I rely on Ben Chalmes’ Sinomania! blog for no-nonsense positive reports on Chinese business and beyond. This year it has been the pre-eminent source for exposing both the Obama connection in Google’s farcical exit from China and the annual regurgitated myths about eminent collapses of China’s government, China’s economy, China’s housing market, etc. etc. which are prognosticated by so-called Western experts. You will see more of Mr. Chalmes invaluable yet underexposed work in this blog.
Sinomania! is currently under construction but here’s some valuable tips on “How to Read the News about China“; this provided an invaluable orientation to me when I came to China and helped me find my footing in the very slippery world of mass media. It’s a touch dated now but still golden. The linked page also has a decent set of “China News Links” for those who might wish to delve further into the world of China’s coverage on the Internet, although Chalmes’ is much more willing than I to be a gateway to a lot of erratically correct media outlets.
CONSIDER THE SOURCE!
Every minute of every hour of every day news stories are reported and broadcast about what’s going on in and around China. Many of the sources are reliable but many are not. Many news reports on China are from reporters or commentators who are located far from China. Some have never been to China and know nothing about the country. Whenever you read the news about China it is essential to stop and evaluate the source before you can believe what you’ve read.
Print Media Dominates China News
Despite all the advances in modern technology most news about China comes to us from the oldest media – the printed page. Newspapers and magazines (including specialized and “scholarly” journals) spread most of the news about China. The exception is business and financial news where some online services (usually requiring paid subscription) are also a primary source.
Prevalence of Anti-China Bias
Many of these newspapers and magazines have long-standing anti-China editorial biases. Often this bias is subtle and reflected only in the “voice” of the source. For example, a story about a Chinese government agency shutting down some illegal Internet “café’s” because they are unlicensed businesses prompts an editor to pen the headline “China Bans Internet Access”. This voice shapes and warps our understanding of China and is based on an elitist view deeply and often unconsciously ingrained in many Westerners that China is a brutal and backward place and in need of betterment.
While most major print media and broadcast/satellite television now have reporters in China, they are usually only in the capital Beijing. Thus reports on events outside the capital in the vast expanse of mainland China are often based on hearsay and not researched or investigated. Most major newsrooms still get their information on what’s going on in China from the Chinese media itself and from translating and analyzing such things as government reports and the minutes of party meetings. These methods have changed little over the past half century.
My own last point would be “what’s the evidence”? Is one being presented some innuendo, claims and suggestions or is there hard journalistic documentation of the phenomena in question? The more experienced media don’t necessarily resort to lies, although they do that too. They excel at hints that are almost subliminal, forced perspectives, and mis-educations that confuse the readership and exploit prejudices cultivated in the West for generations.