In the months leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for American social media influencers to promote the games to their American audiences.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the CCP-operated China Central Television (CCT) paid the sports management company Monumental Sports and Entertainment to hold a massive advertising campaign at a Washington Capitals hockey game on January 10th.
The company is partially owned by the widow of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, who holds a 20 percent stake in Monumental, the same company that owns the Capitals, the Washington Wizards, and the Capital One Arena. Although the amount paid to Monumental was never disclosed, the company did list a payment of $53,000 for “advertising and promotion.”
Overall, CCT spent $26 million in the past six months on television advertising in the United States.
As previously reported, the Chinese consulate in New York hired 11 different social media influencers to promote the then-upcoming Olympic games, as well as to talk about China’s economy on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, the latter of which is owned by a Chinese company that frequently works with the CCP. The consulate paid $300,000 to the public relations firm Vippi Media to secure the contracts with the dozen influencers.
One of the influencers, a TikTok user named Anna Sitar, released a promotional video on February 11th talking about the Olympics, featuring the hashtags #Beijing2022 and #WinterOlympics. The video received over 2.2 million views.
Another influencer, TikTok user Ryan Dubs, talked about China’s “high tech and forward thinking,” noting that it would be “impossible” to produce his line of beauty products in any other country. Dubs also interviewed the Chinese consul general in New York, Huang Ping, during which Dubs said he was “really impressed” with China’s alleged commitment to fighting global warming. They both criticized American tariffs against China, and Huang falsely claimed that China was not guilty of human rights abuses, instead referring to concentration camps as “education training centers.”
Vipp Jaswal, the owner of Vippi, has since admitted that the social media influencers involved in the campaign were explicitly told that they would be working on behalf of the Chinese government. But he nevertheless defended the campaign, calling it “harmless” and claiming that the content was popular with audiences on the Chinese-owned TikTok.