Report by: Ellie Young and Anonymous
- Increasing influence: Beijing’s media influence in Brazil is significant and growing. During the coverage period of 2019–21, Chinese state media and diplomatic actors actively engaged in public diplomacy and expanded their social media presence. Chinese state media outlets also signed or renewed cooperation agreements with both private and public Brazilian media.
- Limited audience and impact: Experts interviewed for this report noted that there was a narrow audience for Chinese state media content in Brazil. Public opinion polling found widespread skepticism toward Beijing’s positions on issues such as the efficacy of Chinese-made vaccines, broad anti-China sentiment that was sometimes fanned by Brazilian leaders for political ends, and a low level of general knowledge on China.
- Propaganda emphasis on bilateral ties, vaccine diplomacy: Chinese state media and diplomats in Brazil became more proactive in responding to local leaders’ sometimes xenophobic comments, in addition to refuting what they saw as “erroneous” statements on sensitive topics such as Taiwan’s independence or the efficacy of Chinese-made vaccines. Positive messaging about the economic relationship underscored the importance of China to Brazil’s future development, including its rollout of fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications service. In general, Chinese actors sought to present China as a generous and reliable partner for economic growth and multilateral cooperation.
- Strong state media presence: China Radio International, China Central Television, China News Service, and the official news agency Xinhua all have regional offices in Brazil. A publishing house owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) works with local partners to publish the newspaper China Hoje in Brazil, and Chinese state television programming is available to Brazilian audiences via content-sharing and coproduction agreements with major local broadcasters, including public media. China Daily has paid to publish advertorial content in the major newspapers Folha de Sao Paulo, Editora Globo, and Correio Brasiliense.
- Active embassy communications: Chinese diplomats were regularly interviewed by local print, radio, television, and online news outlets during the coverage period, although the use of signed articles to promote diplomatic messaging temporarily declined under the leadership of a new ambassador (2018–22). Both the embassy and the ambassador’s personal accounts were highly engaged with local audiences on Twitter and Facebook. The ambassador has promoted false or misleading narratives about human rights in China. He also used his platform to weigh in on local news issues, with some of his comments circulating widely.
- Subsidized press trips and journalism cooperation: Representatives from Brazilian outlets participated in regional media cooperation forums organized by Chinese state media that have sought to centralize news production on China-related issues. Journalists who participated in short-term subsidized press trips to China reported being instructed to write positive news stories after their return.
- No disinformation campaigns: There was no evidence of disinformation campaigns originating in China that used coordinated or inauthentic behavior to specifically target news consumers in Brazil. However, both Chinese state media and diplomatic actors exposed Brazilian audiences to misleading narratives that Beijing was spreading internationally.
- Heavy influence in diaspora media: Brazil’s Chinese diaspora population is large, numbering around 300,000, and concentrated in urban areas. It has historically coexisted with a large Taiwanese community. Chinese readers are served by a variety of media outlets and online news platforms, including the largest Chinese-language newspaper in Latin America. While there are some outlets that support Taiwan, publications associated with China and the CCP now appear to dominate Chinese-language media in Brazil, though most seem focused on providing practical, local information for Chinese-language audiences rather than geopolitical news.
- Strong media sector and civil society, growing independent expertise: Brazil has strong limits on foreign ownership in the media and telecommunications sectors. The country also has a tradition of investigative journalism, a diverse media ecosystem, and an active civil society sector, all of which serve as a foundation for resilience in the face of foreign media influence. Brazil is one of the few countries in Latin America that has a foreign correspondent based in China, and independent expertise on China among Brazilian journalists and academics is growing.
- Gaps and vulnerabilities: The media sector is highly concentrated and politicized. Regulations governing media ownership transparency, partisan ownership, and cross-ownership are weak. Violence against journalists has increased in the last decade, and the government’s hostility toward the press under President Jair Bolsonaro has damaged public trust in journalism and contributed to the spread of disinformation. Some media commentators and political leaders, including Bolsonaro himself, have leveraged rhetoric about the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—as well as broader anti-China and anti-Chinese sentiment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—for their own benefit, making accurate risk assessments and constructive democratic responses more difficult.
The full Brazil country report will be posted as soon as it becomes available.
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Global Freedom Score73 100 free
Internet Freedom Score65 100 partly free