The way the Western journalists seem to operate: the Chinese government is guilty until proven innocent, and the applicable standard is somewhere between “absolutely, positively, beyond any doubt” to “just plain impossible”. The recent riot in Xinjiang is yet another example: these journalists’ knee jerk reaction was that the hundreds dead must have been killed by the Chinese military, despite immediately available information that indicated otherwise. The self-contradictary hearsay offered by the exiled dissidents are presumed by these journalists to be more reliable than the account offered by the government based on first hand investigation. It is also amazing how uniform their reportings are when they mention the beating, the burning, the killing in passing but also took care to point out that these minority rioters have legitimate grievances (a point which I do not dispute). On the other hand, to the same journalists, the Han counter-demonstrators are just vigilante mobs looking to kill and destroy, and we don’t get much of a hint of whether they too have their “legitimate grievances.” If the viewpoints were flipped, you’d think this is the work of Xinhua or People’s Daily.
A little over a year ago when the Tibet riot erupted, I was really angry over the biased reporting. now the same pattern repeats itself, and I am not sure if anger is the proper response, because if, as the journalists say, the bias that Han Chinese hold against the Uighurs is deep-rooted, so is the Western journalists’ bias towards China, and I really can’t do to the journalists what the Uighurs did to their perceived racists — bash their heads with bricks, slash their throats in alleyways, or burn their office buildings, and then play the part of an innocent victim in front of others, can I? So I wonder if anything could be done on the Chinese government’s side.
The Chinese government is flush with cash. Not that it should bribe any journalists to violate their so-called professional ethics (if there’s any left of it), but that, with sufficient funding, one could do a lot of legitimate things to improve its own image in the international press. Also, where are our ambassadors, media spokespersons, press secretaries in times of crisis? When the opposition manages to spew venom in an op-ed piece on Wall Street Journal, couldn’t our ambassador write something to set the record straight (and I am sure plenty of US newspapeprs would be willing to publish such a piece in their opinion column). When other countries, such as Israel, face a public relations crisis, their foreign service people in the US from their ambassador down go all out on a media assault: appearing on TV shows, appealing to the American public, writing op-ed articles, etc. So instead of hearing about the events through biased intermediaries, the public get to hear the other side of the story, unfiltered.
I wonder where’s our spokesmen at this time. Keep doing the press conferences, keep issuing press releases, but please, also bypass the intermediary and go straight to the public. Perhaps this is something that our public officials are not used to doing, but to the extent we do care about our international image as a country and as an ethnic group, we must have people who are willing and able to forcefully speak on our behalf directly to the foreign public, especially when the opposition factions are already way ahead in this game.