Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts
35 85
Local Resilience & Response
34 85
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least influence) to 85 (most influence)

header1 Key findings

Report by: Ellie Young and Jessica Ludwig


  • Growing footprint, limited impact: Beijing’s media footprint in Mexico has grown in recent years. However, despite its efforts to increase cooperation with local media partners—including through regional frameworks like the China- Latin America and the Caribbean Media Action initiative—its audience remains small.
  • Public opinions of China slightly dampened by pandemic: Public opinion polling showed that negative perceptions of China increased after the coronavirus pandemic began, though most respondents still expressed a positive opinion of the country and its influence in the region. Polling data from 2019 showed a positive correlation between Mexican respondents’ views towards China and the United States and support for increasing economic ties with both countries.
  • Strong state media presence: Chinese state television channels were locally available via satellite, cable, and free-to-air services during the coverage period of 2019–21. Print copies of the regional magazine China Hoy were distributed locally. The mainstream local outlet Reforma, which republished content from People’s Daily on its website, was one of the most significant sources of China-related news for local media consumers. Chinese diplomats frequently contributed to mainstream print outlets like El Financiero, Milenio, and El Universal.
  • Intensive social media engagement: The Chinese embassy is active on Twitter and Facebook and has a strong following among local audiences. The embassy mostly shares cultural content but has also promoted misleading narratives about Beijing’s human rights record and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese state media journalists are also influential on social media, with one Facebook account having more than a million followers.
  • Media narratives promoted economic cooperation and solidarity amid pandemic: Chinese state media and diplomats promoted economic cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative (although Mexico is not a member) and highlighted the importance of the two countries’ deepening relationship. Both China and Mexico were described as major developing countries with considerable influence that would mutually benefit from cooperation, according to Beijing’s preferred narrative. Chinese propaganda also highlighted bilateral cooperation to fight COVID-19, including the sale and joint production of vaccines.
  • Business and content distribution infrastructure investment: Chinese technology companies have a strong presence in Mexico. E-commerce companies such as Alibaba and Didi have invested in local digital-economy and digital-governance initiatives. The social media platform TikTok was one of the 10 most downloaded apps in Mexico during the coverage period, with local politicians and journalists using it to reach younger audiences. In addition to supplying equipment for Red Compartida, a wholesale wireless network developed by local telecommunications consortium Altán Redes, Huawei has also provided equipment for a major cable television provider. The state-owned China Telecom also holds a 3.2 percent stake in Red Compartida.
  • No disinformation campaigns: There was no evidence of disinformation campaigns attributed to Chinese actors that targeted or reached news consumers in Mexico.
  • Small diaspora consumes pro-Beijing content: The expatriate and diaspora population in Mexico is small, estimated to be around 10,000. Media content catering to this community was mostly produced by Chinese state media and pro-Beijing actors.
  • Strong legal framework and civil society: The Mexican legal system offers significant human rights guarantees, including freedom of expression and access to information. Civil society groups actively work to combat disinformation and protect press freedoms, providing an additional layer of resilience against Chinese Communist Party influence.
  • Media vulnerabilities: Mexico’s media sector faces broad challenges including: violent reprisals against journalists, political corruption, and funding challenges that limit local capacity to produce specialized China-related coverage. Scholars are working to fill an existing gap in local expertise on China, while international wire services supplement local coverage.

header2 Background

Mexico is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2023, Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties.1 Although Mexico has been an electoral democracy since 2000, featuring routine alternations in power between parties at both the federal and state levels, the country suffers from severe rule of law deficits that limit citizens’ full enjoyment of political rights and civil liberties. Mexico’s media sector reflects a diversity of viewpoints but is highly dependent on government advertising for revenue. Its media is also hindered by violence against journalists that report on organized crime, corruption, and police issues, although these dangers are not related to coverage of China. The Committee to Protect Journalists documented 13 journalists killed in Mexico during the first nine months of 2022 and 28 unsolved journalist murders over the previous decade, making Mexico the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists.2

Diplomatic relations between Mexico and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were established in 1972, and the two countries celebrated 50 years of the bilateral relationship in 2022. The relationship was upgraded to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”—the highest classification of diplomatic relations applied to a Latin American country by Beijing—during a 2013 state visit from PRC leader Xi Jinping to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto.3 The agreement included a commitment “to strengthen communication between young students, academics, media and sports communities.”4 China is Mexico’s second-largest trading partner, but remains far behind the United States in terms of the actual value of imports and exports traded. Mexico has consistently experienced a significant trade imbalance with China. According to the World Bank, in 2020 Mexico exported $7.79 billion worth of goods to China, while importing products from China valued at $73.5 billion.5

