Report: Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022 – Romania

Andreea Brinza | 15 September 2022

Between 2021-2022, Andreea Brinza, researcher at RISAP, participated in the international research project Beijing’s Global Media Influence. The project was implemented by Freedom House (US) and concluded with a report analyzing China’s media influence in 30 countries from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. The article on Romania was written by Ellie Young, based on Andreea’s research.

Below is the executive summary of the article, while the full report is available on the Freedom House website.

Key Findings

  • Increase in limited influence efforts: Chinese state media influence has grown in Romania since 2019, due particularly to the efforts of an active Chinese embassy and increasingly aggressive online rhetoric from China Radio International Romania. Nonstate actors such as the company Huawei also attempted to influence local media narratives related to Chinese investment and activity in the country, although these efforts were mostly unsuccessful.
  • Low impact on public opinion: Chinese state media content production in the Romanian language was limited and did not appear to reach broader audiences across the Romanian mass media audience. Indeed, specific anti-US or pro-Huawei messaging campaigns appear to have backfired, and the limited survey data available indicates that favorable views on China decreased since 2016 (see Impact).
  • Embassy and state media partnerships: Beijing’s most meaningful media influence is mediated through the Chinese embassy, which has developed close relationships with news outlets such as Economistul and Curierul National, as well as the Romanian Union of Professional Journalists (UZPR). Since 2019, Chinese diplomats published 17 signed articles in news outlets across the political spectrum. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the embassy was heavily involved in coordinating sponsored press trips for Romanian journalists to visit China (see Propaganda).
  • China Radio International: China Radio International Romania represents a case in which Chinese state media has directly attempted to drive a wedge between Romania and its democratic partners. Its website has featured increasingly vitriolic content including false narratives about the origins of COVID-19. However, its audience is small (see Propaganda).
  • Strong influence on diaspora media: A handful of long-running, diaspora media publications supported by the Chinese Communist Party, including a free weekly, aim to serve Romania’s small diaspora population of about 7,000 individuals and the Chinese-speaking community in neighboring countries like Moldova. No significant independent Chinese-language media appears to exist in Romania (see Diaspora media).
  • Unsuccessful 5G lobbying: An intense lobbying effort by the Chinese technology giant Huawei, aimed at preventing passage of a law that would block it from supplying future 5G gear in Romania, was unsuccessful. Despite its best efforts to present itself as a trustworthy and independent actor, Huawei was negatively portrayed in Romanian media as closely linked to the Chinese government. The 5G law was passed in 2021 (see Propaganda).
  • Public skepticism of Chinese communism: Perhaps Romania’s most significant source of resilience to Chinese state media influence is its communist past, which has engendered popular skepticism of state-driven propaganda. The country’s independent media community and active civil society are also engaged in protecting press freedom and countering disinformation (see Resilience and response).
  • Transparency and funding challenges: Insufficient media ownership transparency—especially in the print and online sectors—combined with persistent funding challenges has left Romanian mass media vulnerable to politicization and polarization. Media regulators have responded to perceived threats of foreign influence, but such pushback has mostly occurred on a case-by-case basis rather than in comprehensive legal safeguards (see Resilience and response).
  • Broader vulnerabilities open doors for future influence: A lack of more in-depth knowledge of Chinese state media influence tools and tactics leaves the Romanian media sector vulnerable, particularly if the Chinese embassy continues deepening ties with smaller independent media and political and academic elites. Growing disillusionment with democracy may also make some portions of the Romanian population more receptive to autocratic messaging (see Impact and public opinion).


Disclaimer: The conclusions and recommendations included in the report do not necessarily represent the position of RISAP, which was not institutionally involved in this project.

Beijing's Global Media Influence

Authoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience

Photo Credits: Flickr/Binuri Ranasinghe and Freedom House


Andreea Brinza

Andreea Brinza is a researcher and the Vice President of RISAP. Her interests are related to the geopolitics, geostrategy and geoeconomics of the Asia-Pacific region and especially China. Her research focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Related Posts