Posts Tagged ‘editorial’

I’m a bit late to the draw with this one, but last Friday, April 13th I noticed something interesting on CCTV. That morning People’s Daily had run an editorial on the Bo Xilai affair that was on the front page of nearly every major newspaper. That evening Xinwen Lianbo – the 7:00 PM national CCTV newscast – presented its routine fantasy world where people are moved by the empty speeches of leaders and the masses are engulfed with heated discussion of People’s Daily commentaries. On this day however, the program appears to have gone above and beyond just having anchors report the PD editorial’s contents. Several men-on-the-street were interviewed to get their takes on the Bo affair. When you set their comments next to the People’s Daily pieces, there are some pretty striking similarities:

Guo Hui, Haikou engineering maintenance worker

People’s Daily:  [The Bo decision] fully illustrated the Chinese Communist Party, which represents the people’s fundamental interests and shall never allow any “special party member” to be above the discipline of the party or the law of the country. Everybody is equal before the law and there is no privileged citizen or exception in the system. 同时也充分说明,代表人民群众根本利益的中国共产党,决不允许有凌驾于党纪国法之上的“特殊党员”;法律面前人人平等,制度面前没有特权、制度约束没有例外,

Worker: From the decision we can see the clear stand of the Party and government to safeguard party discipline and the laws of the state, that is to say, no matter what their position is in the party, nobody can be above the discipline of the party or law of the country. 从这个决定中我们可以看出,我们党和政府在坚决维护党纪国法面前的一个鲜明态度,就是说,在党内不管职位高低,不管任何人,都不能凌驾于党纪国法之上。

Yu Xingshou, Chongqing citizen

Chongqing citizen: As a party member, no matter how high your position is, whoever violates the law should be severely punished by the law. This treatment reflects equality before the law. 作为一名党员,不管你职位多高,干部多大,谁触犯了法律,都应该受到法律的严惩。这次的处理体现了在法律面前人人平等。

Chen Zhiwei, Changsha farmer

People’s Daily: China is a socialist country under the rule of law. The dignity and authority of the law cannot be trampled on. Whoever is involved, whoever broke the law shall be dealt with according to the law with no mercy. 我国是社会主义法治国家,法律的尊严和权威不容践踏。不论涉及到谁,只要触犯法律,都将依法处理,决不姑息。

Farmer: Our country is a socialist country under the rule of law. No one can be above the law and corruption will surely be punished severely by the law. 我们在法治社会主义国家,任何一个人不能凌驾于法律之上,有腐败行为的一定会得到国家法律的严惩。

Yang Fengcheng, Renmin University professor of party history

People’s Daily: Strict organizational discipline is a distinctive feature of our party. One of the party’s advantages is that organizations and members at all levels strictly obey the party discipline and consciously accept it. 严密的组织纪律性,是我们党的一个鲜明特征;党的各级组织和全体党员严守党的纪律、自觉接受党的纪律约束,是我们党的重要优势,

Renmin Professor: The Chinese Communist Party has a distinctive feature: that is strict discipline.  We say everyone is equal before the law, so to a Communist Party member, every member is equal before the party discipline.  中国共产党它有一个鲜明的特点,就是有着严明的纪律。我们讲在法律面前人人平等,那么在党纪面前,对于党员来讲那就是党纪面前人人平等。

Sun Fei, Deputy director of research at the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection

People’s Daily (from earlier April 10th editorial): [The Bo decision] fully reflects the spirit to stress facts and rule by law. It complies with the party’s concept to discipline itself strictly and rule the country according to law. It demonstrates the party’s firm determination to keep its purity.  这充分体现了重事实、讲法治的精神,完全符合我们党从严治党的根本要求和依法治国的执政理念,表明了我们党保持自身纯洁性的坚定决心,