The Chinese government has actively worked to increase its presence and influence in Latin America since publishing its first white paper on the region in 2008. It joined the Organization of American States (OAS) as an observer nation in 2004 and became a member of the Inter-American Development Bank in 2009. Although Mexico has participated in the Forum of China and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (China-CELAC Forum) since 2014, it has not signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative or the Digital Silk Road. Neither has Mexico joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China and Mexico are both members of the Group of 20 (G20) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Mexico’s relatively large economy, its integration into the North American trading bloc—first under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and now under the current United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)—and its persistent trade deficit with China have resulted in Mexico having a more diversified set of international trade relationships. As a result, Mexico’s economic ties with China are more limited than the trade relations China has with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Mexican government’s close historical relationship with the United States also leads to some caution in building closer ties with China. Key industries within Mexico’s manufacturing sector also consider China a significant economic competitor. Although the two countries have established and promoted people-to-people exchanges, the percentage of Mexico’s population that identifies as part of the Chinese diaspora in the country is relatively small.6

Nevertheless, China is positioned to make modest gains in deepening its relationship with Mexico under the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Chinese state-backed loans and businesses could become more important as the López Obrador administration directs the national government to play a larger role in several strategic sectors of the economy—moves which are likely to reduce the interest of market-based players.7 For example, the China Communications Construction Company is a stakeholder with 30 percent ownership of the consortium building the first section of the Tren Maya, a controversial pet project of López Obrador’s that was widely criticized within Mexico for not conducting proper environmental assessments and for putting newly discovered Mayan archaeological sites at risk of damage.8 Chinese companies have won tenders for oil exploration and production in Mexico, and the state-linked Hutchinson Ports Holding manages key ports in Mexico.9 Chinese technology firms have also obtained a foothold in Mexico’s strategically important telecommunications sector as the country looks to extend faster connectivity and build out digital and security infrastructure. (see Control over content distribution infrastructure)

header3 Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts

Propaganda and promotion of favored narratives

Key narratives

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese state media’s targeted messaging towards Mexican audiences emphasized a display of solidarity by highlighting shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, and vaccines, despite the fact that vaccines were sold (not donated) to Mexico. This narrative stood out against a tardy response to requests for assistance from the United States, which early in the pandemic struggled to distribute medical supplies among its own population and later hesitated to distribute its domestically developed vaccines abroad, even to its neighbor directly to the south.1 Chinese diplomats also leveraged the cooperation between China and Mexico to lend support to the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda priorities such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the 2021 Global Development Initiative (GDI).2 Uptake of positive rhetoric about China’s support for Mexico’s public health efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic was reflected in an article published in China Daily by Mexico’s minister of foreign affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.3

Chinese diplomats and state media in Mexico sought to portray the CCP as democratic and proactive in its advancement of human rights, while glossing over or omitting mention of China’s restrictions on freedom of expression, repressive social controls, and use of technology to surveil and monitor Chinese citizens.4 This narrative relies on emphasizing that China’s government produces tangible developmental results for its own population.5 It also manipulates the meaning of internationally recognized human rights standards by promoting alternative definitions of which human rights should be universally guaranteed, while seeking to relate to Mexico as a fellow member of the Global South.6

Beijing has consistently sought to promote China’s development trajectory under its particular governance style by painting a picture of “Chinese-style modernization” that serves implicitly as a model for global emulation.7 This includes a heavy emphasis on highlighting the reduction of poverty levels and alleviation of extreme poverty under the CCP’s leadership, as exemplified by a March 2021 virtual event that the Chinese embassy in Mexico held with a number of Mexican officials.8 Chinese state media narratives leverage examples of major physical infrastructure projects and the role of its technology firms in expanding digital connectivity as key drivers of economic growth that the country is ready to share with the rest of the developing world.9 Although Mexico remains a key holdout among the Latin American countries that have not signed on to the BRI, China’s diplomats have lauded the purported benefits that the massive infrastructure and foreign policy cooperation initiative offers to countries that sign on to China’s “shared future” and “community of common destiny” in op-eds published in Mexico’s press.10

