Biased China Daily editorial shames China

Biased China Daily editorial shames China
Biased China Daily editorial shames China
Posted on 2011-10-06

EDITOR’S NOTE: On September 30, Chen Weihua, the deputy editor of China Daily in the United States, wrote an editorial in which he sharply criticized American “mainstream media” for their “shameful” “blackout” on the Wall Street protests. In fact, while many Americans had voiced anger over meager coverage by major media groups, reports had already been on a four-day upswing by the time Chen’s editorial appeared. On September 26, America’s National Public Radio publicly explained the network’s initial decision not to cover the protest. And in The Cutline, a media-related blog at Yahoo!, Brian Stableford wrote on September 27 about how media coverage of the protests had ramped up on September 26 after major media outlets were criticized. At The New York Times Online yesterday, Brian Stelter wrote about a further uptick in media coverage of the protests as they have spread to other cities. The following is a response to the China Daily editorial by CMP fellow and Chinese “super-blogger” Yang Hengjun.

I was still in bed today when a had a phone call from [a journalist in] Hong Kong asking whether or not I had seen a certain editorial in China Daily. I said I hadn’t seen it, and she said she would send it to my inbox. No big deal, I thought. These people in the media often take small things and build them up into big stories. And anyhow, China Daily is an English-language newspaper, read by foreigners and by Chinese who want to improve their English.

I got up and opened my inbox, and the first thing I saw was a message from another internet user in the United States, talking about exactly the same editorial. He said that he had discussed the editorial with some American friends and they found it incredible that an editorial like this could actually make it into official Chinese media. There were a lot of places to find fault with America, they said, but to accuse American media of a “media blackout”? That was simply incredible!

So I made a point of locating the editorial they were talking about, which bore the headline, “US media blackout of protest is shameful“. The writer is the deputy editor of China Daily in the United States. I honestly hadn’t seen the editorial and knew nothing about it. But as soon as I read it I was jumping out of my chair. The author asked why mainstream American media weren’t reporting on how one percent of Americans control 25 percent of America’s wealth, and why most mainstream media had “chosen to ignore” the Wall Street protests over the past two weeks. He even suggested “a blackout [had been] imposed by the major news media outlets.”

These Wall Street protests have been organized by young people, who say they are the “99 percent” [who are not super-rich], and several thousand have participated so far. Protests have spread to other places, such as Washington D.C., but gatherings in the US capital have so far drawn less than a hundred people. These sorts of protests are quite common in the United States, and at any given place on any given day you might see a protest of some sort. But this protest is larger in scale. And consider that in the wake of the jasmine revolution in the Middle East people are calling it “America’s jasmine [protests].”

While there are points of similarity [with events in the Middle East] in the sense that both movements are driven by young people who feel marginalized, want justice and fairness, and oppose corruption (political corruption in the case of the Middle East, and Wall Street corruption in the case of America), the biggest difference is that these American jasmine protests are directed at the greed of Wall Street. No one is talking about overthrowing the American government, or about switching out signs on the American political system.

American media are all held in private hands. Moreover, pretty much anyone at the helm in the media business is a major corporate boss, belonging to that one percent [of Americans holding 25 percent of the wealth]. So you can imagine the possibility that they might control the media in their hands so that they report lightly or not at all on these demonstrations. If China Daily took that approach to the story they might convince some readers. The problem is that this curious editorial criticizes the “fact” that there is a media blackout on this story among American mainstream media without making any concrete mention of who is responsible.

The writer is also in America. So has he really not seen any reports on television or in the newspapers? A friend of mine in America did a search and found that over the past two weeks, all mainstream US media (his search covered perhaps around 100 media, including television) reported this story, and most New York media reported on this story a minimum of four times! Over the past two weeks the Wall Street protests have become the story most reported by American mainstream media. But in terms of the number of people participating it shouldn’t be given such prominence of position.

This is the internet age, and many American media can be seen even in China. For a paper like China Daily, supported by taxpayers, to publish such an irresponsible editorial — well, drawing the scorn of others is one thing, but if you blatantly lie and deceive to this degree, that reflects badly on China’s government! It reflects badly on the Chinese people! It is completely shameful!

