Reader westiseast’s claim of “zero balance whatsoever” in Chinese media

In the spirit of bridging understanding, reader westiseast responded to my request to give a quick analysis on why he thought there is “zero balance whatsoever” (refer to his original comment as it was a bit more nuanced) in the Chinese press. After all, we frequently criticize the Western press on this blog, it only seem fair we look at the Chinese press too.  To give this exercise a little bit more context, this was how I phrased my proposal:

Are you interested in doing this exercise – pick an article in the China Daily, Xinhua, or any mainstream Chinese media. Enlighten us why you think it has zero balance. I will publish it on this blog for all of our readers to see.

In this post, I have put the article cited by westiseast and his analysis side-by-side. I ask readers to open their minds.   Remember, we are strictly talking about balance.

Left column below is the Xinhua article carried on China Daily on February 5, 2012 about the Syria resolution vetoed by Russia and China.  On the right is westiseast’s analysis with my thoughts beneath his.  Regardless of your position on the veto, what do you think of the article in terms of balance?  Where do you agree or disagree with westiseast’s analysis?

Russia, China veto Syria draft resolution“Updated: 2012-02-05 06:57(Xinhua)
UNITED NATIONS – Russia and China on Saturday vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution on Syria backing an Arab League plan which demands a regime change in the Middle East country, the second time since October 2011.The draft resolution, tabled by Morocco and backed by the United States and European powers, received 13 votes in favor.In order to be adopted, a draft resolution needs nine votes in favor and no veto by any of the five permanent members of the 15- nation council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.Russia and China staged double veto on October 4, 2011 against a European draft resolution, which meant to strongly condemn “the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities” and threatened punitive measures against the Middle East country.

The unadopted draft “fully supports” the January 22 Arab League decision “to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system … including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.”

The Arab League plan contains demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down to pave the way for a new national unity government and national elections in the Middle East country.

Russia and China have voiced their strong opposition to forced regime change in Syria.

Russia warned some countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, saying that the international community should prevent a replay of the Libya model, in which NATO military action help topple the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi.

Hours before the Security Council entered into a scheduled meeting on Saturday, with Western powers pushing for a council vote on the draft, Russia insisted that the document be amended.

“We circulated an amended resolution which aims to fix two basic problems …(first), the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and second, measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also armed groups,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, adding that these two issues are “of crucial importance” from the view of Russia.

French and US ambassadors said after the council vote that they were angry with what they called the inaction of the Security Council to address the current situation of Syria, which has been plunged into a political crisis since March 2011.

 

westiseast’s Analysis below:

So this is the straight news reporting. It focuses on the Russian and Chinese side of the story exclusively, with some relatively emphatic writing not contained in quotes or given as opinion – eg. “meddling”. It doesn’t mention any of the violence or killing going on in Syria right now at all, but instead repeatedly uses the words “regime change” and “forced regime change” to describe the motivation of the bill (framing this whole situation as stable country being forced into regime change, instead of an unstable country that is already collapsing). There’s no quotes from European sources, Arab league members, Syrians on the ground, or any pro-resolution people at all, whether that’s to express support for the resolution, or just in criticism of Russia/China. Throughout the piece, the resolution is repeatedly framed as if its a ‘Western’ bill, raising the spectre of the usual bogeyman (‘the imperial powers’) – despite its support from all members of the temporary security council (India, South Africa, Pakistan, Colombia, Germany, Azerbaijan, Togo…) AND the Arab League.

 

I agree with westiseast’s point that the Xinhua article gave no coverage of the violence and killing going on in Syria.  Though to be fair, the article neither covered the government side nor the opposition’s side.

I also agree that the article played down the fact that Russia and China were the only two countries that voted ‘no’ – as oppose to the rest of the 15-nation council voted ‘yes.’  Unlike the Libya case, BRICS + Germany actually abstained.  The facts are there though for readers to piece them together.

Internationally speaking, this resolution actually has much wider support than Libya’s case.

Where I disagree is as follows:

The article specifically stated it an Arab League + European resolution. The article didn’t single out the ‘West.’

President Obama and the Arab League have publicly stated they want a regime change.  Given what we saw happened to Libya (as the article has spelled out), it is logical to conclude the purpose of the resolution is the same.  It was written in the resolution!  However, that clause was changed in the last minute.  The final draft still assigned all blame to the Syrian government and none to the opposition side.

It is clear that the Xinhua article implicitly don’t believe acceptable foreign countries meddling in another country’s civil war. Assigning all blame to the Syrian government legitimizes the actions (including violence) of the opposition, and as the Chinese ambassador to the U.N. have already said, such action only further escalates the conflict. The responsible action of the international community is to condemn violence on both sides and get the two sides to negotiate.

According to Wikipedia.org, Wikileaks have revealed the U.S. have secretly funded political opposition inside and outside of Syria since 2006. Given the support from the Arab League and Western governments against the current Syrian government, it is not surprising they are fighting for their survival against opposition. Again, they only need to look at Libya.

Hence, China clamps down on people like Liu Xiaobo and Hu Jia for taking money from the likes of NED. If not, such political oppositions can escalate and potentially become violent as in Syria’s case.

Anyways, on the strict issue of balance, I must say, the article is arguing the Chinese foreign policy position (though I happen to agree with). For the Western audience, I can see how they view the article as having lack balance.

 

 

 

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