Friday, August 8, 2008

Chinese Media

Alright Ronnie, here's your post. Honestly, since I don't speak or read Chinese my ability to address the issue of Chinese media is rather limited. I know that what is available to the expatriates and the people who are able to speak English is at least marginally better than what is available to the average local. I also get the feeling that the countryside media is even more restricted than it is in the big cities where there is a lot of international influence.

Please keep in mind that I'm in no way an expert on this stuff since I can't read Chinese, and in general Chinese news sort of sucks so I don't pay a lot of attention to it. What I can tell you, is that the state definitely controls all the media outlets here.

You've heard me talk about the internet, but what you may not realize is that this is a main source of news for a lot of people. Not just outside news sources, which are often not in Chinese and therefore inaccessible to the large majority of Chinese people, but mainly blogs and message boards. People are still cautious, and I think probably quite a few blog anonymously, but blogs are definitely a growing source of news for people. Even me! I don't watch the news here or read the local papers that are run by the governments, I read the blogs. The expat blogs are pretty informative because they do the research on outside sites, and get tips emailed to them from people actually living here and witnessing things (Chinese and expats). This sometimes causes confusion and we often have to guess at whether or not something is true, but this is true for the national media as well.

I looked on the Shanghai Daily and China Daily (two main papers here) to see if I could find any word of Bush's speaking out against China, and I found only tales of how he has arrived for the opening ceremonies. The news here is heavily and openly biased. At least the Chinese don't pretend that they aren't tweaking the stories or blocking the ones they think will cause a bit of unrest.

If stories like the Bush comments do happen to appear in the press, it is usually under the guise of a critique of the other countries. How dare they accuse us when.. blah blah blah. To some extent, I understand this. Chinese nationalism is intense and people really band together and get a bit riled when someone from another country shows bias against China, so in a way this is really the purpose of a state controlled media. It works like a charm, too. A few months ago there was a boycott of CNN and a lot of protesting against Western media in general when one of the CNN reporters bashed China in his reporting. I remember even seeing an old Chinese man protesting in Chinatown in San Francisco. Granted, it was a bit on the iffy side of journalistic integrity since he completely abandoned his supposedly objective view and gave a more emotional report than was probably warranted, but still. Sometimes I want to just say "Suck it up and take it, people."

We definitely have censorship and a bit of shielding going on in the United States. Our media is not exactly the most reliable in the world, but at least we have access to millions of different outlets if only we look and make a slight effort. Our ignorance is our own damn fault. I actually talked about this topic a bit in one of my English classes. I tried to explain the theories of propaganda (btw the Chinese word for propaganda is the same as marketing... they don't view it as a negative) and bias in the news to my students, I think they got it for the most part. They tend not to really view it as negative, which is interesting. They're also still inclined to believe what they see and hear on the news, which is surprising.

What's funny about people is that often when someone points at us and says, "Your government does this and it's bad", our gut reflex is to say, "Oh yeah?! Well look at yours!" I don't feel this way about everything, but when one of the students told me that all American media is wrong and distrustful I got a little defensive. Later, I thought to myself, "What the hell? Where did that come from? I know our media is biased and not entirely reliable." Even though under normal circumstances I am perfectly willing and able to accept criticism of my country, at this point, when a Chinese person made a comment about American media... I couldn't help but think, "Oh yeah?! Well look at yours!"

I have been in some tense situations where Chinese people ask me what I think about "Western China" and the protests and everything. In all honesty, I think we're all incredibly misinformed about everything and no one really knows what the hell is going on over there. China kicked out all the foreign journalists and restricted entry and exit to the area until very recently, so how would we know? Add in the fact that there are two sides to every story and I am not entirely sure who is right and who is wrong. Don't misunderstand me, what has happened there with regard to human rights is unacceptable under any circumstances, I'm simply referring to the whole autonomy aspect. (BTW did anyone else see this Story)

Having said all that, I can't help but feel that the Chinese are more uninformed (and misinformed) than the rest of the world. During the protests, nothing negative against China was broadcast here. There were reports of the monks acting out against the Han, but not vis a versa I remember watching reports on the news of various successful torch runs all throughout the world... no, or very fleeting, clips of the protesters. There has been no mention of the human rights issues in Darfur that I have seen, other than defensive reactions to events like Steven Spielberg refusing the attend the opening ceremony.

A good example of blatant censorship is the movies... movies that display an anit-China sentiment or anticommunism are banned. Movies like this, as well as any with any nudity or excessive violence, are illegal to produce here in China. Shanghai even recently refused to let a movie film here because it thought that the portrayal was too negative. Thanks to bootleg DVDs all of this gets in anyway, but you won't find it in a Chinese theater or released legally in China. I'm pretty sure the same rules apply to the news. It's not like in America where you actually hear about the gross human rights abuse against Iraqi soldiers carried out by American troops. However, the games are sort of opening China up a bit. Wikipedia, BBC news, and a bunch of other sites (blogspot!) that were previously blocked are now unblocked. There are still a lot more that I wish they would unblock to make my life easier, but it's slowly improving.

Maybe we'll live to see an open China. Hell, maybe we'll live to see an entirely open United States of America. Who knows. The people here that I've spoken to think that it's a positive thing that the government controls what information they have access to. They're all about control. We must control the people in order to keep them happy. Right?

1 comment:

Ronnie said...

Thanks Camille. I just saw an Australian news story about the Chinese media making things unavailable. So far it's the Americans being attacked with the machete, the girl lip-syncing, the bus crash outside the rowing venue, and then today the journalists covering the Pro-Tibet protest. According to this story, all those stories are no longer available in China.