I’ve actually been enjoying the Olympics really, even though I haven’t really gotten out much, have made no attempt to see any of the games live, and have spent most of the last week sitting around at home. CCTV’s coverage has been occasionally frustrating, and the commentators…. Well, it’s good to know that New Zealand is not the only country blighted by brainless twits given prominence by their ability to blether on inanely about sport. I just zone them out. Indeed, some of the best rugby games I’ve ever watched were at a friends place in Sunshine 100 when Star Sports apparently didn’t have the right to broadcast rugby commentary into the mainland. Pictures, but no sound. That was good.

But there’s been a few things surrounding the Olympics that have been bugging me. I’ve been trying not to blog about these things, but they’re irritating me, so I’d like to get them off my chest. And once this is done I’m going to slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and slip my bike out the door and take off to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, sun, and clean air. So here goes:

Dear Western Media,

Beijing has some mole hills. We would like them to be made into mountains. You’ve proven yourself so good at that, especially when it comes to Chinese mole hills, that we think you are the best crew for the job. Please bring your own tools.

Now, I’m not trying to deny China’s real problems. I simply mean that certain issues surrounding the opening ceremony, for example, have been blown up so much that you’d think these issues are somehow equivalent to the Georgia/Abkhazia/South Ossetia/Russia conflict. They are not. All this kerfuffle about the opening ceremony is a non-story. Really. Utterly meaningless and completely unimportant.

As for the Chinese women’s gymnastics team: Well, if they are cheating and you can prove it, it’s a story. But isn’t it funny how suddenly Xinhua and China Daily are now ‘reliable’ sources? I dunno, I haven’t seen much in the way of solid evidence yet. But I guess “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply to Chinese teams.

As for this self-congratulatory, self-righteous load of tripe: Congratulations Western Media, you’ve shown a brilliant ability to bark up the wrong tree as you harp on and on about your obssessions. Might I suggest that BOCOG and IOC press conferences are the places to talk about sports in general and these games in particular? Or that other concerns are best taken to the relevant branch of the Chinese government?

Oh, and speaking of self-righteous: Westerners who come here specifically to cause a scene for their “cause” are not newsworthy. They’re dicks. Self-righteous dicks. That’s all. They don’t actually care about their cause, that’s all a charade, and if they stuck by the principles they claimed, they’d climb down off their streetlamps, roll up their banners, and start talking to people with some basic respect and courtesy. But they don’t do that, because that would mean actually having to acknowleged that other people have equally valid points of view. To sum up: They are dicks. That’s all. Dicks are not newsworthy.

But the more I’ve read of the non-sports reporting on China over the last week, the more my suspicion that China would simply not be allowed to win has been confirmed. I could see this building up way back in March. Doesn’t matter what China does, the Western Media is going to whip out the old China bashing sticks and get stuck in. If we go back to the opening ceremony molehill, reading the reports on the subject it’s pretty clear that the journalists in question showed up with the story already written, all they needed was a few useful examples to fill in the blanks. Same could be said of many of the other stories filed over the last week.

Indeed, almost everything I have read, be it blog posts, comments, newspaper articles, whatever about the opening ceremony has only served to confirm that we only see what we want to see.

Alright, now that I have gotten that off my chest:

I loathe the term “Western” and the term the “Western Media” is about as useful as the term the “Eastern Media”. Not in the least bit useful at all, in other words. However, there do seem to be common threads running through the coverage of the media in countries that are usually lumped together as the “West”, especially when the coverage turns to China (or Russia or the Caucasus….)

And now I’m going out to get some exercise.

38 Responses to “excuse me while I rant a little”

  1. Jay Says:

    I disagree with just about everything you say here. I’ve been watching CCTV’s coverage of the Olympics all week and I’ve got say it’s a lot worse than anything I’m seeing in the “Western” media.

  2. wangbo Says:

    But it’s not Olympics coverage I’m complaining about. I’m seeing plenty of sport on TV, and a wide variety of sport too. I’m complaining about all the peripheral issues that the Western media is harping on about, most of which are total non-issues.

  3. mike Says:

    I agree. to a point.

    but china is making it worse for itself.

    for example, the underage gymnast. no need. (and of course she is under age. the fact are out there – see the list of gymnasts at china’s national championships cited by huffington post. her age is made clear)

    the tibet protests and the ITN reporter. again, no need. the protest was so pathetic that no news agency would have reported it. the media were waiting for the reaction, not the action. the psb should have say and waited for the protesters to get hungry and go home. instead, they got all heavy handed.

    these type of events feed into the western media’s hunger for negative stories. yes, they would probably find them without China’s help, but China helps anyway.

    but I agree that the western media is being too negative and I feel sorry for all the chinese people who genuinely just want to welcome the games and the spirit of the games (however naive that may be) to China and have a bloody good time.

