Censoring television in China

Ann Condi has written a bitingly funny (in a scary type of way) piece about her experience in 2001 as a guest on a CCTV talk program hosted by the ubiquitous Shen Bing. From her descriptions of the fortress-like protection of the CCTV studio, complete with armed guards, to the coyness of the emcee (Shen Bing) to the downright scary way the officials made it clear what the guests could and could not mention — well, it is a brilliant bird’s-eye-view into how China subtly but effectively controls its television news and commentary. Read it – you won’t be disappointed.

The Discussion: 22 Comments

Richard, thought this would interest you: Chinese apology to Tibet.

Dear Tibet,

The People’s Republic of China has, as you will have noticed, recently been insisting that Japan should repent for historical wrongs… we have decided to set a good example by writing to you now to repent of our wrongdoing in your country.

It is a matter of much regret to us that we invaded your country in 1950. In particular, we offer a full apology for the way in which we put down the popular uprising of 1959, during which we recorded, in one of our own army documents, 87,000 deaths through military action… etc.

April 24, 2005 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

Richard … haven’t you linked to this story about CCTV before? Or, maybe I got it from another website … maybe from the Gweilo … but I thought it was from you?

April 25, 2005 @ 1:18 am | Comment

Tibet had been an independent kingdom from 7th Century to 14th century. After that they were governed by Mongols. Then they became a part of Yuan dynasty, Tsing dynasty and modern China. Please read the history! Everyone is regretful for the death of life and I especially regret for those died in that civil war. However, unlike the numbers of American indians, nowadays, the population of Tibetans is at least growing and bigger than any number in the history. They have their own people holding the highest local government positions.
You are angry probably, If so, I am sorry for hurting your feelings… But if you do think that my comparison between Indians and Tiberans is a nonsense, please don’t make the comparision in your post. That tends to be a nonsense too.

April 25, 2005 @ 1:25 am | Comment

If people would study the Chinese in their work environments or any place where non-violent conflicts might arise and see how disagreements are handle, I think they would see what Condi witnessed, an age old technique perfected by the Chinese to make points and gain their own position.

Ms. Condi sucker herself into not speaking out and she knew it.

Her experience is not an example to follow in some situation is China now. Her experience was 4 years ago anyway.

It seems to me that good questions, formulated to not be antagonistic, would be a good approach to this situation for foreigners. What would have been wrong with Condi asking if she could ask questions about censorship at the meeting or about freedom of speech in a straight forward manner. For that matter, not complaining, but asking what the governments rules are on censorship or free speech in an inquisitive way to open up the subject. Maybe then some more or less bold people would ask other questions on the topic. It could be done in a way that seemed just a normal, reasonable queston without presuming there was something wrong with the Chinese system. After all she was an invited guest asked to participate. It does take some nerve, I grant, but if you don’t want to be used or regarded as a “useful fool,” speak up.

April 25, 2005 @ 1:49 am | Comment

that is “suckered herself”

April 25, 2005 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Yeah, I know I’ve read this story too…thought it was through here…but maybe someplace else?

April 25, 2005 @ 1:55 am | Comment

I think it was posted sometime last year on the Berkeley China Digital News site. It’s a good piece, and ideally it would prompt discussion over what kinds of roles foreigners should allow themselves to play in the Chinese media. Obviously, foreigners want to let Chinese know about their opinions, but the Party is only interested in opinions that don’t challenge the orthodoxy.

If you’re a foreigner with a chance to go on a Chinese news broadcast do you accept with the hope that something useful can slip through the filter and enlighten the Chinese audience, or do you decline for fear your words will be twisted to make the Party look good and China’s rivals look bad?

April 25, 2005 @ 4:03 am | Comment

I read this article a couple of months ago and what she said about just how compromised she felt in that situation really struck a chord. It set me thinking about the role of foreigners not just in the media but in terms of our presence here, especially those of us ‘invited’ here to (ahem) ‘teach English’.

The link is http://www.livejournal.com/users/rwillmsen/727.html

April 25, 2005 @ 7:46 am | Comment

You know, I may have written about this a long time ago but I can’t find it. Sometimes I post so much I can’t keep track — but I definitely remember now writing about Shen Bing. If so, apologies for sending you to the same story twice.

April 25, 2005 @ 7:56 am | Comment

Ann Condi’s essay has previously been published on several websites since it was first written in 2002. But the Internet debates of the last few weeks (hello Cloud) somehow make it seem particularly relevant right now.

April 25, 2005 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

For those of you with access to CCTV-9 and had seen interviews on Dialogue conducted by Yang Rui, don’t you agree that the show should be renamed Monologue?

April 25, 2005 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

Lin … where did you learn your history of Tibet? From a textbook published in China? If so, I suggest that you read a couple published elsewhere, before you make such all embracing (and factually flawed) statements about the history of that country / territory / province (whatever you want to call it). The problem with Chinese published material on Tibet (and Taiwan) is that it starts out with the conclusion first, and then finds “facts” to support this conclusion. The claims for Chinese “rule” in the early periods that you refer to are extremely thin indeed, and only “convince” those who already want to believe in the conclusion.

April 26, 2005 @ 1:10 am | Comment

Dear Filthy,
I wouldn’t engage you on this topic, simply because the history can be interpreted in many ways, and there is no subjective standard. As the result, our fight won’t end and people won’t agree with each other in the end of world on this issue. You have the rights not to believe that we believe. We have rights to doubt your motives too. The people, such as American Indians, butchered in the process of the western civilization wouldn’t believe in American textbook either. So what?
In the end, the cold harsh reality is that everybody has to respect the status quo.

April 26, 2005 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

Sorry, I mean “no objective standard”.

April 26, 2005 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

Lin: The people, such as American Indians, butchered in the process of the western civilization wouldn’t believe in American textbook either.
Lin, American textbooks are very direct in informing students of our massacre of the American Indians. Most are also upfront about our failure in Vietnam and Cuba (Bay of Pigs). Yes, they are generally pro-America, but they are quite critical as well.

April 26, 2005 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

If I was too offensive, I say sorry to all Americans here, but my purpose is to say that every people has different opinions on the history. I did Not want to say Americans cheated on textbook. Just say that your textbook will be very different from a Indian textbook if they controls the government right now.

April 26, 2005 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

For those of you with access to CCTV-9 and had seen interviews on Dialogue conducted by Yang Rui, don’t you agree that the show should be renamed Monologue?
< Thanks for the belly laugh! Yang Rui is incredibly full of himself, but I will grant that he is an unparalleled master of the leading question.

April 28, 2005 @ 7:07 am | Comment

I think I am going to start a contest to see if any Chinese commenter can discuss Tibet without mentioning the American Indians.

Lin, you should do yourself a favor and do a little research on how many American Indians were butchered compared with how many died from exposure to new diseases like smallpox.

I don’t think you will like what you learn, but at least you’ll be better informed.

April 28, 2005 @ 7:37 am | Comment

Who gave them smallpox? and how they were treated afterward? Help me do the research, won’t you?

April 28, 2005 @ 9:47 am | Comment

Lin, ever hear of google?

April 28, 2005 @ 10:14 am | Comment

Some information indicates smallpox is the an effcient biological weapon toward Indians?

April 28, 2005 @ 10:46 am | Comment

Although now back in the US, I spent time in Tibet and lived in Shanghai for a time. I love the Chinese people, but through immigration incentives given by the Chinese government, the native Tibetan people are fast becoming a small minority in their own country, discriminated against, and in many cases forced from their traditional homes. Does sound like the American Indians, but that was in the nineteenth century. Shouldn’t all peoples have learned something since then?

November 15, 2005 @ 8:50 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.