Key avenues of content dissemination

The regional headquarter office of Xinhua News Agency in Mexico City was established in 1986 and has an estimated staff of around 130.11 The Spanish-language version of China Global Television Network (CGTN) employed at least one senior correspondent in Mexico between 2019 and 2021 and is available to local audiences via cable and free-to-air television.12 Online, several Chinese state-run media outlets, including Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio International, and the People’s Daily, offer web and social media content for Spanish-speaking audiences. While country-specific audience breakdowns are not available, the Spanish-language accounts of these outlets have millions of followers on popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.13 China Radio International (CRI) also broadcasts twice daily in Mexico City through the shortwave radio frequency AM 620.14 A 2016 press release noted that CRI en Español had collaborated with Chinese-Mexican educational exchanges in the past.15 The magazine China Hoy, which is run by the CCP-controlled China International Publishing Group (CIPG), opened a Latin America regional headquarters office in Mexico City in 2004 and publishes a monthly print edition for Mexican audiences.16 Key areas of Chinese state media content dissemination include:

  • Prolific embassy communications: The PRC embassy in Mexico is the primary avenue through which Beijing tailors messaging specific to the country and actively publishes and disseminates content designed for local audiences. Official embassy accounts on Facebook (134,000 followers) and Twitter (60,200 followers) post regularly, although the embassy opened its accounts on the two platforms relatively late in March 2021.17 The embassy’s social media accounts regularly share links to news stories produced by China’s state media outlets, especially CGTN en Español, People’s Daily, and Xinhua, as well as the embassy’s own official press releases and photos. Social media users appear to interact naturally with these accounts, which identify themselves as official accounts (recent changes in Twitter’s labeling of accounts has made it harder to identify which accounts are verified as official). In general, softer cultural content appears to solicit a greater number of online interactions than posts that focus on newsworthy events, such as when Chinese government authorities meet with representatives from the Mexican or other Latin American governments. China’s ambassador to Mexico from 2019 to 2022, Zhu Qingqiao, published more than 50 signed articles in Mexican media outlets during his tenure. More than half of these were published in Milenio, a major national newspaper owned by Grupo Multimedios. Ambassador Zhu made it a priority to meet with the leaders of major Mexican media outlets a few months after he began his new role, including the heads of mainstream papers and news agencies such as Reforma, Televisa, Notimex, and El Financiero in August 2019, and El Heraldo in December 2019.18 The embassy’s charge d’affaires, Wang Huijun, appeared to be the second most active diplomat in terms of granting interviews and publishing articles with Mexican media outlets.19
  • Cooperation with public media: China’s embassy and state media outlets have, to date, made steady inroads to disseminate Beijing-backed content through Mexico’s public media. Xinhua’s content exchange relationship with Mexico’s official news agency, Notimex, dates back to 1984.20 In 2015, Xinhua established a cooperation agreement with the Mexican Senate to share legislative news from Mexico’s Congressional Channel, which broadcast sessions of the Congress.21 Further evidence of the close ties between Notimex and Xinhua was demonstrated when one of Notimex’s directors for international news published her impressions of Xinhua’s technological toolkit for information-gathering after visiting the Chinese state news agency’s offices in China as part of a media exchange trip with other Latin American journalists in 2017.22 However, a workers’ strike over López Obrador’s attempts to politicize Notimex halted all activity at the news agency in June 2020, and the agency has not published any news coverage of any kind—domestic or international—since then. In late 2022, the Chinese Embassy in Mexico sponsored a series of Christmas and New Year specials featuring Chinese cultural performances on Canal 22, the Mexican Secretariat of Culture’s public television channel.23 Canal 22’s digital news website carries a variety of coverage about China and its culture that is sourced from various Mexican media outlets, maintaining a degree of diversity in its news coverage on China. For example, in September 2020 the Canal 22 website highlighted the documentary, Coronation, by Ai Weiwei, which criticized the Chinese government’s social control and technological surveillance during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.24 Apart from this, Canal 22’s China coverage appears to draw heavily from summarized reporting by other Mexican media outlets and focuses on events that take place in Mexico, rendering it vulnerable to the quality (or lack thereof) of reporting and content about China found elsewhere. For instance, Canal 22’s website published a summary of a May 2020 virtual conversation with a Beijing-based journalist that was part of the El Aleph cultural festival sponsored by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM). The Chinese journalist boasted about the efficiency of Beijing’s handling of the pandemic and the lack of protests in China during harsh quarantine protocols, claiming that “‘freedom’ is not as sensitive an issue for most Chinese the way security is,” and highlighting the government’s powerful control and mobilization capacity.25
  • Deepening ties with mainstream outlets: Beyond publishing op-eds and interviews featuring the Chinese ambassador and other embassy officials, several mainstream media outlets have established content sharing agreements with Chinese state media outlets that make officially produced Chinese content freely available through Mexican local platforms.26 TV Azteca and ADN40, two television networks that are part of Mexico’s largest media conglomerate, Grupo Salinas, have periodically broadcast CGTN-branded stories as part of their news content.27 CGTN has also turned to TV Azteca reporters to act as local correspondents.28 TV Azteca is a member of the Alianza Informativa Latinoamericana, a regional private media association that cooperates closely with Chinese state media.29 In February 2022, TV Azteca formally signed on to the China Media Group’s All Media Services Platform, a new interactive services platform designed to facilitate content sharing and the exchange of reporters between international media outlets.30  The mainstream newspaper El Universal has also republished CMG articles on China under its international news section, including an August 2021 article arguing that Hong Kong would be better served through the city’s fuller integration with the PRC government in Beijing.31 Milenio has also republished Xinhua content. While some of this is labeled as “sponsored content,” such as a September 2021 article promoting the China International Import Exposition, other examples of reprinted content are harder to distinguish from regular news reporting.32 Milenio’s international news section features a section titled “The Silk Road” which draws heavily on reprinted Xinhua articles that describe China’s relations with other countries around the world, promote positive perspectives and politically favorable quotes by foreign experts about China, and highlight BRI projects.33 People’s Daily has an agreement with Reforma, a respected newspaper that prides itself on its independence, to republish content through a distinct and free-to-access branded section called “Diario del Pueblo.”34 This arrangement does not appear to have impacted the diversity of Reforma’s China coverage. For example, Reforma ran coverage in early December 2022 that was critical of the Chinese government’s swift repression of protesters criticizing the CCP’s zero-COVID policies, at a time when China’s state media and officials were noticeably ignoring those protests.35 Chinese state media have not only sought to build ties with national media outlets, but also with local news outlets. Canal 6, a local and relatively unknown television channel based in Mexico City, signed a partnership agreement in December 2022 with CMG after one of its journalists returned from a five-month China International Press Communication Center Fellowship in China, a program which brought a number of journalists from various countries to China.36 The Canal 6 journalist Francisca Martinez’s experiences with the fellowship appear to have played a key role in strengthening the two media groups’ relations. Martinez published a series of dispatches during her time in China under Canal 6’s international news section. Her reporting typically reflected Beijing’s preferred narratives, for example describing China’s zero-COVID policy as “politically necessary.”37 Martinez also served as an accredited foreign journalist during the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress and wrote reports for Canal 6 that relied heavily on quotes from Chinese government officials and public documents without additional context.38 On several occasions she amplified Chinese government officials’ statements that accused Taiwan “separatists” of provoking China.39 Since undertaking the fellowship, both Martinez’s and Canal 6’s social media posts highlighting its China coverage have been shared regularly by the social media accounts of the Chinese Embassy in Mexico.

