Chinese netizens strike blow at Western media ethics

67 Comments

anti-cnn.jpgChinese citizens and netizens alike have long claimed Western media shows an unfair bias towards their country, and though most Western media outlets seem to pay it no heed, one site has caused them to pause and take notice.

Anti-CNN.com, as its name suggest, puts a thumb in the eye of US media giant CNN, but doesn’t stop there. The site gives an endless supply of photographic examples where North American and European media have mis-represented the recent situation in Tibet.

Run by private citizens (of no claimed nationality, but I doubt I’m going too far into my own assumptions by saying many are Chinese), the site acts as a forum where the media’s manipulation of events are exposed and commented upon. Topics seem all to be focused on Tibet, though I’m sure it won’t stay limited to that.

We are not against the western media, but against the lies and fabricated stories in the media.
We are not against the western people, but against the prejudice from the western society. – Anti-CNN.com

There are no shortage of online forums where Chinese gather amongst themselves and cry out about the injustices befalling China from the West. What makes Anti-CNN.com (mirrored at Anti-BBC.com and Anti-VOA.com) different is that (A) it’s in English and Chinese to allow for a wider debate, and (B) they’ve got some solid points. If they didn’t, I doubt CNN would be offering a statement in its defense:

(CNN) — CNN has been singled out for criticism for our coverage of events in Tibet through an anti-CNN.com Web site and elsewhere. We have provided comprehensive coverage of all sides of this story, but two specific allegations relate to pro-Tibetan bias. We would like to take this chance to respond to them:

The statement goes on to address a particular photo (below) displaying rioters throwing stones at military or police vehicles. The left-side shows a photo, which originally ran in the CNN article, that clearly illustrates authoritarian vehicles moving in on unarmed people. The original (un-cropped) photo on the right shows that the vehicles were actually being pelted with a hail of large stones from an angry mob.

tibet-stones.jpg

CNN’s response to the criticism of the photo crop was:

CNN refutes all allegations by bloggers that it distorts its coverage of the events in Tibet to portray either side in a more favorable light. We have consistently and repeatedly shown all sides of this story. The one image in question was used wholly appropriately in the specific editorial context and there could be no confusion regarding what it was showing, not least because it was captioned: “Tibetans throw stones at army vehicles on a street in the capital Lhasa.” The picture gallery included in Tibet stories includes the image.

The Anti-CNN site makes a valid rebuttal against CNN’s statement:

Taking a quick look at what CNN has to say, one will find CNN’s excuse for cropping picture laughable. Web based publication has great deal of freedom in presenting multimedia materials including pictures. CNN could have posted the picture in its entirety while moving text to the rest of the area without any trouble at all. Web pages are not printed materials, resizing and reframing paragraphs are virtually costless and effortless. In fact, after being attacked for cropping the picture, CNN modified the page to put a zoomed out version of the entire original photo, without having to move text format at all. Then why did CNN need to crop it in the first place? Also, CNN argues in the statement that the picture was captioned “Tibetans throw stones”, then by what motive would a rational editor crop out the exact part of people throwing stones? No excuse can possibly be found to justify the discrepancy between what CNN did and what CNN claims.

This is but one example of pages upon pages of postings, photos and forums at the Anit-CNN site. Scrolling through some of the comments, you find little in the way of constructive conversation, and as is typical of forums in general (and Chinese forums in particular) just a lot of folks looking to brainlessly mouth off.

However, the original posts themselves do offer up some rather solid examples of what Western media needs to improve if they truly want to call their news “International”. International news delivered with a national bias simply doesn’t deserve the title.

Even at the small journalism college I graduated from, with the bulk of its alumni going on to report on local news or leaving the field all together, there was one thing touted more than anything else – ethics. A journalist has a responsibility not just to deliver the news in a slap-dash fashion with presumptions. It needs to be factual or not run at all – no one reads the retractions.

Unfortunately that’s just not the way modern media works. CNN’s 24/7 non-stop news has created the mire it, and all media outlets, is now stuck in. It used to be that news had the already extremely tight deadline of needing to be reported daily, forcing reporters to do all their interviews, fact checking and editing in time to hit the ‘going to press’ deadline – now the pressure is to break a story as soon as it happens to beat out the other national and international outlets that are all on the same field – the Internet – and all scrambling to be the ones that are first to a viewer’s screen.

Something has to give – and as Anti-CNN.com shows, that something is the ethical obligation of a journalist to tell a well-rounded account of an event. Not, as CNN seems to think, by simply adding a huge mass of articles to the medium and hoping through sheer bulk they will get it right, but on an article by article, photo by photo, and video by video basis.

What is bound to happen with the Anti-CNN.com site is that it will receive much opposing criticism related to its own biases and ethics. This happens all the time with blog posts – and therein lies our gross error. Blogs, forums and other social avenues of discussion are not the media. As a blogger or poster on forums we may wish to illustrate our point as factually as possible, but we’ve no real obligation to do so. We can quote things out of context, crop photos in amusing and fallacious ways. We can editorialize all we want and deliver half-baked opinions on any and all topics. Our medium allows for it precisely because we are not the media.

