PH Protect Project

State-run China Daily’s “Media Unlocked” social media push is getting significantly more traction on TikTok, just months after uploading content to the short-form video platform.

The TikTok account, @mediaunlock, describes itself as a group of “China-based Journalists,” “Covering China & Global Issues,” without explicit mention however of its direct connection to China Daily. Its profile photo uses the name “China Unlocked.”

Since its first upload on July 28, 2023, the handle has amassed 286,100 followers and 6.7 million likes. @mediaunlock does not follow any other TikTok account.

In contrast, its counterpart on X (formerly Twitter), has drawn only 1,400 followers since joining the Elon Musk-owned platform in June 2023.

On YouTube, it goes by “China Unlocked,” with just 1,120 subscribers since joining on Jan. 20, 2022. Its 151 videos have amassed nearly 150,000 views, however.

Exposing the Western media’s supposed “hypocrisy and propaganda” has been a recurring theme on China Daily, the communist party outlet that claims to be the largest English portal in China.

The bifurcation in branding indicates a twin mission: to unlock a “different story” of China, as its YouTube channel states, and to unlock pro-Western media narratives by offering an unapologetically pro-China view.

The “Media Unlocked” team is composed of Meng Zhe and Xu-Pan Yiru, who are reporters for the China Daily site.

Meng Zhe and Xu-Pan Yiru

As expected, the Philippines is cast on a severely negative light on Media Unlocked. 

In late February, Meng Zhe, citing an analyst from a Beijing think tank, questioned the “authenticity” of Filipino fishermen looking to catch fish at Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground, which it calls “Huangyan Island.”

The video was titled, “Real Fishermen or Filipino Militia? Unveiling the Drama!”



In another video, which has been viewed 1.1 million times, Meng Zhe and Xu-Pan Yiru showed supposed “exclusive” video evidence of “Philippine provocation” and “illegal intrusion” near the shoal.

But it’s actually video of China Coast Guard harassing Filipino vessels and telling them to leave the “sea area of Huangyan Island of the People’s Republic of China.”

Of course, the videos were silent on the fact that Scarborough Shoal falls within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone, and that it used to be under Manila’s control until a three-month standoff in 2012 that went in Beijing’s favor.

Media Unlocked rails against “Western propaganda” while skillfully weaving and disseminating its own, with the help of filter-free and friendly platforms like TikTok. Felipe F. Salvosa II 

This report was made possible by an Internews project to build the capacity of news organizations in understanding disinformation and influence operations in the Philippines.