Disinformation campaigns

For the purposes of this report, disinformation is defined as the intentional dissemination of false or misleading content, especially through inauthentic activity—such as the use of fake accounts—on global social media platforms. From 2019 to 2021, there were no documented disinformation campaigns originating from China-linked sources that specifically targeted or reached news consumers in Mexico. A comparative study conducted by the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (Tec) and Global Americans that combed false and misleading Twitter content circulating among users in Mexico related to the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020-to 2021 found no evidence of any coordinated inauthentic activity emanating from China.40 Instead, the report determined that Chinese state-linked accounts in Mexico tended to promote cultural content and propaganda from other Chinese state media and government accounts.41

Censorship and intimidation

There were two documented incidents of Chinese state censorship and intimidation affecting the public information space in Mexico that occurred in 2022. The Chinese Embassy in Mexico contacted local government authorities and theaters, pressuring them to cancel scheduled performances by the Shen Yun dance troupe that were to take place in Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, and Mexico City in May 2022.42 Although none of the entities contacted complied with the demands and the performances were held as scheduled, the embassy followed up by publishing on its website a Spanish-language denunciation of Shen Yun and Falun Gong, described as a “destructive cult.” Shen Yun is affiliated with Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has been banned in China and whose followers have been targeted by the CCP both inside China and abroad. The Chinese embassy urged Mexican audiences not to purchase tickets to these performances and amplified this messaging on its social media channels.43

Also in May 2022, China blocked the accreditation of six international chapters of Wikimedia, including the Mexico chapter, that were applying to be observers to the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Chinese authorities alleged that Wikimedia deliberately spreads disinformation. Notably, the Mexican delegation before the committee declined to defend Wikimedia against the allegations, while delegations from other Western member states on the committee supported the six chapters’ bids for observer status.44

Mexican journalists have not reported being subject to intimidation or harassment by Chinese diplomats or other PRC-linked actors. However, one expert interviewed for this report noted that academics and other experts on China are generally aware of Beijing’s political red lines and self-censor in order to maintain “good relations” with the CCP, either avoiding public commentary or repeating Beijing’s preferred talking points on sensitive topics like Taiwan.45

Control over content distribution infrastructure

China-based companies are establishing a foothold in portions of the content dissemination infrastructure in Mexico through providing digital television services, construction and maintenance of parts of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, and ownership of popular news- and information-sharing social media apps.

