By now, you’re probably aware of the kerfuffle over “foreign reporter” Andrea Yu, who lobbed a few government-friendly softballs at Chinese officials during official 18th Party Congress press events. She was later featured in a CCTV segment on how “foreign reporters” are covering the congress. The only thing is, she isn’t really a foreign reporter — she works for a Chinese-owned company with government ties.
(Incidentally, the other media outlets in that CCTV report are also pretty suspect. The Hong Kong newspaper (Wen Wei Po) mentioned and interviewd is a plant, as it was founded in Shanghai and is pretty well known for toeing the Party line. And Sinovision, another media outlet interviewed during the segment, is a US TV station imports almost all of its programming from CCTV.)
All this has been hashed out in the press and in blogs, but the discussion has mostly centered around Yu herself and her ethical and journalistic standards (or lack thereof). That, I think, is missing the forest for the trees. While I don’t condone Yu’s behavior, if she had refused, I am sure that her company would have found someone else to do the same thing she did. Refusing would still have been the right move on her part, but Andrea Yu is not the most interesting part of this story.
Instead, let’s consider that (a) Andrea Yu was taking time allotted for real foreign reporters to ask questions and (b) featured in a segment on how the foreign press was covering the Party Congress. It seems that in the absence of a cooperative foreign press pool, Beijing may be looking to replace them with lookalike “foreign reporters” who can be trusted to ask the right questions. It’s a brilliant two-birds-one-stone move: it insulates Chinese citizens from hearing the more critical questions of the actual foreign press, and it prevents the actual foreign press from asking those questions in the first place by giving time allotted for them to a government shill who is posing as a journalist.
Is this a 18th Party Congress desperation move, or a new tactic we’re going to see more in the coming years? There’s no way to know. But I think it is important to note this in case it does become an important precedent for future “foreign” “reporters” with Chinese characteristics.
And while I’m talking about 2Non.org, what topics would you like to read articles and/or see documentaries about? We write articles like this continuously, but we’re also in the planning stages for our next documentary, and still considering topics, so if you have thoughts or requests for either, feel free to throw them in the comments here. Thanks!