After living for so many years in the US, we of course know that Western media, politics and economics all have their problems, and most of these have come out in the wash. For example, I once wrote a piece called, “Why is CNN patriotic?” which talked about how American media actively took sides in the so-called war on terror. But in exposing such things we have to maintain a rational state of mind, otherwise we’ll have the exact opposite of our intended effect. If this was in so local Chinese newspaper, you might expect it to fool the old woman who sells the goose eggs. But this appears in an English-language newspaper circulated all over the world.

We all know that after the jasmine revolution erupted in the Middle East various governments offered different responses. Dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East immediately moved to restrict the media, restricting news on the jasmine protests. The result was the in some countries where there are thousands of media, a protest with tens of thousands of people participating didn’t even make the news.

But here in this China Daily editorial the author willfully disregards these facts, instead launching an attack against mainstream media in the U.S. for restricting information. Isn’t this removing the kettle before it’s boiling? [NOTE: The implication here is that China falls far shorter on the count American media are being criticized for.] Or perhaps the author harbors ulterior motives (别有用心), wanting his false news to turn the attention of all Chinese who know how to conduct a basic online search to real news about non-democratic countries — real news that has never been reported! [NOTE: Yang is poking fun at the author, suggesting his piece reveals more about information controls in China than it says about media in the U.S., and in that sense could be considered a veiled attack on China's government.]

Taxpayers in China support so many media that have to do propaganda, that go and try to channel public opinion, and there’s not a lot we can say about this. But you need at least have a modicum of sense and technique in going about it, you need to have a basic bottom line standards. You can’t shame the face of China’s government and harm the people of China!

10 Comments to “Biased China Daily editorial shames China”

  1. Newport says:

    Regardless “Biasof the content, the headline itself — biased China Daily editorial shames China — reflects the thinking of someone growing up in cultural revolution years. Does that mean when you disagree with a New York Times article, you will say the NYT article shames America. That shows how superficial Mr. Yang is

  2. Newport says:

    See what the Pew Center study shows:

    Released: October 12, 2011
    Wall Street Protests Receive Limited Attention

    http://www.people-press.org/2011/10/12/wall-street-protests-receive-limited-attention/?src=prc-newsletter

  3. Newport says:

    Mr. Yang Hengjun jumped to conclusion simply by calling one of his friends. Is that a serious attitude for a thinker. I guess Mr. Yang is used to writing novels and likes to be fictional.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Chen Weihua is on the ground reporting from New York. Will he know less than Yang about this Occupy Wall Street.

    If you check Mr Chen’s records, he is “bashing” the US, “bashing” China and “bashing” everything he thinks is not right. The word “bashing” is not a good word. He is just working as a regular journalist, not a fiction writer like Mr. Yang.

  4. rockyang says:

    Mr. Yang:

    do u really believe there is media in the world that does not have any bias?
    will you come to the Middle East to persuade the locals that they shouldn’t have theirs veils on?
    will u fight for the liberty that man have the right to marry a dog?

  5. XinWenChong says:

    (…)But increasingly, Westerners, including journalists and scholars, take some Chinese media seriously, often as competitors.
    .
    Rousseau,
    .
    you have quite a very logically and well structured response here. Quite impressive. You even make sure you cite your sources. Not bad ahh … Still the office working during the holiday ?
    .
    Boy, you really strive hard not to let those western readers get fooled by the “ulterior motives” forces and you really make sure your “sources” are well “reputed” western ones.
    .
    By the way, could you also some sources to this part,
    .
    (…)But increasingly, Westerners, including journalists and scholars, take some Chinese media seriously, often as competitors.(…)
    .
    keep up the hard word, best

  6. Rousseau says:

    1. The China Daily author Chen Weihua never said Chinese news media did a good job in covering protests in China.
    2. The reason that Chinese media did not cover its protests does not deny Chinese journalists the right to point out problems in the United States.
    3. The media blackout in US about Occupy Wall Street has been singled out by former MSNBC Keith Olbermann, filmmaker Michael Moore, and even Paul Krugman and Princeton U professor Anne Marie Slaughter in the New York Times today and Martin Wolf in FT days ago.
    4. Yes. There has been increasing reporting, especially the pepper spray of several women, the arrests of 700 and Obama’s nod last night of the protest, but China Daily was talking about initial days.
    5. Mr. Yang’s article has no logic. He believes that it is easy to discredit Chinese media as propaganda in front of western readers. But increasingly, Westerners, including journalists and scholars, take some Chinese media seriously, often as competitors. Chinese news media landscape is evolving, despite its many problems.
    6. The problem with US media is obvious. Christian Amanpour has lamented at it sometime ago. The sheer fact that the whole Western media did not question the WMD in Iraq as an excuse for invasion is enough shame for Western media. Mr. Yang should not just try to please Western media.