TikTok, a global subsidiary of the PRC-based social media company ByteDance, has significantly grown in popularity in Mexico since it first became available for download in 2018. Mexico today is the source of one of the app’s largest user bases in Latin America,46 hosting more than 51.3 million users over the age of 18 as of July 2022.47 Mexican public officials and politicians, including foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard and president of the national Supreme Court Arturo Zaldívar, as well as several state governors, senators, and other national government ministers, have increased their usage of the app in response to its widespread popularity.48 With Mexico’s next presidential elections scheduled to take place in 2024, it is likely that more politicians will seek to build a presence on TikTok to communicate and reach voters.

There have been some documented cases around the world in recent years of TikTok removing or downplaying politically sensitive content, including content that violates domestic Chinese censorship guidelines, although the company has subsequently reported that it reversed previous policies that censored such content.49 A media report from June 2022 based on leaked TikTok meetings raised concern that statements made by ByteDance regarding the data privacy of US users were false, and more broadly called into question other statements the company has made regarding its policies.50

Huawei, a PRC-based company with close CCP ties and a record of building censorship and surveillance systems in China and abroad, is involved in developing digital infrastructure in Mexico. Alongside Nokia, Huawei was selected as a technical partner by Altán Redes, the network operator responsible for expanding and administering Mexico’s Red Compartida shared mobile network.51 The state-owned China Telecom holds a 3.2 percent stake in Red Compartida.52 Totalplay Empresarial, an internet services provider for both residential and commercial customers in Mexico, uses Huawei technologies in its fiber optic broadband architecture network.53 Totalplay is the only cable television distribution channel for CGTN.54 Huawei has also invested $500 million USD in establishing a cloud computing center in Guadalajara, as well as a data and research center in Querétaro Province. This initiative was covered favorably by El Economista as an important source of business investment during a period of slower economic growth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.55

In October 2022, the Chinese state-owned telecommunications firm China Unicom was awarded a 30-year concession by Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Institute to provide fixed and mobile telecommunications services in the country. China Unicom reportedly plans to initially focus on providing corporate data transmission services.56 The permit was awarded despite some national security concerns. In January 2022, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revoked China Unicom America’s operating license in the US after arguing that the firm was potentially subject to exploitation, influence, and control by Chinese government absent the existence of reliably independent legal proceedings in the PRC.57 In September of that year, the FCC added China Unicom and two other Chinese telecommunications companies to a national security threat list after declaring that they were subject to Chinese government influence and control.58

Mobile phones produced by Chinese firms Huawei, ZTE, and Xiaomi, are all sold to Mexican consumers but do not occupy a major market share. According to Expansión, Huawei’s market share of new mobile phones purchased in the country had fallen in recent years to 11.3 percent in 2022, while ZTE phones represented only a small portion of mobile phones in use at 1.7 percent, and Xiaomi products were emerging to capture 7.1 percent of the Mexican market in 2022.59 Xiaomi is a PRC-based company whose mobile phone devices are sold globally. In 2021, a security audit by the Lithuanian government found latent censorship blacklists in Chinese and English on Xiaomi devices containing terms that might be sensitive to the CCP, as well as broader terms related to human rights, religion, and democracy; the lists were periodically updated but not active at the time of the investigation.60

There was no evidence in Mexico during the coverage period of 2019–21 of control over content-distribution infrastructure being used to marginalize critical content or artificially amplify pro-Beijing content. Still, the potential activation of this control for future manipulation remains, particularly if Beijing finds itself in a perceived moment of crisis.61

Dissemination of CCP media norms, tactics, or governance models

Few Mexican media professionals traveled to China in recent years, mostly due to the broader cessation of in-person exchange and media training programs because of travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The participation of a Canal 6 reporter in the 2022 China International Press Communication Center Fellowship was a notable exception, although based on her reporting it appeared that the program’s main emphasis was to build relationships between Chinese and foreign media outlets. Opportunities to work and study in China are rare and often expensive, yet such experiences can help to fill a gap in journalists’ knowledge and coverage of China. At the same time, these programs do not exist in a vacuum. According to journalists from other countries, media trainings for foreign journalists appear designed to inculcate a “Chinese way” of understanding the role of news media in society. 62 It is unknown whether journalists in the 2022 fellowship program were offered trainings in topics such as news management or public opinion guidance, as has happened with other training programs for foreign journalists.63 Journalistic norms transmitted through such trainings do not value traditional democratic press freedoms. Because of this, and amid the broader attacks on media freedoms in Mexico (see Vulnerabilities), close relationships between Chinese state media and Mexican media outlets warrant further monitoring by analysts.

