21 April 2019
A CCTV video points out that explorer-admiral Zheng He made several voyages through the South China Sea to Africa during the Ming Dynasty period. Photo: CCTV
A CCTV video points out that explorer-admiral Zheng He made several voyages through the South China Sea to Africa during the Ming Dynasty period. Photo: CCTV

Beijing steps up propaganda with South China Sea videos

As an international court prepares to deliver a ruling on July 12 on a maritime dispute, Beijing has not only sent aircraft and battle ships to the South China Sea, it has also launched propaganda videos to assert its territorial claims.

State broadcaster CCTV recently began airing a 3-minute animation video that states that China had controlled the maritime territory in the region since ancient times.

The video, which is targeted at the younger generation, tells a story in the form of a dialogue between a little girl and her grandfather.

The old man tells his grandchild that China was the first country to discover and name the Nansha islands. As early as in the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago, Chinese have been sailing in the area and living and doing business on the islands, he says.

During the Yuan Dynasty, naval vessels were sent to patrol in the South China Sea. Later, during the Ming Dynasty, famed explorer admiral Zheng He (鄭和) made seven voyages to Southeast Asia, Middle East and Africa, the grandfather tells the child.

The Arabian Sinbad story in 1001 Nights was inspired by Zheng’s legendary voyages, it was suggested.

The video argues that after the Second World War it was agreed that the South China Sea territory belongs to China, but “some countries” have later begun to create problems as they are eyeing the rich oil reserves under the sea.

Commenting on the South China Sea, CCTV in another video sought to underline the importance of international trade. It started by telling viewers if they want foreign products, they should agree that the sea is very important for China.

Beijing has been protecting the Nansha islands and building civil facilities that are open for use by all countries, it said.

The video refers to the United States as “a powerful nation far away” from the region that has sought to meddle in a dispute by assisting the Philippines in an arbitration case.

The videos aired by Chinese state media have been uploaded on to Facebook, generating a lot of buzz and comments, Hong Kong’s i-Cable News noted.

Several netizens slammed Beijing for distorting history to serve its propaganda aim.

For instance, it is wrong to claim that Han Dynasty emperors had sovereignty over the South China region, commentators said, pointing out that the Chinese had merely sent ships to catch fish in the waters during that period.

As for the Yuan Dynasty, it actually belonged to the Mongol empire, which also conquered Central Asia and most parts of Europe 800 years ago. 

Zheng He worked for a Ming emperor but he had an Arabic ethnicity with Islamic religion, just like the fictional character Sinbad. Even if he had declared sovereignty over the South China region, it is hard to associate linkages between the Ming government and the current regime in China, a person said.

Netizens criticized China for seeking to brainwash the younger generation and stoke their patriotism by labeling the neighbors as greedy intruders.

Translation by Chloe Chow

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