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BRICS nations must demonstrate their soft power through their media
Tuesday July 15, 2014 11:02 AM, Li Congjun, IANS

In the past few weeks, I would sometimes watch the reruns of the exciting World Cup matches. My disappointment at the absence of Chinese footballers on the pitch was somehow mitigated by the fact that many products and services for the event are from China.

For example, many of the mascot toys, Fuleco the Armadillo, were made in China's Zhejiang Province, and a Chinese photovoltaic company provided energy-saving solutions to the stadiums. The Chinese footballers are not present at the World Cup, but the country of China is, a Chinese netizen quipped.

The sixth BRICS summit is being held in Brazil's beautiful coastal city of Fortaleza, where the heads of state/government of the five member countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will meet again to discuss issues such as solutions to economic challenges.

Every BRICS summit provides a great opportunity for its member states to deepen mutual understanding, enhance cooperation and promote common development and win-win outcomes.

Since the establishment of the BRICS mechanism, its member countries have made strides in cooperation in trade, investment, technological innovation and financing. Their combined GDP accounts for one fifth of the world total, and each member has become the most powerful emerging economy in its respective region. Their willingness to participate in international affairs has also been constantly growing.

The world's economic, political and diplomatic situation is undergoing profound change as manifested by numerous international and regional hot-spot issues, the readjustment of the world economy, and the ever increasingly complex international patterns.

More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the world order has, however, seen few changes, and the global information flow remains unbalanced. Voices of developing countries are often drowned out by the much louder media of the West. What we wanted to tell the world was hardly heard.

Fortunately, positive changes are taking place. In the context of globalization, the instant exchange of information on an equal footing has become increasingly important. Everyone is entitled to a "microphone". The rapid development of the internet and the mobile web have provided emerging economies with more diversified, equalized and easy-to-access channels of communication.

The dynamics of the world media industry are also undergoing profound change, with the voices of media organizations in emerging economies gradually strengthening. In recent years, the voices from mainstream media organizations in BRICS countries have received more and more attention from across the world.

As representatives of the world's emerging economies, the BRICS countries have laid a solid foundation for economic cooperation. Yet, their political influence on the international community remains weak. This weakness is not in line with the need for emerging economies to participate in international affairs and their desire to do so.

Some critics say the BRICS countries have acquired formidable economic strength, but their soft power remains weak. The influence of their media organizations is yet to improve. BRICS countries still lack the ability to express their will and project their strengths in a concerted manner.

Media organizations of the BRICS countries face similar external environments and have similar motivations. They should deepen cooperation, making use of the BRICS mechanism, and play a bigger role in international communication. They should strive to make their voices heard throughout the world.

To that end, I would like to put forward a four-point proposal:

* First, taking into consideration the interests of the BRICS countries as a whole, their media organizations should strengthen cooperation and coordinate their stances.

This is a situation media organizations of BRICS countries have to face: With rapid and well-recognized economic development in their countries, BRICS members are being required to shoulder increasingly heavy international responsibilities. However, the rules of burden distribution and execution are obviously in favour of the traditional Western powers.

Of course, emerging economies should not shirk their responsibilities, but the responsibilities they take must match the level of their political and economic development.

Media organizations of BRICS countries should have a clear understanding of the need to safeguard the overall interests of BRICS countries. They should speak in a coordinated manner as a result of their common position and have their voices amplified with joint force.

* Second, media organizations of BRICS countries should exchange experiences among themselves to safeguard the images of their countries. They should learn to tell facts in an objective and effective manner.

Although the BRICS countries have made great strides, they have different political systems and face various problems. Widening income gaps, social inequalities and corruption exist to varying degrees. But all the countries are dealing with those problems through reforms and innovation. Media organizations in those countries should enhance exchanges to learn the strategy and narrative technique to win the respect of the world, and to find effective ways to project the national image in an objective and ample manner.

* Third, media organizations of BRICS countries should make use of the platform of the World Media Summit (WMS) to help enhance mutual trust and clear up misunderstandings.

Initiated in 2009 by Xinhua New Agency and other well-known global news organizations, the WMS, with the theme of "Cooperation, Action, Win-Win and Development," has been growing over the years and has become a multilateral coordination mechanism for global media organizations.

Media organizations of the BRICS countries may establish regular communication mechanisms within the WMS framework to discuss problems they have encountered in their cooperation and to find solutions.

They should also help promote cooperation between their countries through teamwork and at the same time influence public opinion of other developing countries.

* Fourth, media organizations of the BRICS countries should jointly confront the challenges presented by new media and new technologies through cooperation projects.

Technologies such as cloud computing, big data and Internet of Things have changed the way information technology is developed and applied, opening a new chapter of informatization. The new technologies are bringing significant changes to the news industry and in public opinion ecology.

Media organizations of the BRICS countries should grasp this opportunity and carry out large-scale trans-regional and cross-industry multi-media reporting with integrating methods, focussing on cooperation projects that are fit for the application of the latest information technology.

The aim is to upgrade the mode of production and dissemination through practice so as to improve the soft power of the media organizations of the BRICS countries.

An international relations expert once told me that the BRICS mechanism has never gained the full support of the world media industry since its birth.

But I believe the media industry will eventually have to face the reality. Cooperation among the BRICS countries has become ever closer in the past five years and the trend may continue for even longer. The mechanism of BRICS is just like an underdog in the World Cup, which may well make its way successfully to the final amid boos and doubts.

As an old Chinese saying goes, genuine gold fears no fire. The faster and better BRICS goes, the louder the voices of skepticism and disapproval might be. As the leader of a media organization in China, I sincerely hope that media organizations of the BRICS countries can do more in international communication, constantly strengthen their ability to have their voices heard internationally and help improve the BRICS mechanism so as to win the understanding and support of the world for BRICS cooperation and development.

I very much liked this year's World Cup, because not a single player backed off in front of a strong rival. The wonderful matches kept on bringing surprises and joy.

The five BRICS countries are also gathering in Brazil - for 'golden' BRICS instead of the golden trophy of the World Cup. Let's also cheer the team of five, and let the entire world hear our cheers!

(Li Congjun is president of Xinhua news agency. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at

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