  4. wangbo Says:

    Mike, I was unaware that anybody had yet proved the gymnasts to be underage. The question now is whether the IOC or the world gymnastics governing body (whatever they’re called) will do anything about it.

    And you’re right that China could be handling things better, but change takes time, especially when it needs to filter from the top down to the level of the average cop on the street. People who are used to getting rough and physical don’t turn all friendly and cuddly overnight. But is it wrong of me to suspect that even if China handled all these issues perfectly the journalists would still find a way to put a negative spin on it?

  5. Beijing Mole Says:

    The opening ceremony controversy is the Western media’s fault? Really? It was first revealed during a Beijing radio interview in Mandarin Chinese with the chief musical director Chen Qigang. When western media later learns that the girl in the red dress was a lip sync substitute are they supposed to say how wonderful it was that Yang Peiyi’s voice was combined with Lin Miaoke’s pigtails?

    So now the western media is supposed to dismiss the opening ceremony’s fake singer and concentrate on the Olympic games instead.
    OK, fine. Aha! Looks like gold medal Chinese gymnast He Kexin is 14 instead of 16 according to Chinese media sources.
    The Chinese media (including Chinese sources outside of Xinhua) tells their own people in Chinese and foreigners in English that He Kexin was 13 years old in 2007.
    The government then issues He Kexin a new passport in 2008 and now claims that all of the different previous reports on her age (in Chinese and English) were mistakes? Yeah, the foreign journalists should keep their mouths shut about that one. How dare those western media monsters try to embarass the host country and not wait for He Kexin to go on Chinese television several years later and admit she was only 14 in 2008. (Google “Yang Yun” and Sydney.)

    You’re right about the foreign protesters though. I don’t understand why the Beijing cops don’t rough them up more like they do with provincial petitioners. However I do find it amusing that after China goes through the all of the trouble making new visa restrictions and creating three official Olympic protest zones, these idiots still find a way to hang a big banner off of CCTV’s headquarters. Newsworthy? The act itself might be for its quirkiness alone, but their stupid cause certainly does not deserve any elaboration.

    There’s still time for positive headlines! Liu Xiang’s track events are coming up and aren’t we all looking forward to the exciting closing ceremony?

  6. wangbo Says:

    Beijing Mole, the Chinese media saw a mole hill and called it a mole hill. The Western media saw a mole hill and started ranting about how it rivalled Everest in height and K2 in fearsomeness. That’s the point I was making.

    Cheating is a story and should be reported, but Bela Karolyi mouthing off about the Chinese gymnasts and saying stupid shit like “We all know what 16 year olds are supposed to look like” (or whatever it was he said) does not constitute proof of cheating. Firstly, the onset of puberty depends on a wide variety of factors and varies between people, countries, continents and ethnic groups, and these Chinese gymnasts, regardless of their real ages, would hardly be the first to have their puberty delayed by their rigorous training. If there is real evidence that they are underage (and apparently there is- and no, newspaper reports don’t quite cut it) then it should be submitted to the FIG or IOC or whichever group administers the Olympic gymnastics competition for them to investigate. If they don’t investigate, then sure, go to the media and present your evidence and embarrass the relevant authority into action. Suspicions based on the gymnasts’ appearance, size and shape and old news reports don’t quite cut it- although the news reports do suggest there is a real story to report. Hard evidence, like hukou or birth certificates or perhaps registrations for past events would be better (although I doubt any pesky Western journalist is going to be getting access to that kind of information).

    And no, I’m not demanding positive coverage. Fair coverage would satisfy me.

  7. Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Hong Kong Says:

    I have a friend in Hong Kong who says that foreigner who live on the Mainland very quickly change their views of media, since their background does not make them immune to watching censored Mainland media as their main source.

    Wangbo — When China decided to hold these giant, expensive Games, when it invited tons of TV networks and journalists, it was inviting the world’s attention. It must have known that international media would act it way it does anywhere — with both positive and negative coverage, with both serious and silly articles.

    Criticism is not just meant at China; it just seems that way to those consuming media told mostly from a Chinese point of view.

    In the 80s and 90s, the U.S. was slammed for its treatment of underaged female gymnasts, and there have been critical books written about starved, abused little girls and cruel American coaches. After that, the U.S. improved. It’s the media’s job to poke and prod to find potential abuses.

    Before the Games, there were Chinese provincial gymnastics competitions that had these girls aged about 14. The pesky Western journalists at both The NYT and The Associated Press did go looking for registration of past events. Which side is right, I don’t know. But the media should expose all sources, and let viewers decide themselves.

