News and Propaganda, Truth and Fiction
China has a very different culture than the West, and we cannot interpret their actions (or their media) in the light of our own attitudes. To do so would be to misunderstand everything about China.
In terms of media content and presentation, there are some major differences between China and the West.
Let’s Deal With the Hard Stuff First
The Chinese are not Shrill and Clever Loud-Mouths
I apologise if that title seems offensive, but the point needs to be made. Government and society in China typically do not appreciate the wide range of vitriolic articles and comments that are common to the North American or UK media.
One of the many pleasant things about China is that the Chinese are not racially or culturally bigoted. China doesn’t have a CNN or a Rush Limbaugh who twist and make a grotesque mockery of what is supposed to be factual news. China has nothing like the irresponsible US Right-Wing media.
China does not have the swaggering Glen Becks or Fox News reporters of the world, nor the kind of rude columnists employed by the NYT, the Economist or Canada’s National Post or Globe & Mail, or many of the UK media. There are no news reporters or columnists in China who specialise in digging up and broadcasting dirt on other countries.
China has neither media nor reporters who enjoy being provocative, who think that inflammatory articles and slanderous accusations are clever journalism. You will never find either news articles or opinion pieces in China that are insulting, mocking, or flame-baiting – all of which are standard fare in the West.
In 2009, when the US provocatively deployed its spy ships off Hainan, searching for secrets about China’s submarine program, China was truly angry but you would never have known that from the news. The reporting was just a chronicle of the events that transpired, without commentary or judgment (except on China’s sovereignty of the waters). There was no slander of the US. There wasn’t even a “They shouldn’t have”.
Chinese Culture does not Hang its Dirty Linen out in Public
This business of dragging out and incessantly debating and speculating on unsavory or juicy details of an event is mostly an American phenomenon, scarcely existing anyplace else on earth. But the US government – and far too many Americans – are apparently unable to accept a society that is able to restrain its crudest impulses from widespread public dissemination.
The Western media, led by the US, on a blind, headlong rush to create “news”, are seemingly unable to resist publishing every manner of unpleasant or embarrassing details, regardless of who is affected. And for sure, regardless of good taste.
The Chinese tend to be much more quiet and, far more importantly, have not lost their sense of shame as most of the West has done. China does not have a Monica Lewinsky with her single famous claim to fame, earning $100,000 for a public speech.
If you believe Monica’s public image is a good example of an advanced society, you shouldn’t be reading this article.
The Chinese do not live in their media. News events are not “TV Moments”
The Chinese media provide news and information. The media coverage of China’s Sichuan earthquake was factual reporting, without the fabricated “human interest” one-minute sound bytes that serve only to distort understanding of a major tragedy.
Most Western news is so full of opinion-based or agenda-driven TV moments that no proper understanding of any event is likely or even possible.
The Chinese Media are not a Political or Social Propaganda Tool
Yes, I already know. Don’t tell me. China is a “communist” country, an “authoritarian” one at that, and the government is “terrified” of public opinion. Therefore, the only information available through the Chinese media is blatant self-serving government propaganda.
And if you believe that, you need to grow up. Really.
Trouble-Makers: Treating “Dissention” in the Chinese Media
There has been much Western attention paid to the treatment of what we choose to call ‘dissidents’. We have these in the West too, but we don’t refer to them as dissidents. In North America, we call them shit-disturbers, some of whom are professionals.
We tolerate them in our Western society, but we don’t tolerate them in our corporations. If you walk around your office telling everyone what a jerk your President is, you won’t see a lot of sympathy when you get yourself fired. People will say you knew what you were doing and you brought it upon yourself.
It’s like that with China. The Chinese do not like troublemakers, especially those who know nothing. Protesting is very possible in China but it’s done differently here, and the Western (read US) loud-mouthed, get-everyone-inflamed, take-no-prisoners approach is not much appreciated by the Chinese.
You can say almost anything you want in China, provided you are respectful and do it in a spirit of helpfulness and with proper regard for good manners. Nobody in China gets shot for stating an honest opinion or for offering advice on preventing crime, corruption or anything else.
It would be helpful to readers’ understanding of China to read this editorial titled, “The Politics of Dissention in China”. You can access it Here.
“Freedom of the Press” – My Rights, my Rights, my Rights
The Chinese are not so fiercely individualistic as Americans or Canadians, or Westerners in other Right-Wing countries. Many of the ‘rights’ that we Westerners incessantly harp on, are of no particular interest to the Chinese.
Female reporters are not going to court, demanding ‘the right’ to enter a locker room after a game to interview the naked male players – as was done in the US.
Chinese Government Propaganda
Many wish to believe that the Chinese media publish propaganda on a huge scale, but this isn’t the case. Whether reporting on international or domestic news, Chinese reporting tends to be objective and impartial. Issues are never cast in the false dichotomy of right and wrong, good vs. bad, and this is especially true of matters containing political overtones.
China does not mix news with opinion and, while it’s true that officials will try to downplay their embarrassment or incompetence, I don’t recall ever seeing facts that were skewed or embellished. News is reported as news – a factual chronicle of events, no more.
Opinion is clearly separated, presented in a section that is titled “Opinion”, and is always refreshingly moderate, never shrill. Domestic and international are the same.
The Chinese do of course present opinions and op-eds, but they do it elsewhere; they don’t mix fact and opinion and they don’t fictionalise events.
There is what we might term ‘propaganda’ in China – perhaps self-congratulatory articles on some accomplishment – but government-sponsored articles are limited to a narrow range of issues and are conveniently displayed in a separate section titled “Government Propaganda” or some such, where it is clear to everyone that these are messages from the government to the people, usually saying, “See, we’re doing a good job” or “We really do care what you think”.