Chinese diaspora media

The ethnic Chinese and diaspora community in Mexico is small, with one figure from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce estimating the population to be between 10,000 and 21,000 in 2021.64 At least one Chinese-language publication serving this community, Huawen Times (华文时报), participated in the 10th World Chinese Media Forum in 2019, which was jointly organized by the State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the Hebei Provincial People’s Government, and the state-controlled China News Agency. Huawen Times is also a member of the Global Chinese Media Cooperation Union (GCMCU), an association for overseas Chinese media that is overseen by the China News Agency.65 According to its GCMCU membership page, Huawen Times is a weekly paper founded in 2014 and sponsored by the Mexican Chinese Youth Federation, the Zhejiang branch of the Overseas Chinese Youth Federation. It has partnerships with Mexican-Chinese business associations and prominently shares content from Chinese state media outlets like China News Agency and People’s Daily. The outlet also reports that it has a content sharing agreement with the Chinese state-controlled paper Zhejiang Daily. The paper’s WeChat public account, huawentimes, was also launched in 2014.66 Both the paper’s WeChat account, which is subject to China’s domestic censorship regulations, and its original news content adhere to Beijing’s preferred editorial lines.

header4 Resilience + response

Underlying resilience


  • Legal and institutional safeguards for media freedoms: The Mexican legal system offers significant human rights guarantees, including the protection of freedom of expression and access to information. The Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists within the Interior Secretariat, created in 2012, protects activists and journalists in Mexico.1 There are some regulations that limit opportunities for foreign-owned media to establish a dominant presence in Mexico’s media market. A 2013 constitutional reform and the 2014 Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law include rules to ensure market competitiveness and limit foreign investment in Mexican broadcasters to 49 percent, and pay television firms are required to include in their offered content at least three different channels that are funded mostly from Mexican sources, ensuring a baseline for diversity of access to local media sources.2 The Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) serves as an independent regulator overseeing economic competition issues related to the telecommunications and broadcasting sector.3
  • Civil society support for free expression, press freedom, and accountable technology governance: Mexico benefits from a robust civil society sector that includes several groups focused on protecting freedom of the press and freedom of expression in both traditional media and the digital realm. A number of local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Article 19, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists maintain affiliate offices or robust programs to monitor the media freedom climate in Mexico, one of the largest Spanish-language media markets in the hemisphere. Collectively, these groups foster a dynamic civil society sector that closely monitors challenges to Mexico’s media environment, ranging from threats of violence against journalists to issues related to access to information and rights to privacy. Press freedom groups are nimble and quick to raise public discussion on emerging challenges facing the media sector. For example, Article 19 Mexico and Central America published a report in March 2020 that called attention to the “infodemic” of disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and denounced Beijing’s efforts to supress reporting on the pandemic in China.4

China-specific resilience


  • Awareness-raising by local activists and analysts: There is an emerging effort by parts of Mexican civil society to raise public awareness about the CCP’s human rights abuses inside China and its efforts to shape, influence, and censor how China is presented to foreign publics. Falun Gong practitioners in Mexico have been among those who have organized visible protests of CCP human rights abuses, which may have led theaters and Mexican government officials to resist pressures from the Chinese embassy to cancel Shen Yun dance performances in 2022.5 Tibet MX, a local advocacy group, has regularly protested the Mexican government’s silence on human rights violations committed by the CCP in Tibet for more than 12 years.6 Mexican digital rights organizations such as Article 19 and R3D have reported on how Chinese technology firms have enabled systematic repression and surveillance of ethnic minorities in China and drawing attention to such firm’s business ties in Mexico. The think tank Government and Political Analysis AC (GAPAC) has also published content that contextualizes common narratives and communication strategies promoted by Beijing in Mexico and Latin America within a broader framework of the Chinese government’s policy objectives.7
  • Public skepticism of Chinese investments: Mexico’s trade deficit with China, a lack of experience with bilateral loans from China, and competition between China and Mexico in certain sectors have fostered public skepticism and even distrust among business elites of Chinese investments in the country.8 The involvement of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Communications Construction Company in the development of the controversial Tren Maya project represents further negative press for Chinese firms that could feed more public skepticism.9 The Mexican public may also be more sensitive to Chinese companies’ links to political corruption because of past scandals—a previous rail contract from a China-led consortium was suspended indefinitely in 2014 following the revelation of ties between one of the consortium’s Mexican companies and the wife of then-president Peña Nieto, seriously impacting diplomatic relations at the time.10
  • Proximity to US media market and foreign influence concerns: An investigation by the US FCC into the acquisition of the radio station XEWW 690, based in the Mexican state of Baja California, by a firm called H&H Group USA found that the station was being used to broadcast Mandarin-language content generated by an undeclared Chinese state-linked entity, Phoenix TV, into the United States. This led to the FCC rejecting the station’s broadcast license renewal request in June 2020.11 Mexico’s proximity to the United States, which over the past several years has begun to increase scrutiny of CCP-linked entities that could exert malign foreign influence, has provided an additional layer of awareness about Beijing’s influence strategies.