    I’m ethnic Chinese based in Hong Kong, but a member of that great big Boogyman called “the Western media.” None of my colleagues believe that a lip-synching little girl is as important as Georgia / Russia, the U.S. elections or much else. If you watch large amounts of CNN, BBC, NYT or look at the amount of space devoted to each of these issues at the International Herald Tribune, where I work, you’ll see that lip-synching girl was just a flash in the pan, a quirky weird story that played for a few news cycles. That happens. Then a really stupid story about pedicures done with fish was our “most-emailed story”. Then it was back to Obama/McCain. Then Russia. Go figure.

    Since much foreign media is blocked in China (I won’t even go into the ridiculous hurdles we have to jump to have a fraction of our newspapers sent up, sometimes with pages ripped out) people there have a very skewed view of how “anti-China” the “Western media” are.

    This is how my Chinese friends read our paper. Their eyes glaze over at our Georgia/Russia coverage, our columns on U.S. politics, our discussions of European economics problems, our criticism of the Iraq war, then they zoom in one our one critical China article and they say “Look! Western media picking on us!”

    No media is perfectly accurate or perfectly balanced. But only people in Mainland China (not even Hong Kong) believe that the “Western media” is out to get them. This self-pitying sentiment is something that’s been carefully blended into Mainland coverage.

  8. wangbo Says:

    Joyce,

    “their background does not make them immune to watching censored Mainland media as their main source. ”

    I think my degree in French language and literature and all that time spent studying German and Russian language, literature and film trained me quite well in textual analysis. It’s not hard to shift those skills over to newspapers and TV. Regardless, I get my news from a variety of sources within and without China. In other words, that statement of yours is utterly irrelevant.

    I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to restate this: It’s not the fact that there is critical coverage of China, it’s the way it’s being done. All that kerfuffle over the opening ceremony, for example: We have been treated to the spectacle of Western journalists writing as if these issues are in some way equivalent to the Russia-Georgia conflict. And no, I’m not talking about the amount of column inches or airtime devoted, but about the text itself. In fact, a key part of what has been reported seems to have been completely fabricated (chubby cheeks and crooked teeth, indeed).

    And as I have written in answers to previous comments, but have obviously not made clear enough: If there is evidence that the Chinese gymnasts are underage, good, run with the story, especially if the relevant authority has not acted on it. Media, as much as I may (or may not) loathe it, can do good in this area. I have been hearing today that registrations in previous sporting events has shown them to be underage. This I do consider real evidence (unlike aspersions cast by a rival coach), although I am not yet convinced. We can only see how the story develops.

    “Since much foreign media is blocked in China (I won’t even go into the ridiculous hurdles we have to jump to have a fraction of our newspapers sent up, sometimes with pages ripped out) people there have a very skewed view of how “anti-China” the “Western media” are.”

    Actually, it’s surprising how few foreign media are actually blocked. Print is a different story, of course, but the internet provides pretty easy access to pretty much anything going on in the world. If one site is blocked, you can find the same story somewhere else. After all, so much of the news is simply Reuters/AP/AFP/whatever agency reports reprinted. And yes, people in the Mainland do have a rather skewed view of the Western media, but that has less to do with censorship and far more to do with their own interests. They were (quite rightly) upset with the way events this year were reported.

    “then they zoom in one our one critical China article and they say “Look! Western media picking on us!””

    People see what they want to see. This is no different from all those columnists who, having watched the opening ceremony, wrote absolute bollocks about masses of brainwashed Chinese drones waiting to take over the world, or whatever bizarre fantasy was floating through their heads. They wanted to see evil Chicom totalitarianism, and so that’s what they saw. You’d think from their reactions they honestly believe that the Atlanta, Barcelona, Sydney and Athens opening ceremonies weren’t choreographed but were total free-for-alls.

    “No media is perfectly accurate or perfectly balanced.”

    Of course. But some of us believe journalists should be held to the standards of accuracy and responsibility they claim.

    So let’s just get this straight:

    1: At no point was I complaining about the existence of ‘negative’ or ‘critical’ reporting of China. As I have tried to make clear, I was complaining about mole hills being made out to be mountains. The lip-syncing may well have been a flash in the pan in terms of its time on the “most emailed” list, but the articles themselves treated it as if it were somehow equivalent in importance to the Russia/Georgia conflict when it was a total non-issue. This is a call for responsibility, balance and perspective in reports.

    2: If you have a story (and the gymnast one is looking more and more like a story worth reporting), report it. That’s your job. But as I said: “responsibility, balance and perspective”. Those three things have been distinctly lacking in Western reports of issues peripheral to the games.

  9. Hang Says:

    I agree with what you’ve said in the post. Actually, I’ve been used to those biased reports by western media. I would be shocked if they report without the deeply ingrained bias.

  10. Zhongguoren Says:

    @ wangbo
    Welcome to the 50 Cents party.
    50 cents have been credited to your account. Please confirm payment.