Here is a typical item from the People’s Daily propaganda section:
China sticks to people-oriented diplomacy
“People-oriented diplomacy is an important component of China’s diplomacy and is aimed at protecting the interests of the people.” Blah, blah, blah.
There is no way for anyone to confuse this category with “news”, and it is not done on a grand scale.
Media Censorship in China
If I want updates on what is happening in the world, especially in terms of foreign affairs, the Chinese media are quite a good source. It may be true that not everything is reported there, but on the other hand whatever is reported is factual.
In truth, China has much less media interference than most Westerners choose to imagine. Any censorship in China is quite mild, is restricted to a few sensitive or perhaps embarrassing topics and is done only internally as a kind of self-defense measure.
It’s true that some online activities or some kinds of news are circumscribed, but on a daily basis these are seldom important.
It is important to note that restrictions are on domestic issues that are personal to China and the Chinese, and not in any way intended to deliberately distort the public’s view of the world and the world’s political machinations – as is done in the West.
In this sense, much criticism of China’s media polices has not only a strong smell of hypocrisy but major elements of selective amnesia as well. Much of the Western press, and again especially the US press, has a rather long list of “forbidden” topics, both domestic and international, which are never addressed.
The current status of Hawaii’s struggle for independence, for example, or Israel’s savage brutality toward the Palestinians, among others.
How is it possible to explain the US and other Western countries’ predilection to harp on “freedom, human rights, free speech and transparency” and then strongly censor many elements of their own recent history and current affairs?
A Sampling of Current Chinese News
All Western readers know in their hearts that the media in China are heavily censored, that nothing critical of the government can be reported, that news is only sunshine and happy days, that everything unpleasant is subject to a heavy-handed cover-up.
Well, I have “news” for you.
Here is a sampling of headlines from major Chinese newspapers, taken from the last couple of days of July 2011. Read this, and ask yourself if these headlines accurately reflect what you have been told about China by your “free, open and honest” Western media.
China’s High-Speed Rail Crash
Latest Poll: Are you still confident in China’s railway system after the deadly bullet train derailment in Wenzhou on July 23?
Train Crash Breaks Nation’s Heart
Officials’ arrogance results in poor PR
Anger mounts at lack of answers on crash
Explanation fails to dispel public doubts
Truth will out – easing public doubts about high-speed rail
Rail disaster needs clean investigation
Wenzhou a grim wake-up call for railway safety
Anxious travelers turn back to airlines
Mending an economy built on cheapness
Will government disclosure bring fairness and equity?
“Democracy wars” divide China’s microblogs
Hawks have no place in China’s future
China needs zero tolerance for concealing major accidents
Voice on Chinese authorities’ lack of crisis management experience
Private sector poor solution for State monopoly woes
China remains a hopeful but partial superpower
China Red Cross Society to publish donation list, trying to demonstrate greater transparency
Officials reluctant to reveal spending plans
Terror threat increasingly nullifies growth
Pricing drivers out of cars
Policy support needed to stop urban flooding
Road to hell begins with a small bribe
Over 60,000 sentenced for bribery, corruption in China since 2008
Public supervision is a cure for the cancer of corruption
Tip-off websites launched to root out corruption in China’s legal system
China’s ex-top judge urges unified national anti-corruption organ
Police officers charge ex-chief with corruption in China county
Official fraud in scrutiny as netizen exposes shareholder scandal
Bridge cave-in fuels corruption fears
Culture & Society
Tongji University professor says some China’s World Heritage sites are more exploited than protected
Gays and lesbians in China strangled by tight family bonds
Summer classes can’t make your kid Shakespeare
Absurd ‘puppy love’ restrictions still stifle youth
Voices on the high unemployment rate of college graduates caused by unrealistic expectations
Lumping all foreigners together speaks only of ignorance
Laws, not politics, keep wealth at home
European values shaky among spoilt young
Phones as deadly as alcohol on crowded roads
Dodgy journalism goes far beyond Murdoch
Lead pollution a hidden affliction behind booming economy
Alarm over tailings’ effects on rivers
Oil still leaking at 2 platforms on NE China sea
Trafficked Xinjiang minors rescued
Public not ready for end to death penalty
Chinese authorities probing 3 reportedly fake Apple Stores
Counterfeiting continues despite crackdown
China offers rewards for information on food safety irregularities
Tougher sentences for IPR infringements
Sham ‘Shanghai tours’ bring grief to customers
China bans poorly edited healthcare books
City takes action after office window glass ‘explosions’
Airport closed as rains sink runway
New round of formula price rises hits China
Rise in taxi fares unfairly selective
Unlicensed roadside food to be banned
China will continue to face tight power supply in H2: report
Guangdong’s businesses report slower profit growth
A Sampling of Chinese News Media
There are many English-language publications in China, and you don’t really need my help to find them; a simple search will suffice. But I’ll give you a list of a few of my favorites.
Xinhua English Daily News
There is also a publication, run out of Hong Kong, called the “China Digital Times”, and it is interesting to see many of the Western mainstream media referring to this publication as a reference for much of their China-bashing articles.
Most readers will be unaware that the China Digital Times is a US government-sponsored organ, financed by the CIA through the NED (National Endowment for Democracy).
The NED was designed to pose as an independent NGO, one step removed from the CIA and Government agencies so as to be less conspicuous, presumably. The first acting President of the NED, Allen Weinstein (another Jewish Zionist), commented to the Washington Post that, ‘A lot of what we [the NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’
The NED funds almost two dozen other so-called NGOs, with many millions of dollars each year, all for the purpose of destabilising China and spreading misinformation. Among other things, it pumps millions each year into the destabilisation of Tibet, through various organisations. There is almost nothing in the China Digital Times that deviates from this agenda.
Mr. Long Xinming (龙信明) is the Publisher and the Editor of the bearcanada.com.