header5 Vulnerabilities

  • Lack of independent media reporting on China. With the exception of the Canal 6 reporter who participated in a 2022 exchange fellowship, there are no known Mexican foreign correspondents based in China. As a result, the primary sources of information about China that are available to Mexican journalists are international news agencies that are not focused on Latin American audiences on the one hand; and official documents, statements, reports, and press releases from the PRC government and its embassy in Mexico, Chinese businesses, and Chinese state media on the other. Most China experts in Mexico’s academic and think tank sectors are concerned with maintaining relationships with CCP party officials and other Chinese diplomats and generally do not go on the public record to discuss issues that the CCP might consider politically sensitive.1 These dynamics result in a reduced capacity for local journalists to contextualize news coverage of China and Chinese entities that conduct relationships with counterparts in Mexico. Amid this gap, Chinese state media entities have continued their efforts to increase high-level engagement with Mexican media outlets, which could further impact the diversity of critical reporting on China-related issues.2
  • Vocal support from some political elites: Experts interviewed for this report noted that Chinese state media diplomatic op-eds, although frequently shared by a diverse range of Mexican media outlets, are not attractive to Mexican audiences and not widely read.3 However, the CCP has developed long-standing ties with Mexico’s powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and other political parties.4 Mexican political leaders, including non-PRI politicians, have at times expressed uncritical support for the CCP’s domestic policies and for improving bilateral economic ties in both Mexican and Chinese media,5 bolstering the impression that China is a “win-win” partner for economic development to local audiences.
  • Ties between Mexican academic institutions and Chinese entities: In the absence of independent media expertise on China, established and growing ties between Mexico’s academic sector with Chinese state media, universities, and other Beijing-linked entities represent a significant vulnerability for the integrity of the country’s future knowledge base about China. Some experts have expressed concern about academic self-censorship on politically sensitive issues related to China out of a desire to maintain access to sources in China (see Censorship and intimidation). The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) operates an UNAM-China Center for Mexican Studies based at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, which organizes student exchanges, joint academic programming, and cultural events between the two campuses, and has established eight partnerships with Chinese and Mexican media outlets.6 Among the Chinese entities that the UNAM-China Center has developed relations with are the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (a research group affiliated with Chinese state intelligence services)7 and CRI.8
  • Broader regulatory challenges, erosion of press freedom, free expression, and privacy rights in Mexico: Government groups like IFT and the Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which are responsible for enforcing media diversity and protecting journalists, are systematically underfunded and understaffed. Monopolies exist in the telecom, broadcast, and newspaper sectors, although independent journalists have increasingly turned to social media as a vector for independent reporting.9 The security environment for journalists in Mexico is generally challenging due to intimidation and violence against journalists who report on drug trafficking, gang violence, police issues, and official corruption, as well as verbal attacks on the press by President López Obrador.10 These problems do not directly impinge on reporting about China, but they affect the overall atmosphere of press freedom in the country. Civil society organizations have raised concerns that the López Obrador administration is embracing digital authoritarian strategies that aim to sideline, intimidate, and silence independent journalists, analysts, and political opposition.11 The importation of digital communication and surveillance technologies from China without the political will from the government to oversee the use of such technologies risks further degrading the integrity of Mexico’s information ecosystem.
  • Chinese technology firms’ growing foothold: Economic challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated Mexico’s interest and ambitions to adopt and improve digital technologies available in the country to improve connectivity and stimulate economic growth. The purchase and installation of 1,300 security cameras with facial recognition technology by the Coahuila state government for its System of Video Surveillance for Security platform from the Chinese firm Dahua is illustrative of how Chinese technology firms might seek to make inroads with local and regional authorities towards building relationships that can be leveraged to sell potent surveillance technologies to other parts of the Mexican government. Dahua has been sanctioned by the United States for its provision of similar equipment to the Chinese government for mass repression of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.12