  11. wangbo Says:

    Hang, there is some quality reporting on China. Not much, but some.

    Zhongguoren, whatever.I suppose the time, energy and thought required to come up with a real arguement was a bit too much to ask.

  12. Yin Bin Says:

    Those scum-sucking bottom-feeding Western journalists (and those who buy their drivel) deserve nothing but my utter contempt. China has been preparing for this game for so long and those farts are DETERMINED to ruin it. Those heartless and cruel low lives. They think they are so superior, being so judgmental on China whose only fault is to refuse to bend down to vicious Western imperialism.

    Nothing happens without consequences. One day, we will show them a thing or two.

  13. Yin Bin Says:

    Joyce, what would you have said if the blog writer produced a piece expressing an unfavorable view of China/Beijing Olympics?

    Would you still have uttered that totally non-nonsensical “…foreigner who live on the Mainland very quickly change their views of media, since their background does not make them immune to watching censored Mainland media as their main source.”

    If a foreigner’s perception of China has changed after spending some time in the country, it is more likely because personal observation at close quarters makes it possible for one to make a more balanced and fair statement.

    But you, Joyce, you are insinuating that the blog-writer has somehow been brainwashed by the Chinese media. That is your favorite argument, isn’t it? When Mainland Chinese express outrage at Western media’s outright fabrication of facts in covering the Tibetan riot, your lot accused us of being brainwashed by the Chinese media and Chinese government. Now you are throwing the same cheap rhetoric at international guests who happen to have a better understanding of China. That is so cheap and contemptible, you know that?

    Chris (aka Wangbo??) hit it in the nail in this piece. Western media is obsessed with magnifying (and worse, fabricating) negative aspects of China. Reasons are many, including imperialism and racialism. But I shall not elaborate here.

    Evidence of Western bias is plenty. For instance, Timothy Wu recently in his piece asked this question: “So are the media just being a little mean to China”? He proceeds: “It does at times feel akin to if coverage of the Atlanta Olympics were focused on the failings of the U.S. health care system and the plight of the American Indian. One foreign correspondent for a major American newspaper agreed, telling me, “In Athens the traffic jams were presented as the outgrowth of a hip Mediterranean lifestyle. Here they become yet another product of state repression”

    Singapore’s Straits Times in its Editorial dated March 26, 2008 titled “Tibet and the Olympics” offers this observation on Western media “Their (Western media) pathological biases evident when reporting anti-government events in China have been a persistent weakness”.

    And should we forget the criminal manipulation of evidence when Western media reported on Tibetan riot? The infamous grafting of pictures where, almost across ALL major Western newspapers and Television broadcasts, images from India and Nepal were used as ‘evidence’ to show that Tibetan monks were beaten up?

    That was no bias. It was, as I put it, CRIMINAL MANIPULATION.

    You lot are the worst embodiment of human bigotry an viciousness, I am sorry to say. Worse than slimy worms. Even slimy worms know when to be slimy and when not to. You guys don’t.

  14. wangbo Says:

    Yin Bin, your argument is very well put. But your last paragraph is coming a little too close to the borderline. I don’t want this to descend into a slanging match, and I don’t like to see such a solid argument marred by what looks like a personal attack. Please let’s keep this calm and rational.

    Otherwise, well put, although I hesitate to use the words “ALL” and “CRIMINAL MANIPULATION”. Let’s remember that Economist writer who happened to be in Lhasa at the time and presented things as he saw them happen, first of all. Also, I do think a lot of what happened in March was due to rushed deadlines and sloppy fact checking. I’m certainly not denying the manipulation and skulduggery that did happen, but I suspect the majority were simply running with what the Big Boys reported and had neither the skills, background knowledge, nor time and energy to figure out what was really happening. Certainly don’t mean to excuse those who were guilty of deliberate manipulation, though.

  15. Yin Bin Says:

    Thank you Wangbo for the response. Indeed some of my words were uttered in a state of agitation and could have been less strong. Feel free to edit them out if you deem it necessary. And as you aptly pointed out, there was some slight generalization on my part (though I did qualify the statement with ‘almost’). James Miles’ report did defeat a lot of untruths surrounding the Tibetan issue at that time. But I have a feeling that his views were sidelined amid all the ‘exciting’ TV footage showing Tibetan monks being dragged by “Chinese police” (I refer to German TV in this case, mostly).

    On a more balanced note therefore, there are responsible Western journalists for sure. But they seem much rarer in number than their less respectable colleagues, as far as reporting on China is concerned.

    There is a huge ideological bridge that needs to be crossed before fair and balanced report from the West can emerge.

    But just for the record, the state-controlled Chinese media does not command an iota of my respect either.

  16. MY Says:

    Joyce,

    Shut up!

