小北的不老歌

Media Relations

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.

Comments (8)

  1. phoenix

    Very well said, littlenorth! As a person who grew up in Xinjiang, I am feeling very sad and frustrated at the situation in Xinjiang.

  2. littlenorth

    thanks. hope your family members are all ok.

  3. sebastian

    well-done. This is just what i want to say.

  4. YY

    非常同意你的看法

  5. Zhan

    Very well said.

    “The Chinese government is flush with cash. … but that, with sufficient funding, one could do a lot of legitimate things to improve its own image in the international press.”

    –James Fallows documented a number of such efforts in his blog. A recent post on March 10, 2009:

    http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/03/chinese_media_notes_englishlan.php

    The English article in China Daily, “Holes in Dalai’s Story,” is quite well-written imho.

  6. littlenorth

    Interesting. Thanks for pointing me to this article in China Daily, which I admittedly do not read…

    I also think the piece is a step in a good direction, but only because of the style and the language. Substantively it is rather hollow and weak. They should come up with something better next time and go straight to the substance of the issue rather than play high-school debate team on a national newspaper.

  7. Zhan

    Yep I agree.

  8. Zhan

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-07/09/content_8403394.htm

    I saw this same picture in the World Journal (the largest Chinese newspaper in the States measured by circulation) when I was riding the subway. It takes up a huge part of the paper and looks quite sensational. I had a vague sense of suspicion because it didn’t quite look like the streets in Urumqi. But not until now did I learn that it was actually from another major unrest in Shishou, Hubei Province last month.

    Page 2 of the report shows another mis-identified picture–using a picture from a traffic accident in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in May 2009 as evidence of crackdown in Urumqi.

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