It seems to me, and Eric said his experience seemed to match this conclusion, that the Global Times has been cutting down significantly on the critical-of-China content in their editorial pages over the past few months. Here’s Eric’s submission as-is; would you run it if you were the editor?
Criticism needed in a rising China
By Eric Fish
2010 was a rough year for Chinese foreign policy. Numerous events unfolded which laid criticism on China from an American search engine, a Norwegian prize committee, the Japanese coast guard and South Korean leadership…just to name a few. And, as a recent Global Times editorial pointed out, rising China WILL endure more criticism. But as a rising nation, China absolutely should receive it.
As China charges ahead with development and takes a larger role in the world community, it’s inevitable that it will bump elbows harder and more often with other nations. And since the foreign media is gaining more access to China, it’s also inevitable that criticism will continue to pour in for things China considers internal issues. In either case, this criticism is good.
But whenever critical comments come from abroad, the Chinese leadership and media’s first impulse is to go on the defensive. Newspaper headlines are full of angry verbs that “blast, rap, condemn, or reject” the criticism. Government spokesmen and editorials lash out at those critics for not understanding China or interfering with its internal affairs.
Those Chinese leaders and journalists need to realize that criticism is not the same as interference. And not everyone who voices opposition to Chinese policy is interested in seeing the nation’s progress stunted. China can’t be 100% correct in every single action it takes, so having outside voices point out the faults is constructive, not hostile.
Those decision makers sitting in China feel what they’re doing is right, but their scope is unavoidably limited. No matter what country you’re in, it’s hard to see your own big picture when you’re standing in the middle of it.
I remember in 2003 during the lead up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of us Americans were insulted by the international opposition to the war. At that time, over 70% of Americans supported it. The scar of the 9/11 attacks still hadn’t healed and a sensationalist media left us paranoid and trigger-happy. We were then told that Iraq’s brutal regime illegally harbored stockpiles of horrible weapons…and may have even had a hand in 9/11.
Our scared populace wasn’t able to detach from their emotions and view the situation rationally. Even our leaders seemed to sincerely think the war was necessary and that we’d be greeted as liberators.
So we didn’t listen to the international chorus condemning us for the action. Many Americans even boycotted France for spearheading the UN rejection of the invasion. But if we had listened to the criticism of those who were far enough removed to see the war for the reckless debacle that it would become, things could have been very different.
Heeding, or at least listening to the criticism of those with an outside view can help prevent irresponsible and self-defeating actions. It’s cost the U.S. eight years, a trillion dollars, and over 100,000 American and Iraqi lives to learn that lesson. I hope China too can learn that criticism shouldn’t automatically be viewed as a malicious force to be fought.
China’s at a vulnerable stage as it gets used to its new found power in the world. Abroad, its actions are being felt further away and more intensely than ever before. At home, rapid social and economic changes are forcing leaders to juggle priorities and make tough decisions.
Many of the countries scrutinizing China have lived these problems in their own development and felt their consequences. Still others have active interests in a stable prosperous China and don’t want to see it self-destruct. That’s why it’s so important to listen to these voices of criticism for the sake of China’s and the world’s well-being.
Of course, some of those voices criticizing China are hostile and have no constructive use, but they don’t represent the majority. Those rants should be taken in stride and not empowered with inflammatory responses.
But for the rest, I have some simple advice for China that I wish my own country had heeded. In the coming year when something inevitably happens that leaves you on the receiving end of international criticism, don’t automatically blast or condemn it. Instead, try out a new verb: listen.
The author is a master’s candidate of Global Business Journalism at Tsinghua University. His blog: sinostand.com