A critical look at the Chinese Media, from the inside

If this topic interests you, stop what you’re doing and read this eye-opening article on how the Chinese media manipulate material and plays mind games with all involved — its viewers and the experts its puts on CCTV.

The piece is written by one “Ann Condi,” a pen name for an American journalist working for CCTV, and she (if it is a she) is sharp and brutal. She describes a panel discussion on how journalists present China to the modern world, which serves as a case study for the hypocrisy inherent to a government-controlled press. It’s funny, it’s incisive and it’s infuriating.

Giving a quote or two from this article cannot do it justice; you have to read it all. Here is an example of the writer’s pith.

The strategy of the Chinese government is to change the subject.

When complaints are lodged about the imprisoning of dissidents, the Chinese do not forthrightly proclaim “Indeed, we do put them in prison. We are justified in doing so. They are a threat to our security.” Instead they change the subject to “No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another country.” When America attacks China’s human rights record, the Chinese do not say “You are mistaken about our human rights problem, and here’s why.” Rather, they change the subject: “What about your human rights problem?”

All governments—all human beings—are guilty of this move, which in American parlance is called “spin”. But in China the technique has been reflexively applied for so long, it is now simply the default official approach to any awkward information whatsoever. A government that blocks any open discussion of its problems while tacitly admitting to them in this way cannot help developing pathological patterns of interaction, becoming both fiercely proud and profoundly embarrassed, as each act of blatant denial painfully highlights the stubborn reality. And sitting before us on the stage was the embodiment of this mentality.

There’s much more to this article, including a description of how getting into the CCTV building is like getting into the War Room of the Pentagon. This was something I experienced myself once when I went to a Chinese radio station; I’ll never forget it.

Just a side note: The panel was presided over by the beautiful emcee Shen Bing, who I used for a similar purpose when I managed an event in Beijing. She is sensational, and knows just how to keep things “lite and brisk.” The perfect choice to keep the dialogue from getting too serious or uncomfortable. That’s exactly why they chose her.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

This actually sounds exactly like the US presidential race.

Kerry: You scarpered during Vietnam.
Bush: You really an Alien.

June 22, 2004 @ 6:19 pm | Comment

Hmm, truly an interesting and painfully honest article.

Up until the last paragraph referring to Britney Spears as being “fascinating”, anyway.

June 22, 2004 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

When I worked at ATV there was something not so sinister, but equally disappointing.

There would be stories on the wires about China that we could have run, but it was somehow more important to talk about America and the war on terror. And the beating they were receiving in Fallujah. Even when the news wasn’t new. It was just anything to avoid a critical eye on China.

The funny thing is, the world’s most populated Communist/Socialist/ what ever the fuck it is state gets completely ignored by its own media?

Freaking crazy, man.

June 23, 2004 @ 12:30 am | Comment

Hey everybody, this is a topic of great interest to me, as I find myself bombarded with chinese news every day. My apartment building was recently fitted with a satellite so that we would recieve Phoenix TV, but I was disappointed to find myself just as discouraged with Phoenix in terms of reports on Taiwan, etc., even though it goes about things much more subtly. Ummm, anyway, I am kind of busy at work, so I won’t get started on this, but my point is: I can’t seem to open this article! i don’t know if it is just a network problem, or if the geniuses that monitor the internet have already gone and blocked it! Anyway, if anyone has time to cut the text and paste it into an e-mail to kevininnanjing@yahoo.com, that would be great. Thanks!

June 23, 2004 @ 2:33 am | Comment

For CCP, it seems to willing to strive for good governance as long as CCP is in power. The question is whether this is possible. That is why CCP allows people discuss social ill as long as nobody say the solution is to get rid of CCP.

For many foreigners, they would be ok with any type of governance, be it like Poland, Russia, Indonesia or Philiphine, as long as CCP is not in power.

For many chinese, the old CCTV program is just intolerable. Those programs are actually getting much better in last few years. Hopefully, they will become better.

June 23, 2004 @ 11:06 am | Comment

Hard to imagine them getting much worse.

June 23, 2004 @ 11:09 am | Comment

Why You Can’t Find Information About China in China

People who are interested in the events that shape China inevitably turn their attention to the stories of people who actually live there rather than to newspaper stories or broadsheets about China politics and China economics. They do this, I

June 24, 2004 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

steve is absolutely spot on.

When I talked to Ma Lik, the DAB Chairman, he expressed this sentiment by saying that people should respect and trust the intentions of Beijing for HOng Kong. That was his way of saying that you can have good ideas, but they must avoid the CCP’s structure or function at all costs.

Therefore, you can dream, but not act. Ever.

And when you talk to people in Hong Kong who are familar with the Democrats’ push for better functioning autonomy they say the same thing.

Change is good, and we should push for change, but we cannot do it in a way that threatens the CCP.

And they even say that this is absurd because the structure and function of the CCP is the very problem.

June 24, 2004 @ 10:59 pm | Comment

HK, that’s quite a conundrum! A lot of CCP coddlers say change can only come in “baby steps,” but those doing the stepping had better remember that even a baby step, if it’s in the wrong direction, can land you in jail.

June 25, 2004 @ 11:09 am | Comment

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