Picture this. A top official of a powerful state newspaper stands before a room of journalism students and flatly admits that their government has been lying to them, changing facts in the news or omitting them altogether. The hero of a dystopian novel? A whistle-blower who’s had enough?
Just the opposite. Xia Lin, the deputy editor-in-chief of Xinhua, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, was giving a lecture entitled “Understanding Journalistic Protocols for Covering Breaking News” at the Tianjin Foreign Studies University in which he defended the practice of massaging the truth when it comes to news, citing the critical role of media to maintain societal stability. The examples he gave were shocking, but only confirmed what most skeptical human beings believe: that their government lies to them on a daily basis.
It’s difficult for me to judge just how Orwellian China’s carefully groomed, state-run news coverage is: in America, coverage of the news is centered around the image of the news program or network; not the state. I do follow the BBC, therefore state-run media is not entirely out of my experience; but the BBC news website has not reported this story…
Chinese nationalism is a living fire that burns in the hearts of China’s citizens. And, like any fire, it can be unpredictable. Many in the West feel as if China’s nationalistic pride is state-directed and controlled. Protests and demonstrations are seen as either government directed or fueled by misinformation from state-controlled media. This is, like many monolithic views of “the sleeping giant,” a fundamentally oversimplified view. Chinese nationalistic pride has taken on a life of its own, and it is difficult to predict where it will lead the country.
Let’s see… right now we’ve got a global food crisis; two wars and a primary race that might never end, not to mention dropping home prices in the U.S.; a farcical election in Zimbabwe; continuing plight in the Congo; and, the media staple: drama surrounding the Beijing Olympics.
Let’s say, hypothetically, we run all these stories in a serious international magazine, what should our lead be? The editors at The Economist, faced with that question, chose a story about Chinese nationalism. But what to put on the cover? I know! What says “Chinese nationalism” better than an angry cartoon dragon? But don’t make him too angry, that would be demeaning.