  17. wangbo Says:

    Yin Bin, a little healthy agitation every now and then is good for the soul. That’s exactly the state I was in when I wrote the original post. And yes, I agree with your assessment of the state of the media.

    MY, now that kind of behaviour is both unnecessary and unhelpful. Joyce is entitled to have and express her own opinion, as are you. I am sure that you could, if you wanted to, demonstrate clearly, calmly and rationally just how you think Joyce is wrong. If you want to come back and offer a rational comment that contributes something positive to the discussion, you are most welcome, otherwise, your comment is the last of such nonsense I want to see here.

  18. Zhongguoren Says:

    @wangbo

    With comments No. 14 (in which you reined in our loyal Comrade Yin Bin) and No. 17, in which you rapped our loyal Comrade MY on the knuckles for his succinct and well-articulated response to Joyce (that agent of western imperialism!), you are in serious violation of the rules of the 50 Cents Party.

    If that same nuance that you expect of Yin Bin had been reflected in your original post, we would not have admitted you into the 50 Cents Party in the first place.

    If you don’t make quick amends in an appropriate manner, we’ll initiate action to secure a refund of the 50 Cents credited to your account – and expel you for anti-party activities.

  19. mike Says:

    wangbo
    I started with some sympathy to your argument but now I am feeling your head is stuck in the sand. The evidence for the underage gymnast is out there. take a look at the domestic competition entrant list that both Joyce and I refer to (Huffington Post, I think, has a copy of the original). Are you purposely ignoring the evidence just so your initial argument can hold water?

    Also, the mole hill analogy. From what I can see, Joyce is right. The western media is reporting mole hills as mole hills. It is the “china bloggers” self righteous defence mechanism that is turning this into Mt Everest. All the stories you refer to were legitimate stories and were reported as such. None were front page stories in the west; in fact most were at best commentaries or at worst online blog entries.

    If you steo back for one minute from this blog universe, you would find that most of the west (and its media) don’t care about these stories half as much as you and the defenders of the faith are implying.

    thanks

  20. JP Says:

    Nice entry.I agree with you and most part of Yin Bin’s statement.
    Although, I found it interesting that you’re much welcomed to issue a pro-China statement as a forengner(or should it be more proper to address you as “international guest”…?).While, most of the time, a Chinese can be scolded or even cursed by some poeple(usually Fen Qing) if he/she dares to say something positive about western world. Is that also double standard?

    Those negative reports are almost inevitable if you live in a normal society. But, of course, those fabrication back in March was just too much. I guess we Chinese people just need to learn more about how to deal with western medias. Negative reports and criticism, so what? They will be imposed on you only when you’re important enough. Otherwise, you are just some nobody in the east Asia. We are good not because they say we are good. Equally, they accusing we are bad doesn’t really mean we are bad. Learn from the criticism and improve ourselves, ignore the other nonsense.

    Ranting “every now and then is good for the soul” as Wangbo said, however, getting too emotional on some bs really doesnt worth it.

  21. wangbo Says:

    Mike, no heads stuck in anything and no self-righteous defence mechanisms here. As for the gymnasts, as I have said in several comments already, if the evidence is there then fine, run with the story. The other stories I referred to were not even half as legitimate as they were made out to be. And it’s not about the front page (or column inches or air time) it’s about the text. The way the stories were written they were blown up into something they were not. And I’m well aware that most people in this world just don’t care, we all have more important things to be doing, but the fact that these grossly over-exaggerated and partly fabricated stories are out there in media people generally consider ‘reliable’ is a problem. All I’m asking for is responsible journalism and we have not seen that in the “West”‘s coverage of China.

    JP, I like your attitude.

  22. Zhongguoren Says:

    @mike

    Why can’t these western media rags learn a lesson in “responsible journalism” (of the sort that wangbo demands from them) from China Daily and Xinhua? After all, did they not pull out the archived online articles that cited He Kexin as underaged – and come up with a newer, cleaner version – voila! – which gives her age as 16.

    It helps to change your perspective from time to time. The Western media’s fault is that it is too fixated on absolutes. You’re looking at a 5,000-year civilization, dear friend. What’s two years in the age of a gymnast?

    Why don’t you get a life and take a walk in our parks – where we’ve ensured through our mechanisms for “peaceful resolution of un-harmonious activities” that not a single protestor is around…

  23. MY Says:

    Wangbo,

    What you said towards my comments here is nothing different than “Shut up”. Everybody has the right to flag his/her opinion and “shut up” is nothing but a succinct explanation of my opinion towards Joyce’s comments. Sorry, you have no right to shut me up here!

  24. MY Says:

    A few more sentences! to those who want China to improve, you guys should learn a bit of motivation theory. Most commonly used motivation mechanisms are carrot and stick. Seem many of our western friends and some of the so called ethic Chinese (e.g, Joyce) only know waving stick, and forget using carrot. Not a problem to criticize the bad things about China, but ignoring the efforts and improvements made by China is single facet, especially those with western superamcy.