Discipline inspection researcher: The decision by the CPC Central Committee to initiate an investigation of Comrade Bo Xilai’s serious disciplinary problems fully reflects the party’s determination to discipline itself strictly. It fully reflects that the party will never tolerate any corruption and that its ruling concept is to rule the country according to law. It also demonstrated the party’s firm stand to keep its purity.党中央决定对薄熙来同志严重违纪问题进行立案调查, 充分体现了党要管党,从严治党的决心,充分体现了我们党对腐败现象绝不容忍的政治态度,体现了依法治国的执政理念,表名了党保持自身纯洁的坚定立场。

It seems to me one of three things happened here:

  1. CCTV reporters did some serious shoe-leather reporting in several different cities across China in the space of a few hours, managing to find interviewees that happened to have nearly verbatim opinions to the People’s Daily editorials.
  2. The whole country truly was engulfed by the heated editorials and their spirited points rolled off the tongues of all those CCTV approached.
  3. CCTV told interviewees what to say.

I know I know. Chinese state media lacking journalistic integrity…truly breaking news.  Last year a leaked uncut video showed a farmer being told what to say on camera by a reporter, and CCTV has had plenty of its own fake interviews exposed. But having the audacity to do it with five back-to-back interviewees speaking from a single source openly available to the public is a bit surprising; especially for a network now trying to build credibility for its ambitious overseas expansion plans.

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Today Global Times ran an editorial called “Human rights award misses point of China’s social progress.” It was about Chinese lawyer Ni Yulan being given the Human Rights Defenders Tulip by the Dutch government for her role in fighting forced demolitions. Following standard GT editorial protocol, it opted to forgo any use of objective figures or examples to substantiate its claims. Instead it chose the basic approach of “fuck you Western media for calling attention to China’s problems rather than playing cheerleader to the overall progress it’s made.”

A few months ago I vowed not to rebut every dumb GT editorial that I came across. After all, I have to eat and sleep some time. So rather than rebutting, I’ve decided to help GT out with a little copy-editing. I’m in journalism school currently and one of the key principles we’re taught again and again is “show, don’t tell.” I know it’s been a long time since journalism school for Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin, who usually writes these editorials, so I’ve taken the liberty of re-writing it so that it has a chance of actually influencing some people toward GT’s viewpoint. It can even keep the same title and lead:

Human rights award misses point of China’s social progress 

Ni Yulan has been awarded the Human Rights Defenders Tulip 2011 by the Dutch government after her actions against forced demolition in Beijing, becoming the latest recipient of a foreign human rights prize. An unverified report said that Wednesday, Ni’s daughter Dong Xuan was not allowed to fly to the Netherlands to accept the award on behalf of her mother, who is still awaiting trial.

Ni has served a positive role in helping those who’ve been wrongfully, and often violently, dispossessed of their homes gain awareness of their rights and seek redress. She indeed deserves recognition for the hardships and debilitating physical harm she’s endured in her crusade to help the underclass.

However, coverage on cases like Ni Yulan tend to leave a somewhat unbalanced impression of forced evictions in China. In the focus on individual stories of suffering, it’s easy to miss the greater good that many demolitions are achieving.

There are essentially two types of land seizures now happening on a wide scale in China. The kind Ni has fought against are illegal and often the result of corrupt real estate deals. These unjustly throw commoners out of their homes with inadequate compensation and often feed a speculative bubble that threatens serious harm to the economy. The central government is indeed aware of this troubling trend and should continue to take proactive measures to mitigate it.

The second kind of demolition, however, gets less attention and is actually very good for China. Currently, roughly half of China’s population lives in rural areas. These areas usually consist of single-unit houses which use coal directly for cooking and heating. The houses also often have paper windows or other deficiencies that make them very energy inefficient. This contributes to high levels of both carbon emissions and local pollutants like sulfur.

Moving these people to the cities will put them in more efficient homes and on China’s electric grid, which is quickly cleaning up its energy production. Even when coal is the energy source, plants are becoming 25-50% more efficient and are retrofitting with devices that cut 95% of sulfur emissions.

