to American readers.
The China affairs expert gave one example: The Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times from carried a China Watch supplement. The supplement which ran in the LA Times' Nov. 29 issue claimed that registered organ donors in China had increased by more than double in the past 20 months, according to the Red Cross Society of China.
Chang further commented that China's organ harvesting from prisoners is "a narrative that the [Times] supplement tries to counter," and the paid article's goal was to convey that "all of the [donated] organs are available in China because they come from willing donors." However, he noted: "There is substantial … [and] growing evidence that defenseless people are being killed for their organs. So we've got to realize that this is not just some sort of laughable propaganda put into the LA Times. This really is promoting insidious narratives."
An independent tribunal found in 2019 that the Chinese regime had been forcibly harvesting the organs of prisoners for years "on a substantial scale," with Falun Gong followers being the main sources. It also found that China's voluntary organ donation figures did not match the number of transplants performed. The Chinese regime has claimed that all organs for transplants have come from voluntary donors since 2015.
Chang denounced the move by mainstream media newspapers to permit the Chinese regime's propaganda for publishing: "The Los Angeles Times accepted a lot of money to propagate China's narrative. Shame on the LA Times … and other major U.S. publications that have run similar inserts."
According to the latest Department of Justice filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), China Daily paid the LA Times $340,000 for advertising campaigns between June 2020 and October 2020. The Chinese paper also paid the U.S. outlet $111,000 for printing costs between May 2020 and October 2020.
The FARA filing also showed that China Daily paid The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy magazine for advertising campaigns. Media outlets in other countries such as the U.K.'s Financial Times and the Canadian Globe & Mail also received compensation from the Chinese state-run publication. Payments for these media outlets from May 2020 through October 202 ranged from $85,000 to $223,000. (Related: CCP media outlet continues paying US counterparts millions to publish its propaganda.)
The New York Times, another newspaper known for its leftist leanings, was among the publications that China Daily paid for advertisement expenses – based on a previous FARA filing. As such, it readily published a pro-Beijing article in November alleging that former presidential adviser Steve Bannon and fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui were behind the exposé of Hong Kong virologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan. Back in September, Yan claimed in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the Wuhan coronavirus was made in a laboratory. (Related: NYT quietly scrubs Chinese propaganda.)
Prior to the article bashing Bannon and Guo, the Times also published an op-ed in October defending the regime's intrusion in Hong Kong. Written by Hong Kong Executive Council member Regina Ip, the piece also attacked pro-democracy figures in the special administrative region – claiming that the have caused more harm "by going against [the] constitutional order and stirring up chaos and dissatisfaction."
Ip further remarked that she saw "little chance" of compromise between the pro-democracy faction in Hong Kong and the central government in Beijing. The central government has said democratic development in Hong Kong has brought about nothing but "chaos, polarization and anti-China sentiment."