  25. wangbo Says:

    MY, I’m certainly not trying to shut anybody up, I just prefer the discussion to keep a positive, constructive tone. Your last comment there is much more along the lines of what I want to see, and I certainly do agree that many of China’s “Western” critics only know to wave sticks and criticise while ignoring all the good things about China, and that many, including many so-called leftists and liberals, still do harbour unwarranted notions of their own superiority.

  26. Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Hong Kong Says:

    Whoa. Wow. Gosh. Sorry everyone for the offense. And the delay. I had lost this blog’s URL and just found it again. (That’s what I get for sprinkling comments all over cyberspace).

    I did not mean to imply at Westerners living in China are brainwashed idiots. What I meant was that none of us — Western, Chinese — can escape being affected by the media we consume. An incredibly smart friend (Indian, so neither Western nor China) wrote about living in Beijing during the SARS crisis. She simply knew less than what we did in Hong Kong, where the information was not blocked. So she reacted accordingly. She didn’t worry like we did. She poo-pooed Western reports saying how bad the outbreak was, since everyone else around her was doing the same.

    And then she radically changed her mind when word finally got out in the Mainland media.

    That is not testament to her lack of intelligence (she’s an Oxford grad!), just an explanation that she reacted to what message she was given and the people she was around.

    Chris, I don’t know you, nor do I wish to attack you personally. I just mean that we are all products of our environment, and that the influences on us continue to change the way we feel and think through our lives. That’s the power of the media, and that’s why it’s so important it is both not censored, but also responsible and well produced.

  27. Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Hong Kong Says:

    @ Wangbo, Excuse my long, 2nd response. I’m surprised I’ve inspired quite so many comments! I never mind a good online battle of the wills. I’m always happy to hear different views.

    @ Yin Bin. I’m not sure if I’m offended, or just amused, by being called the “worst embodiment of human bigotry”. Am I also a “sinner for a thousand generations” like Chris Patten? Just kidding.

    I notice the harshest insults come from people writing anonymously. I don’t write anonymously. If you want to know if I am really “cruel” – also worm-like – go to my site and see my views, my background, my family, my life and my work. The Chinese accuse the West of flinging insults without doing their homework, but it can’t be a double standard.

    @MY – Re: carrot-stick. It’s true that there’s alot of throwing rocks from the sidelines, and not alot of solutions. That’s one criticism I have of much international media. How many negative TV reports have there been on the Iraq war, or starving Africans? How many have constructive views on ending it?

    Re: positive coverage — I cannot tell you how many articles I’ve read or edited about China’s “booming economy,” the “amazing skyline”, the fact that Chinese art is selling out all over the world, the great travel destinations, fantastic food, helpful Olympics volunteers — these are almost cliches now. So there’s good and bad out there.

    @ Mike – you’re right about looking broadly at media. Most of the coverage of the Opening Ceremony said it was awesome. When later information came out, it was also critical.

    Now there’s the whole issue of protest zones with no protesters, and two elderly Chinese ladies allegedly detained — that was not a smart PR move on the Chinese side. Sometimes, I wish China would not create these situations in the first place, because you just know the coverage is going to be not good.

    International media is a big messy thing with little control and lots of different voices, from awful tabloids to academic journals. I work for it, but I’m not saying it’s perfect.

    @JP – You do have a good attitude. If China is going to enter international dialogue, criticism is inevitable. All countries are criticized. People should learn from that which is helpful, and throw out the rest without getting angry about it.

    Phew. That’s long. It’s bad enough I’m working a night shift these days. I’m going to sleep!

  28. wangbo Says:

    Joyce, long responses are fine, especially when they’re as good as those two.

    Re SARS and your Indian friend and the media in general: I was here in Beijing at the time and I don’t think I was particularly ill-informed and I didn’t panic like so many around me. I was getting my news, as always, from a variety of sources within and without China- and a friend who worked at China Daily at the time and so had access to the kind of news deemed unsuitable for publication helped in that respect- and weighing up all the information I had at my disposal. That, I think is the best any of us can do.

    Yes, we are products of our environment, but this magical new-fangled thing called the internet gives us unprecedented control of our news environment. The ability to go out searching for alternative sources is very important and should be used to the fullest extent, especially in this kind of media environment- but also in an environment like New Zealand’s, where the size of the country (or lack thereof) naturally limits your options.

