Joseph Sohm/ file photo

Analysis: The Voice of America Will Sound Like Trump

Under the president’s control, U.S.-funded broadcasters could turn into a presidential propaganda machine.

Of all the myriad Washington bureaucrats, diplomats, congressional staffers, and politicians who spend their time thinking about U.S.-China policy, probably no one has actually triggered the Chinese more than Libby Liu. For 14 years, Liu was the president of Radio Free Asia, an independent but congressionally funded broadcaster that transmits news and information in Mandarin, Cantonese, Uighur, Tibetan, and nearly a dozen other languages. RFA broke the first stories of the Chinese concentration camps built to hold millions of Uighurs, members of China’s repressed Muslim minority; RFA has also reported the stories of dissidents, trafficked women, unrest in Tibet, and many other topics that Beijing would prefer to ignore.

These stories naturally anger many of the region’s governments, who do their best to make sure no one can hear them. The Chinese block RFA news online, jam its broadcasts, and arrest its journalists and collaborators. The North Koreans and the Vietnamese try to jam and block RFA broadcasts and websites too. But in the digital era, there are ways around these strictures. In 2011, Liu and her colleagues created the Open Technology Fund, a low-key but extraordinarily effective program that invents, distributes, and constantly updates technology that allows millions of people to read and listen to information that their governments seek to block, not just in China but around the world. Two-thirds of mobile devices around the world use some piece of OTF-supported technology; billions of people can share ideas in spaces safe from government surveillance.

This article was originally published in The Atlantic. Sign up for their newsletter