New US Bill Would Create Federal China-Watching Service for Translating Publications Into English
Years of demonization of China by the US government and media have had a considerable effect on US public opinion, with a March Gallup poll showing 67% of Americans have a negative opinion of China and 46% see China as the US’ main foe - double what it was a year prior.
A group of Republican and Democratic congress members have introduced a bill calling for the creation of a special media-monitoring service that would specialize in translating Chinese broadcasts and articles into English for the US government to analyze.
The bill, introduced on Wednesday by Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-CA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), would create an Open Translation and Analysis Center (OTAC) with a federal budget of $80 million beginning in 2022.
A congressional aide told Reuters their goal was essentially to “recreate FBIS for at least” China, referring to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service created during World War II to intercept, translate, and publish broadcasts by the Axis powers. The documents were regularly distributed to war agencies.
The FBIS continued until 2005, when it became the Open Source Enterprise, now part of the CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation, which “makes sure teams have the tools and techniques they need to operate in a modern, connected world and still be clandestine,” according to the agency’s website.
According to Reuters, the new OTAC office would “systematically translate … speeches, documents, reports, strategies, news articles, commentaries, journal articles, procurement contracts” by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Communist Party of China (CPC), and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “into English and publish them freely online.”
“A nuanced understanding of foreign countries is impossible without reading how they communicate in their own languages,” Castro told Reuters, which noted that the translations would be annotated and accompanied by analysis explaining to readers the jargon and the significance of the material.
Sinologists to Meet ‘China Challenge’
As the US strategically reorients itself toward “great power competition” with Russia and China, new focus has been given to not just understanding those countries, their governments and their societies, but crafting a specific image of them to inculcate in the US population and other nations an understanding of why China must be fought.
In January, the White House National Security Council declassified and published its 2018 “US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific,” revealing the White House was presenting the burgeoning struggle against China to the US public in different terms than it understood that struggle among themselves.
As Sputnik reported, the 2018 document, originally slated to remain secret until 2042, refers to the conflict between the US and China as being rooted into their differing socioeconomic systems; however, in the National Security Strategy, a public 2017 document on which the framework is based, the US-China competition is portrayed as the product of choices made by the Chinese leadership.
That mode of thinking was also at the heart of a State Department white paper on the “Elements of the China Challenge” published in November 2020 that recommended a decades-long containment strategy toward the socialist country akin to that used against the Soviet Union. According to the proposal, the US would seek to isolate China abroad by winning over its would-be allies and partners, and win over the US population at home through reforms in the education system.
As Sputnik reported, that includes training a new generation of public servants that are well-versed in Chinese language and culture, but who also support the vision of constraining China. The OTAC office proposed on Wednesday would dovetail with this effort, as it would both require Americans fluent in various Chinese languages and knowledgeable about Chinese culture, politics, and public figures in order to produce its translated, annotated material. It would also help to craft a new generation of such “Sinologists” by presenting a heavily and properly framed version of events and commentary in China.
Countering China’s ‘Malign Influence’
More recently, the US State Department’s appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022 seeks considerable amounts of money for countering “malign influence” by China. For example, it allocates $155 million for a Countering PRC Malign Influence Fund (CPMIF). The State Department’s US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees US state-funded news outlets, has also set aside $47 million for 2022 to fund Radio Free Asia, its propaganda arm concerning China.
That includes the outlet’s special “Uyghur Service,” which it calls the “primary source for news” about the autonomous Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, where the US has claimed based on faulty evidence that China is carrying out a “genocide” of the Uyghur people. USAGM says it hopes to expand this and similar operations concerning Tibet and Hong Kong in 2022, including “investigative work to counter China’s false narratives” and “long-term projects to expose the truths behind CCP propaganda efforts.”
At a Monday summit, Chinese foreign vice-minister Xie Feng gave his American counterpart, Wendy Sherman, a list of remedial actions the US should take to repair its relationship with China and another listing issues of concern for Beijing. Included in them were removing extensive sanctions targeting Chinese officials connected to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and more, as well as rhetorical and ideological attacks on Chinese cultural institutions such as Confucius Institutes and Chinese media outlets, and the rapid increase in racist violence targeting Chinese and Asian-Americans in the United States, which is directly tied to the growing demonization of China by the US government and media.