    As for positive reporting, yes, I’ve seen plenty of that “booming economy” stuff. That seems to be one of the templates for China reporting. I think that that’s half the trouble- the fact that there do seem to be templates and so many of us can write your generic “China article” in our sleep be slipping those cliches into the templates. There is, as you well know, much more to China than “booming economy”, “bad government”, “buggered environment” and the occasional “hey, cool new artist!”, and even within those templates there is so much more to be explored. I guess what I’m saying (and it is early in the morning and I need my breakfast) is that in addition to responsible journalism (and, the initial reviews aside, so much of the coverage of the opening ceremony was not responsible) I would like to see greater depth and breadth of coverage. Asking a lot, I know.

  29. mike Says:

    wangbo
    In that last post you sound suspiciously like Fox News “Hey can’t we report some of the good news about Iraq”
    bad news sells. I thought that was obvious. what other news – except for the cliches you reference – do you want to see reported?

    and by the way, foreign media in the build-up to the Games reported many positive stories about China and the Chinese. CNN and BBC World did for sure. As did the Guardian, among other newspapers. Sometimes I think you embedded bloggers pick and choose what you report just as much as the anti-CNN bunch or indeed the ‘Western’ media you criticise.

    Thanks though for the debate.

  30. wangbo Says:

    mike, I will admit that at first glance I found your Fox News comparison offensive, but I see your point. I just want to make clear that I’m not demanding positive news, I’m just asking for more responsible reporting. To take the gymnasts example, I am right now reading this article: http://tinyurl.com/5zq5gg which presents more evidence that He Kexin is underage. I haven’t finished reading it, and it relies on a hacker’s trawling through google, google.cn and baidu caches, so I won’t make any final judgement, but it does present evidence, and that’s cool. It’s not negative coverage per se that annoys me, it’s the deliberate twisting of things to fit the preconceived idea of China as evil, yellow menace, communist monster.

    And yes, bad news does sell, and that is a huge problem with the current media set-up, but as I said in my reply to Joyce’s last two comments, I want to see greater breadth and depth in the “Western” media’s coverage of China, not just endless recycling of cliches within the safe confines of the standard templates.

    I hope I’ve made my point clear.

    And yes, good debate, thanks for taking part, all of you, you’ve forced me to rethink things and look from different angles, and that is always a good thing, regardless of whether we agree or disagree.

  31. geniusnz Says:

    Part of how the media works is htat it can investigate a story like that of underage gymnasts based only on the fact that the NYT found the chinese sports organization saying that they gymnasts were underage and that they look underage and that experts suggest they probably are underage.

    If absolute proof was required in order to even ask the question in public the media would be crippled in its ability to do its job of keeping politicians etc in check or even to inform us on a huge range of issues.

    What I think is missing here is a record for who is right and who is wrong in this sort of issue (something David Brin notably calls for). A record of these sort of thing would be a good way to see what sources and people can be trusted and who leaps to opinions (for or against) without evidence.

  32. Zhongguoren Says:

    To Whomsoever It May Concern

    By the power vested in me as Secretary-General of the 50 Cents Party, I hereby expel Wangbo from the 50 Cents Party. Wangbo showed great promise with his original post and we saw a great future for him in the 50 Cents Party. But with each of his subsequent comments, he has been diluting his original message, and despite repeated warnings, has made no amends for these lapses. With his latest comment – that he’s been forced to “rethink things and look from different angles” – he has violated one of the cardinal principles of the 50 Cents Party. There’s no place in our party for anyone who thinks – much less “rethinks” – (as evidenced by my earlier comments :-) ), which is why Wangbo now stands expelled… If he shows proof that he’s devouring every syllable of China Daily everyday (and writing glowing letters to the editor), we might consider letting him back in, but only on probation…

    Message to loyal comrades Yin Bin and MY: keep the flag flying – here and elsewhere.

  33. wangbo Says:

    geniusnz, all good points, except that when it comes to female gymnasts appearance means nothing. Sure they look underage, but so do many of the others. I saw a Russian gymnast in a line up with He Kexin and Yang… whatsername the other day just before some competition (I’m not a fan of gymnastics, the wife had the remote), and the Russian looked even younger than Miss He. Gymnastics is known to wreak merry havoc with the normal developmental processes of an adolescent body, and the Chinese gymnasts are far from the first or the only ones to look so far underage. In this particular case, apparently petulant rantings from an opposing coach do not qualify as evidence. Had they led with what seemed to be documentary evidence (the case is far from closed and there are too many possibilities) and ignored the apparently sore loser rantings of said opposing coach, I would’ve been more sympathetic from the outset.

  34. Yin Bin Says:

    Journalism can be respected only when practiced with responsibility and conscientiousness, be it Western or Eastern. Sadly so many, if not all reports from the West on China serve not to inform and enlighten its readership but rather to perpetuate deeply entrenched biases, at the expense of objectivity and balance.

