“The Weak Position of the Chinese Media Can’t Be Changed With Cash”

[Ed note: This is an original translation by ChinaGeeks, h/t to ESWN for the link to the original. As with all our translations, it is rough, and though we strive for accuracy, it may contain errors.]
(Original text by Zhang Wen, translated by C. Custer)

On March 10, News Publication Section Chief Liu Binjie said in an interview with the media, “when compared with the international media, the weakness of Chinese media is mostly systemic. In the past, under then planned economic system, the media was a department of the press, set up by press administration officials, and did not enter the [free] market. At this point, when compared with the international media, we are still somewhat weak because under our system the media cannot freely participate in free-market competition. Additionally, when it comes to the right to report or broadcast things first, there are still very few Chinese ‘heavyweights’ capable of influencing international opinion, so on an international scale the Chinese media still holds a weak position.”

One must admit, what Liu Binjie said is very much the truth. Because they’ve been restricted by the system for a long time, Chinese media is not even worthy of note in comparison to international media; Chinese media is not even ranked, [relations between the Chinese media and the international media] are still like relations between the third world and the first world.

At the same time, Section Chief Liu also said, “China plans to invest capital [he’s referring to this plan to spend 45 billion RMB to create and extend an internationally respected media network -Ed.] to increase the strength of our foreign reports and thus increase the international influence of the Chinese media.

It must be said, Section Chief Liu’s words really might be “a pie in the sky” or “vain hopes”. This is because in the next step of reforming the media system, “a portion of the political publications and news organizations still follow the current system, but some other types, those that aren’t related to current politics, are moving step-by-step towards the market with the intention of entering free market competition.”

Wu Baijing, Associate Director of Research of Public Broadcasting at Renmin University, once said “The media, through diplomacy, [can] break through the Western public opinion surrounding [us],” and said something exciting, “Strengthening the power of our media, we must first make sure the focus of discussion is on firsthand reporting, and not secondhand; we especially must not have negative situations where the media is first instructed to shut up. The court of public opinion is like a large container, the more abundant the news you make public and “pour in”, the more cramped it is for other opinions and counterattacks.”

In the normal course of domestic reporting, the domestic media has a natural superiority in terms of “firsthand” coverage, but when a lot of important/significant things occur suddenly we can’t even report “secondhand”, and can only choose silence when faced with prohibitions [on reporting]. We watch with open eyes as foreign media struggles to be the first to report, and we cannot even correct the inaccuracies in their reports.

In the course of reporting international events, our media is even more powerless to compete with the international media; because the lack adequate personnel, financial, and material assets, our international bureaus can often only resort to secondhand reporting, broadcasting ‘firsthand’ news reported by the international media. Moreover, because of ideology, these secondhand reports often violate the principal of objectivity.

As everyone knows, reporting major domestic and international stories is the duty of the news media. It could be said thusly: That the Chinese media is extremely weak and hopeless on the international stage and frequently is looked down upon by their unaware-of-the-truth international colleagues is precisely because of its collective “lack of position” and “failure to accomplish”!

If the next step of domestic current events reporting is as Section Chief Liu says, continuing in the current system, then their backwardness and weakness hasn’t the slightest chance of changing or improving. Even if the government provides more funding, it’s just a wasted effort.

The new generation of Chinese media, in ideas about news and writing techniques, are already very close to [the standards of] Western workers. Nearby, many of my friends in the news business have the power to tower above others, and are completely capable of competing on the same stage as the outstanding personages of the Western news media in terms of objectivity, truth, deep reporting, and [could] win international respect.

However, with the media system as it currently is, the eyes of these heros are full of tears, they can but draw their swords, look around, and be at a loss [as to what to do].

Also of interest today:
-Regarding the recent boating scuffle between China and the US, who was really intimidating who? (h/t to The Peking Duck, also check out coverage on Danwei)
China worries too few foreigners learning Chinese (Reuters)
-A whole bunch of interesting things in the Granite Studio’s Friday round-up.
-ChinaGeeks is now one of the Best Blogs in Asia! According to someone! All glory to the hypnotoad.