  7. ltlee says:

    @Dr. Jones Jr.
    As much as you want to deny Chen Weihua’s main theme of the article, you are confirming it.
    “The tea baggers were covered more extensively because Fox News was their patron and instigator–essentially guaranteed constant coverage on one major network. Then rival networks were put in a position of having to also say something about the situation given how much air time was being given to the movement on Fox.”
    For Fox News, certain events were news because it had instigated those events. For other news organizations, they did not cover events on whether such events are important to the public but whether other news organizations had covered it. In Chinese saying, it is called “One dog barks to the shadow, hundred dogs bark to the sound of dog barking.”
    With this “one dog barks to the shadow and hundred dogs bark to the sound” “free press” system, it is inevitable that many events of significance were not covered and hence the reality and/or the impression of black out.
    “In one scene, several policemen jumped on one skinny man who was not acting violently. They pushed him down and handcuffed him. Just five minutes later, a policeman waved his fist at a man. That day, seven people were arrested, with one suffering a serious leg injury.
    Again, none of these incidents made the major networks’ evening news or the major newspapers.”
    If you have reason to believe the above or other statements concerning Chen’s first hand observation is not factual, please inform.

  8. Dr. Jones Jr. says:

    It’s also strange for China Daily to call this a news “black out” when informal news outlets (i.e. blogs, google news search which definitely included this as a top story all week, social networks) have taken up so much of the slack whenever the big corporate media are less than responsive to important news and views. Unlike China with its massive censorship apparatus that in a comparative situation would have not only blacked out the news, but also blocked all searches for common related terms such as ‘Wall Street’, ’99%’, etc; also unlike China in that informal online portals and the like are positively uninhibited in being able to report the news. If the big four or five news networks aren’t covering news, that means there’s probably only another million or so places that people could see or hear about this news.

    @ltlee,

    The tea baggers were covered more extensively because Fox News was their patron and instigator–essentially guaranteed constant coverage on one major network. Then rival networks were put in a position of having to also say something about the situation given how much air time was being given to the movement on Fox. Fox, of course, is completely indefensible as always; other major corporate news had a less than shining moment; luckily, people who watch CNN or read NYT, etc, are also exposed to a wide variety of other news sources in any given day. Not sure what the argument is supposed to be. The Chinese media/propaganda apparatus in tandem with massive censorship… big corporate media in the US even on its worst day just can’t hope to compare.

    Like Mr. Yang Hengjun, I just find the China Daily article both laughable and embarrassing for China. Then again, I’m not sure if he was being ironic in suggesting his reaction to the article was surprise. Both China Daily and Global Times seem mainly intended to make foreigners laugh and fenqing cream their pants. Perfectly fine aspirations: if we were talking about a mere partisan blog rather than a Chinese government mouthpiece.

  9. ltlee says:

    Matt Taibbi, a journalist who had also written a couple of books in recent years http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI6PehFB1SI
    had observed that if Tea-baggers were protesting, there would be a lot more coverage. If Mr Yang Hengjun of CMP does not live in the US and does not care to follow US news closely, it is not surprising that he does not know what is going on in the US and the protest was relatively neglected.
    But did he read the China Daily editorial before he wrote his response? He wrote,
    “American media are all held in private hands. Moreover, pretty much anyone at the helm in the media business is a major corporate boss, belonging to that one percent [of Americans holding 25 percent of the wealth]. So you can imagine the possibility that they might control the media in their hands so that they report lightly or not at all on these demonstrations. If China Daily took that approach to the story they might convince some readers. The problem is that this curious editorial criticizes the “fact” that there is a media blackout on this story among American mainstream media without making any concrete mention of who is responsible.”
    But there was indeed one of the reason given by the China Daily editorial. If Mr Yang Hengjun of CMP had read the Chinese Daily editorial, how could he missed the following from the Chinese Daily editorial?
    “To some protesters I have talked to, the answer is simple: It is natural that corporate-controlled media outlets are not going to cover a protest that is fighting excessive corporate influence in society. “

  10. bill rich says:

    What does China Daily has anything to do with facts ? Conspiracy theory is way more fertile for propaganda than facts. If that’s not enough, imagination will always help. These are the ancient cultural heritage of PRC official media.

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