Once these people are moved from their rural homes, the land is freed up for an even more pressing concern: food. China is about the same size as the US, but has 82% the arable farmland with 420% the population. To make matters worse, desertification is claiming this land at a rate comparable to the size of Rhode Island each year. It’s no wonder 150 million Chinese still don’t get enough to eat.

If we look at a developed country like the United States, a hundred years ago farmers made up 30% of its population. In 1945, on average, it took 14 labor-hours to produce 100 bushels of corn on two acres of land. By 1987, thanks to technological development, it took under 3 labor-hours and just over one acre of land to get the same result. Today, only about 2% of Americans are farmers and they produce much more food than the 30% did a hundred years ago.

China is going through the same process now with its current 35% farming population. Moving farmers from the countryside to cities moves them up the value chain and frees up land for more efficient mechanized farming. According to Geographical Society of China President Lu Dadao, China took only 22 years to increase its urban population from 17.9% to 39.1%. It took Britain 120 years and the US 80 years to accomplish this. So it can be said that China’s development is much more impressive.

It’s estimated that China’s urban population will surpass 70% by 2035, bringing it closer to developed status. It is regrettable that the power entrusted to local officials in order to reach this goal is sometimes abused. The recent resolution of the Wukan situation showed the government’s progress in dealing with these situations, but of course, there remains work to be done.

In this long march forward, it’s inevitable that many toes will get stepped on. Many will be uprooted amidst this progress. However, we shouldn’t let the setbacks completely overshadow the critical overarching goal. After all, keeping people fed is the most important human right of all.

See, I’ll bet you came a lot closer to sympathizing with GT’s main point here than in the original piece. It’s still bullshit, but I think you’ll agree it’s much less rank bullshit. 

I don’t want to get in the habit of rebutting every idiotic Global Times editorial that’s printed. That would be a full-time job comprising an entire blog. But recently they’ve somehow sunk below the bar that was already on the ground. There was of course the call for war, but there’s more. This time they’ve managed to piss all over something that should be good news to everyone but racists.

In response to the US senate apologizing for historical discrimination against Chinese with policies like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, Global Times yesterday ran an editorial titled Senate apology masks sense of superiority. It makes some token concessions about the positive nature of the bill, but the title pretty well sums up the intended takeaway.

Global Times running inflammatory editorials over things like Liu Xiaobo’s peace prize or any criticism of China, no matter how well-founded, is understandable. It’s what they do. But spinning such a conciliatory and positive gesture like this into yet another Western “wolf in sheep’s clothing” narrative is a new low. Now why would Japan ever give China the parliamentary apology it wants for World War II atrocities? The Chinese media has just demonstrated it’ll likely spit on it and use it for stirring up even more nationalism.

A few weeks ago Global Times ran another piece called Locke’s lifestyle and new mission which admonished the Chinese admiration of US Ambassador Gary Locke for buying his own coffee and flying economy class. They’re not letting the US (and ergo that one country called “The West”) get away with anything positive. It all must be spun in a way to keep everyone suspicious of the West’s constant all-encompassing anti-China agenda.

Global Times isn’t a (direct) spokesman for the government, but these editorials can give a pretty good clue of what the government wants people to think, and I would expect to see a lot more of this in the coming year. China faces a tough leadership transition in late 2012 and having unfavorable comparisons drawn to Western democracies is the last thing the CCP wants during this process- which in no way involves input from the people. And nationalism is the fail safe source of legitimacy that boosts the Party’s credentials in the short-term. It’s liberal use will give them strength through the transition.

So I predict these editorials are a preview of bigger things to come in the next year. The US (and “the West”) will do no right. The successes will be spun into failures and the failures into uber-failures that highlight the correct socialist path China has chosen. Yes, this already happens to a large degree, but we ain’t seen nothing yet. The US election, which will happen right in the midst of China’s power handover and inevitably feature very real China-bashing, will antagonize the whole situation. So I’d prepare to lower your expectations for both Global Times editorials and amicable Sino-US relations…if that’s even possible.