We are not the ones with a professional obligation to deliver news in a factual and unbaised way, nor a responsibility to present events in a clear and concise light of non-predilection. And though the technology of our times allows for quite a bit of blurring between these two camps, it is more important now than ever that professional media outlets draw that line and give it substance.

Update: April 9/08

The Shanghaiist reports that Anti-CNN has been hacked (sourcing this post on The Dark Visitor). The front page of the site seems to be loading, but I couldn’t access the forum – may just be my connection though. Shanghaiist also points us to a rival site – anti-xinhua.com – which contains some basic photoshopping of everyone’s favorite despot, a rather weak answer to the thousands of threads anti-cnn.com is generating.

Talk on Chinese netizens strike blow at Western media ethics


67 Comments
  1. cnn sucks!
    always has been a lier machine of propaganda.
    Their Journalists are writting news by watsching the tv in those hot spots such as Iraq or China in ’89…
    no wonder then…

  2. Has anyone noticed that both photos are cropped, that the CNN one seems cropped to focus on the burning building whereas the “original” is cropped to focus on the stonethrowers? Also, to their credit, CNN almost immediately changed the photo to the netizen-approved copy in response to public criticism. Chinese media, on the other hand, gives us fake propaganda images like the Tibetan antelopes appearing along the new railway to Tibet, honors these images with journalism awards, then quietly admits the fakery much much later when the netizens, to their credit, discover the fraud.

    Back to CNN, I won’t excuse the mislabeling of the Nepalese policemen or other photo flubs, but one of the things that comes up again and again in the criticism on the anti-CNN site is the outrage that CNN calls Chinese police “soldiers.” (Here’s an example.) Well, the problem is that most of these police are in fact paramilitary police and they play the same role as the National Guard back in the US, making them soldiers in most Western eyes. (Chinese should consider that even SWAT Teams are likened to soldiers in Western media.) This is frankly a dispute over definitions rather than real media bias. Note also that Chinese media reports always say police and never say soldiers, making these biases two sides of the same coin.

    Finally, it’s amusing that Chinese are threatening to boycott CNN over the Tibet coverage, as “1.3 billion people won’t watch CNN!” is an utterly hollow threat since A. China regularly censors the CNN satellite feed whenever a “sensitive” issue appears, B. 90+% of people in China don’t get to see CNN on their televisions in the first place, and C. most Chinese who do watch CNN do so on illegal satellite feeds that generate no money for CNN to actually lose in the case of a Chinese boycott.

    In the end, I kind of wish the Western media gave their Chinese critics what they wanted and simply pulled out of China for awhile, until, say, after the Olympics.

  3. Avatar of

    Hey Matthew, I had guessed you’d chime in on this one, and glad you did, as you’ve always intelligent dialog to add to the topic.

    You’re absolutely right about a boycott.

    But before this becomes a US vs. China thread, let me be clear about something.

    I purposely left out any comparisons with Chinese state-run media, as it’s just that – state run. I don’t view China as having a media to speak of, because an un-free media is no media at all, but rather just a mouth-piece of the government.

    I’ve mentioned before here that I view CNN (and other large media conglomerates) as far worse than a state-run media for the simple reason that people actually believe the stuff they say.

    This isn’t about US media vs. Chinese media. Or even Western media vs. Chinese media. This is about responsible media vs. irresponsible media.

    I’m not looking at this issue for the sake of Chinese people being properly represented on the international stage, but rather that we should be able to trust our news sources to deliver accurate, factual and unbiased reports.

    In regards to the cropping of the image – that may be my fault. I tried to track down the two images in their original cropped form, but ended up going with my best guess of which was which. The original as it appears on the Anti-CNN site looks like this.

    As you can see, from the looks of it, CNN originally cut the flames out as well.

    I agree that the soldiers vs. police thing is largely an argument of semantics. But using “soldier” definitely has a different connotation than police and with both a historical issue of military being used on the public and an issue of sovereignty stinging the Tibetan wound… words can hold a lot of weight in regards to public opinion of the issue.

  4. Actually, Ryan, that comparison crop in your post is the shot everyone is using so I took it for granted that the crops were the same as the original. I agree that the crop CNN ran is actually worse, but the caption was correct, so I’m sort of “meh” on the photo issue.

    As to whether we should criticize Chinese media in response to criticism of Western media, I think it’s valid insomuch as many Chinese nationalists (read any thread on anti-cnn) operate under the assumption that Western media functions exactly the same as Chinese media, that is to say that CNN is an extension of the US government and that the media agenda of CNN is being dictated from above. Similarly, the netizens react to death toll claims that don’t square with Chinese media reports, thus holding up their media as a standard by which to judge the Western media, which also invites scrutiny of the Chinese media.