    Invoking reportage on Tibet again, I noted from Mr. Soong’s EastSouthWestNorth web-blog site that The Age, an Australian newspaper published an article on July 29, 2008 titled “China Launches Tibet Crackdown”. But I could not bring myself to read the article, not because its contents are critical of the Chinese government, but rather that this report, once again is accompanied by a picture showing Nepalese police manhandling monks. The URL to a scanned copy of that newspaper is here: http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20080822_01.jpg.

    If the initial faking of evidence in March could be sympathetically understood as a result of news blockage imposed by China, what could one make of this one, published four months later where the majority of truth has surfaced? Not to mention the fact that similar image manipulation back in March has been exposed widely?

    Does this report intend to inform or to mislead and provoke sensationalism? It is this kinds of irresponsible behaviour that puts my back up.

    Chris is right in pointing out that there exists a template in Western media with regard to reporting on China. It seems that any story on China must also be accompanied by allusion to China’s human rights issues, freedom of speech and whatnot to remind its audience that China is an “evil” empire. What is the purpose of doing so other than to perpetuate pre-existing prejudice?

    Singapore’s Straits Times had the following summary of Western media coverage of Olympics and pointed out that many of the reports carry a ‘cynical’ and ‘hostile’ connotations:

    “…Reviews in the Western press credited China for its phenomenal display, but many carried cynical undertones and some were outright hostile.

    They were peppered with allusions to China’s communist roots, human rights record and the protests leading up to the event.

    Canada’s Globe and Mail, for example, headlined the story on its website ‘The iron hand behind the magic show’. It framed China’s magnificent performance against the backdrop of forced evictions, state coercion and a clampdown on civil liberties.

    The Independent newspaper of Britain was effusive with praise for Friday’s show, but also spoke of the ‘other realities’ of the Olympics that happened ‘behind the scenes’.

    It mentioned China’s much-criticised non-interference policy in Sudan’s conflict, as well as Chinese officials’ questioning of the United States team’s decision to let Lopez Lomong, a naturalised American athlete from Darfur, carry the American flag at the parade.

    The praise-criticism dichotomy was also evident in reports by the BBC and CNN. Both highlighted China’s crackdown on dissidents, poor civil liberties record and pollution problem even as they applauded the ‘stunning’ Beijing Games opener.

    The New York Times started on a note of cynicism with the headline ‘Even the cynical succumb to a moment of real national pride’ with the underlying message that such events of grandeur often make people forget ‘the sins of their government’.”

  35. MY Says:

    Dear Friends,

    Please have a quick look at the following website and see how the New Zealand largest New spapers journalist degrades China from every single aspects. The articles are full of his ignorance about the country and the culture. I don’t understand why such a ignorant person can keep his job?

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/blog/index.cfm?c_id=1502723

  36. wangbo Says:

    MY, I’ll answer you first: The NZ Herald may be New Zealand’s largest newspaper by a technicality (i.e. brute force of circulation stats) but I assure you that it is not a “New Zealand” newspaper. It is purely and simply the Auckland rag. I used to link to it a lot because it was my habitual source of NZ news- the layout is better than their competition at http://www.stuff.co.nz, but I gave up reading it quite some time ago because it’s slide into cheap and stupid tabloidism had gone too far and I had lost all hope it would actually try to resemble the “paper of record” it claims to be. I am not surprised at all to see such shit printed on one of its pages. Sadly, the New Zealand media as a whole is pretty pathetic. I only read it to keep up with news from home.

    Yin Bin, thank you for hitting on exactly what I wanted to rant about, but couldn’t because of some rant-induced mental block. It’s not “prominence” or “column-inches” or “air-time” that makes so much Western reporting of China so awful, but the text. I suppose you could plead “ignorance”, “laziness” or “stupidity” as an excuse for the choice of that photo in The Age, but it doesn’t change the fact that they were looking for something to show “evil Chicoms” and figured any photo of a Tibetan monk being beaten by Asian cops would do- doesn’t matter that any fool could see those cops weren’t Chinese- the skin colour is a bit of a giveaway, even if you don’t know what Chinese police uniforms are supposed to look like. And then of course the text itself, which as you pointed out, so often contains allusions to the evil, nasty government. Geez, the way some wrote about the opening ceremony, I found myself wondering if they thought the Atlanta, Barcelona, Sydney and Athens opening ceremonies somehow weren’t choreographed. Actually, my “favourite” Western media cliche is “the NPC, China’s rubber-stamp parliament”.

  37. MY Says:

    Wangbo,

    By the way, I used to live in Auckland for a few years as a permanent residence, but returned to China afterwards. I have deep feelings towards both China (the place where I was born and grew up) and NZ, that’s why I keep reading NZ herald and keep me updated about NZ. However, when I run into these articles I feel really sad.

  38. wangbo Says:

    MY, understood. I’m from Wellington, by the way, which may explain half my attitude towards the NZ Herald.