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China’s Efforts to Shape the Information Environment in Laos

Ryan LoomisHeidi Holz
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The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has embarked on a campaign to shape what audiences around the world read, hear, and watch about China. This report examines China’s efforts to shape the information environment of its neighbor, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (or, Laos). It is part of a series of reports that examines Beijing’s efforts to influence the media environment in the neighboring Mekong countries.

Key findings

China enjoys privileged access to Laos’ tightly controlled information environment. The only other country with similar access is Vietnam.

  • The only foreign media outlets permitted to publish and broadcast in Laos are from China and Vietnam. This is largely due to the close political relationship between Laos’ ruling communist party and the ruling communist parties of China and Vietnam.
  • China’s outsized footprint in Laos’ media environment is also due to Laos’ heavy reliance on Chinese-backed infrastructure development projects.
  • Historically, Vietnam has enjoyed greater cultural and political influence in Laos; however, China is actively working to eclipse Vietnam’s footprint in the local information environment.

China has established a significant presence in the Laos information environment in the following ways:

  • PRC state-run media outlets have established a physical presence in Laos and produce Lao-language content. China’s official news agency Xinhua and its official overseas broadcaster China Radio International (CRI) both have bureaus in Vientiane that generate content in Lao.
  • PRC media content is widely distributed to Laos audiences via content-sharing agreements with major news outlets and a robust presence on social media. PRC media outlets have signed content-sharing agreements with major Laos media outlets and have an active presence on Facebook, the most popular social media platform in Laos.
  • Sponsoring media training and hosting forums. For instance, Laos media personnel have participated in three semi-annual “Lancang (Mekong) National News and Media Reporting” training programs hosted by China. China also offers Laos journalists all-expense-paid reporting trips to China that include stays at four-star hotels and other perks.
  • Exporting Chinese entertainment and documentaries to portray positive images of Chinese culture and development. Since 2015, China’s Guangxi People’s Radio has dubbed more than 200 Chinese television programs into Lao, from cartoons to political documentaries, for broadcast on Lao National Television. In 2019, the first film jointly produced by Laos and PRC entertainment companies was released.
  • Establishing a foothold in Laos’ information, communications, and technology infrastructure. China has sought to generate new channels for distributing its messages to audiences in Laos by participating in the development of Laos’ information and communications infrastructure. For instance, Beijing gave Vientiane a $20 million loan to build internet infrastructure and provide training for the Lao National Internet Center (LANIC).
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Distribution: Approved for public release. Unlimited distribution.

Details

  • Pages: 76
  • Document Number: IIM-2020-U-024777-Final
  • Publication Date: 9/1/2020
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