header6 Impact and Public Opinion

Public opinion polls suggest that Mexican attitudes towards China are mixed and complex. According to the Americas Barometer 2021 report by LAPOP at Vanderbilt University, when Mexican survey respondents were asked to what degree they trust the government of the PRC, more than half indicated they did not have an opinion or were unsure.1 Among those who did respond, 59 percent said the Chinese government was “somewhat” or “fully” untrustworthy, while 42 percent found it “somewhat” or “mostly” trustworthy, down from a 61 percent level of trustworthiness recorded in the 2016 Americas Barometer survey. The same 2021 survey found that Mexicans under the age of 35, those with a high school education or higher, and Mexicans with household access to the internet were more likely to describe China’s government as trustworthy. 2 Considering that a majority of respondents did not have an opinion or feel confident enough to respond to the principal question about China, and that much of China’s propaganda dissemination methods in Mexico are concentrated online, there is a risk that Mexicans who do not have prior knowledge or opinions on China will have their perceptions of China’s government shaped by Beijing’s carefully crafted narratives in the digital space.

Despite the calculated business decision by Mexico’s mainstream outlets not to invest in supporting foreign correspondents based in China, strong anecdotal evidence suggests that curiosity about China is high in Mexico, particularly among digital media consumers. The YouTube channel Mexicanos en China—run by a 20-something Mexican couple that began documenting their daily travel and cultural experiences after becoming stuck in China due to international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic—has attracted more than 5.6 million subscribers and is popular in Mexico.3 One Facebook account called Viva Studio (vivastudio2020) is labeled by the platform as a China state-controlled media account and apparently based in Beijing. The account of Viva, who describes herself as a Chinese “communicator” and affiliates herself in video content with China Radio International, has attracted more than 1 million followers from across Latin America and strong engagement with its content, which mostly focuses on cultural topics but occasionally includes videos that present or emphasize official CCP policy.4

While there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that Chinese state media activities in Mexico have had a direct impact on public opinion or the decisions of policymakers and other elites in the country, Mexico’s information space remains vulnerable to CCP media influence techniques. Mexican policymakers, media workers, businesspeople, academics, and civil society actors should consider investing in developing more independent capacity for understanding and contextualizing Beijing’s goals and objectives in its relationship with Mexico.

header7 Future Trajectory

The following are key areas in which researchers, media experts, officials, and journalists should watch for developments related to Beijing’s media influence in Mexico in the coming years.

  • Coverage of China’s technology sector: Chinese technology firms can be expected to try to grow their presence as Mexico continues to focus on expanding and upgrading internet and mobile connectivity services throughout the country. Researchers and analysts should closely observe and track efforts by Chinese technology firms to cultivate relationships at both the national and subnational level, as well as with private broadcasters and telecommunication firms. They should also track whether Chinese technology firms purchase advertising campaigns or sponsor content in Mexican media outlets, and review reporting to monitor whether there is any discernible effect on how Chinese technology firms are covered or whether they may seek to cultivate political influence. Even if they are not based in China, Mexican technology journalists can also develop their knowledge of Chinese technology companies and the risks of those firms’ exposure to CCP influence, which have been documented by researchers and journalists in other countries around the world, to provide more context for reporting on these companies’ activities in Mexico.
  • Sources of information about China: Given the dearth of independent reporting about China, researchers should continue to monitor which sources of information are being used to cover China in Mexican media outlets. Most major media outlets in Mexico do not invest in supporting their own foreign correspondents and give relatively limited attention to covering international news outside the Western Hemisphere, Europe, or major global developments. There is a high risk moving forward that reporting on China in Mexico could be predominantly limited to reprinting statements and press releases by Chinese officials without additional analysis or context.
  • Expansion of media cooperation through content sharing, co-production, or trainings and exchanges: Chinese media outlets will likely continue to seek to cultivate closer relationships with individual journalists and formal partnerships with mainstream, subnational, and smaller media outlets. Under-resourced media outlets—or those outlets that may look to position themselves as alternatives to mainstream media outlets—are especially vulnerable to fully funded offers to participate in journalist exchanges and trainings, content sharing, and content collaboration agreements.

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