Tag Archives: China

Chinese media: Enemy’s enemy is my friend

1 Dec

During a war sometimes you do not have many choices. You must optimize your chance to win. Enemy’s enemy is your friend.

The same relationship is experienced by Chinese media confronting with the Internet and the government. They tend to choose the Internet as their ally against the government, even though this ally may sometimes bite them as well.

Internet as a friend with adversity

In a place like China where the free flow of information is a rather luxury, any sign of hope is worth making effort to.

The early 2000s has witnessed the boom of the Internet in China, as well as the start of skyrocketing of Chinese online news, which later proved to be a doom for Chinese media on traditional platforms, especially for the Chinese print media.

Till today Chinese traditional media are still undergoing a complicated relationship with the Internet.

On the one hand they need to fully embrace it as a new platform which is welcomed by their readers; one the other hand they need to keep an eye on it as the Internet is also sabotaging their readership or viewship.

Enemy’s enemy

The Chinese government by no means sees the Internet as a friend.

Concerning the social stability in China, the government has set up the Great Firewall (GFW) to prevent Chinese Internet users from accessing “vicious” foreign websites such as Youtube and Twitter.

A slightly exaggerating explanation of the GFW

Online content in the Chinese Internet context is also under the scrutiny of the authority. Any content that is considered as unfavourable will be “harmonised” and kept out of the public sight.

The Chinese Web browsers, the real power behind the Internet, bear the large possibility of being irritated by the government due to the lack of free flow of information. Some activists have already managed to get over the GFW to see the “outside world”.

Internet as the leverage for free flow of information

Chinese media, have been kept their noses up and therefore been rather sensitive about the current of power rushing forward and back underneath the peaceful sea surface.

They now tend to mingle with the Internet as an important platform to release their news products, as well as a crucial leverage to keep the game on with the government.

By utilising the Internet, the Chinese media hope to see a more open environment for information to be cultivated in China.

As pointed out the Hu Shuli at the Reuters Memorial Lecture, although Internet seems to be dangerous for Chinese people concerning the risk of annoying the government, “it is helping China to grow”.

She also treats the relationship of Chinese government ant the media as “a game of cat and mouse”.

In this game, she said, “The mouse is smarter with modern technologies. While the cat needs to learn what will happen.”

The manipulation over news is possibly to be broken by the Internet as well, as empowered by the Internet, Chinese people can get access to any information (some may need a little technology to get over the GFW).

In the era of the Internet, according to Hu Shuli, “it is hard to fool people”.


Hu Shuli optimistic about Chinese media’s transition

30 Nov

China as the world’s biggest developing country, is facing a transiting phase. So are its media.

Where will Chinese media heading? People both from China and the rest of the world turn to the crystal ball for an answer.

Ms. Hu Shuli, editor of Caixin and a noble journalist, joins the team of fortune tellers,  saying that the Chinese media will face a bright future transiting “from an old one to a modernised and democratic one”, at the Reuters Memorial Lecture at Oxford on Monday.

Pressure from the government

It has almost become a cliche that in China, the government imposes a significant influence on its media.

Oh did I say “its”? Yes, the Chinese government has been making it’s effort to make meida as its mouthpiece for political propaganda.

Ms. Hu Shuli at Reuters Memorial Lecture at Oxford University

According to Yuezhi Zhao, this is due to the military origin of Chinese media. During the Long March in the 1930s, the Chinese Red Army used to utilise its official publication – The Red Star – to execute wartime propaganda.

This has created a mindset for Chinese government: the media should be controlled rather than liberated, as its power may harm the government itself.

It is true that the impact of the government has been mentioned by many scholars on this topic. Yet it is indeed a very important dimension of the Chinese media landscape.

Rather than being fairly upset about this objective condition, Ms. Hu Shuli seemed to be quite confident about Chinese media.

She did not deny the existence of the government’s impact on the media output. Actually she was very blunt about sensitive issues that media in China should not even touch, such as Falun Gong, Tian’anmen Square and Liu Xiaobo, a new name added to the list recently.

Ms. Hu Shuli has kept emphasizing that there is the hope for Chinese media to do a better job the the democratic progress of the country. Talking about her own Caixin, the sentence she has repeated for many times during the lecture and the panel discussion is “we will try our best”.

She treats the media-government relation in China as “a game of cat and mouse”. Although she thinks that there is no simple answer to questions about the government censorship over news, she believes Chinese media can still survive, by saying, “There is always a way to go. It’s always one step up, one step back.”

Pressure from the market

The media is never actually independent. Maybe it used to be like that in the very early days, but after people realised its amazing power and intended to get involved, the very pure days for media were over.

Apart from the influence from the government, today’s Chinese media also have to face the commercial impact.

As China is experiencing a serious transition, economic factors will play even a more important role in almost each domain, including media.

Panel discussion after the lecture

On the one hand, if the media are healthily sponsored by a company, it will enjoy more power to insert quality journalism.

On the other hand, the sponsor may also try to influence the media output in the consideration of its own profit.

Journalistic integrity and financial support are actually put on the same balance and weighed. For Chinese media, it is actually a severe problem of life or death.

Even Ms. Hu Shuli admitted that the commercial pressure is one of the “enemies” that Caixin now faces when trying to achieve genuine journalism in China, yet it is still “common”.

“‘Soft news’ is actually dangerous, ” She said, “They are paid news. But what’s more dangerous is fully manipulated news.”

It seems that to her, the government’s influence is still a bigger problem than the commercial pressure.

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