0 thoughts on ““The Weak Position of the Chinese Media Can’t Be Changed With Cash””

  1. Pkng Dck?????? Nw thr’s spclst wth nsght n Chn, spclly bt Chns ldrshp thnkng nd dcsn-mkng.

    f crs, t mght hlp f h cld rd Chns bt nvr mnd tht…

    Ys, by ll mns, rn t tht wbst t rd hs msngs n hgh-lvl plcy, nd th brllnt cmmnts tht ppld hm fr hs mzng ccss t, sy, Chn Dly.

    [Feel the sting of our disemvoweling sword! Not only is this site not a venue for trolls, but your point has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I don’t mind off-topic, but off-topic unsubstantiated attacks on other blogs is not a thing this site will be facilitating. In the future, I hope you can focus your off-topic, unsubstantiated personal attacks on us! Sincerely, -Ed.]


  2. @ Millin…were you to actually click the link I posted, you’d see it doesn’t lead to the Peking Duck. I just found the link there. Nor does it contain any real speculation on “Chinese leadership thinking and decision-making”.


  3. I usually find Peking Duck to be thought-provoking. What’s with the hatin’?!

    I actually very much like this idea. I like to idea of making Chinese media into a “real” media, in the sense that a Chinese and a non-Chinese could sit down and legitimately, without laughing, use a mainland news article as a credible basis for discussion (on something other than the topic of media itself).


  4. @ Chris, yes, it would be nice if the Chinese mainstream media was independent and reliable for actual news. Then again, China bloggers like us might be out of a job…(not that this “job” pays well or anything. I believe we have earned nearly 80 cents in ad revenue thusfar!)


  5. Millin’s best criticism is that the level of Chinese literacy at Peking Duck is pretty low, meaning that the viewpoint is Western and lacks first-hand data from Chinese sources.

    The Chinoiserie (note, if I get disenvoweled I’ll remember to avoid French terms and maximize my use of Polish) web design doesn’t inspire confidence either, but it’s the main hangout for those of that political inclination. Interestingly, from what I’ve seen lately Richard has seemed to become a hell of a lot more moderate concerning the Chinese government and society. Weird.

    (By the way, I’m not a sinologist, but I suspect Bokane.org has the best version of Chinese aesthetics. It’s a simple monochrome website with white as blankspace and black as text. It manages the small divergence from Japanese aesthetics as its text size and heft does not give a sensation of ostentatious elegance.)


  6. @ inst: Neat blog. I do like the minimalism approach to website layouts.

    The reason I find the Peking Duck valuable is mostly because of the comments (and a blog is doing something right when it gets people to talk so much).


  7. Interesting post. Liu Binjie typically categorises the media from an ideological point of view. Instead of calling the two “opposing” entities Chinese media and Western media why not call it state-controlled media and privately-owned media? Would that be too honest?

    Although Liu tries to innovate (and hats off to him for that), the way he talks about the media shows that he is somewhat bogged down by the Party mindset. For example it’s not the media’s role to improve China’s image, as he believes. Its job is to tell people what is going on and scrutinise people with power and influence. National image should never be a consideration for journalists in their duties.

    China’s image would actually improve with a privately-owned uncensored domestic media. Reporting on Tibet is the obvious example of where a privately-owned media would portray the story in a more impartial and convincing light to foreigners. And whether or not mistakes are made, people who are used to a privately-owned press will never trust a government-run one.

    When China has a free press, this ridiculous debate about the Chinese media and the Western media will evaporate. But for the moment it serves the Party to create an enemy out of the privately-owned media.

    As for his comments on the Chinese media’s weakness reporting international events, I have one measure in mind that could improve performance without costing a single jiao: a good kick up the ass. Having worked for the state-run media in China, many of the people posted overseas are bone idle and have no problem plagiarising other media. Just make reporters do their job: report. Not copy. In fact it should be a breeze for Chinese reporters to report in open Western countries, compared to the job Western reporters have in China, where access to the upper levels of government is much more difficult.


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