    But to your broader point, I agree that there’s plenty of room for criticism of the Western media here, and the D@l@1 L@m@ (henceforth DL) gets a free pass in the West because of biases at play in both liberal and conservative circles. Some liberals, especially the elites, are fascinated by Buddhism as an alternative to Christianity and gravitate towards the DL as a Pope-like figure; even liberal Christians have a tendency to salute him as a font of wisdom. (Anyone who doubts this is true needs to go to an American college campus.) In so doing, they ignore the fact that he’s a theocratic leader as much as Pat Robertson — if not more. Old school conservatives, on the other hand, embrace the DL as a victim of the “Red Chinese,” wielding Tibetans as a convenient bludgeon against a bogeyman. The end result of this pro-DL/anti-China consensus is that the Western media, which is dominated for the most part by liberals with a few loud conservative voices, has uncritically reported on the DL for years.

  5. I actually saw the cropping of the photo as being more aesthetic in a way. The barrier on the right side is distracting and makes for a poor photo. CNN did provide an accurate caption, stating that Tibetans were throwing stones at the passing truck. I really don’t see a reason for that one to get singled out. There were much worse cases of identifying Indian and Nepalese police as Chinese. Of course, it’s always easier for the Chinese media to say that it’s the fault of American media outlets without naming any other offenders.

    Pot meet kettle.

  6. Continuing on a bit, Ryan. There’s a difference between “bias” (your term and sometimes mine), “bigotry” (the Anti-CNN-ers term), and “sloppy reporting.”

    For reasons outlined above, the DL has been the beneficiary of media bias, but such bias isn’t the same as anti-Chinese bigotry. Nationalist Chinese need to get off their 5,000-year-old high horse and understand that criticism of their government isn’t the same as racism against the Han people. That the anti-CNN website was created by Tsinghua students is saddening in a way, as they represent the thinking at one of China’s finest universities — for something equivalent to happen in the States, the students at MIT would have to mutate into jingoistic Bill O’Reilly clones.

    There’s another bias I forgot to mention because my last comment was cut short by time. There’s an anti-government bias in the Western media. Not just anti-Chinese government but anti-all government, all the time. Some Chinese will find this difficult to understand because of the extension-of-the-state view they have of media; thus, nowhere on the Anti-CNN website do they reflect on the fact that negative media coverage stems from (1) the adversarial role the press likes to assume in these matters and (2) the fact that the Chinese government threw all the media out, giving them the impression that the government had something to hide. Nothing quite excites the Western media like the thought of penetrating the veil of secrecy. Hell, Seymour Hersh’s entire career revolves around this idea. Do Chinese critics understand this? No, they expect that the media’s fascination with government secrets will only apply to the US and not to China. This is why a foreign media report on any “sensitive” issues is deemed “bigoted” outside interference in Chinese affairs.

    This brings me to the sloppy reporting. Rather than reflecting an institutional conspiracy, many of the mistakes made by CNN and other media outlets are the natural outgrowth of a situation where the media is desperate to cover a story and over-reliant on third-party information sources, including people with an agenda (such as the Tibetan exile movement). Since CNN couldn’t actually put journalistic “boots” on the ground, there was no way for them to provide, as you call it, a “well-rounded account” of the events. When confronted with this fact, the Chinese nationalists enter into doublethink mode, saying that the apparent bias in reporting now is a good reason for the press to have been thrown out.

    I close with a question for you, Ryan: since CNN could not publish firsthand reporting of the events in Tibet, and could not verify the information being sent out over wire services, should CNN have simply sat on the story rather than go with what they had in hand?

  7. I was with you to the end, but I disagree about our role as bloggers. Bloggers are certainly entitled to their opinions and biases, but I do not believe we are entitled to deliberately “quote things out of context or crop photos …. in fallacious ways.” We are obligated to tell the truth as best we can. And what is media anyway such that it does not include us?

    Western media is and should be open to attack, but why should Eastern media be immune?

  8. Pingback: Roastfrog.net — Biased Journalism? Not Always Bad

  9. As you can see from the pingback above, I loved your article and have posted my reaction to it on my own blog. I agree that CNN is definitely at times guilty of bias, but I also argue that that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    I’ll be back, keep up the good work!

  10. Pingback: The Difference Between Media Bias and Poor Journalism - Demerzel's Blog

  11. I have to say that both Ryan and Matthew make excellent points here.

    The only thing I would add: When I talk to my wife I tell her that Americans still trust their media as it was around the 1990s or earlier and are slowly realizing just how poor news journalism has suffered in recent years (particularly as more and more people move to blogs and as the news media moves towards sound bites and sensationalism), but that the American media’s problems is not specifically an anti-Chinese bias, but plainly poor journalism as the media continues to cut back on foreign journalists and relies on others to supply them information that they ad verbatim repeat without checking up on.

  12. Avatar of

    @Matthew S: I think I actually answered your question in the original post:

    A journalist has a responsibility not just to deliver the news in a slap-dash fashion with presumptions. It needs to be factual or not run at all – no one reads the retractions.

    I believe this for the simple reason that reporting half-facts, without clearly indicating they are half-facts is irresponsible. It causes people to believe they are full facts. You get 10s of millions of people all reading what CNN’s (or any other media outlet’s) best guess is, and you sway public opinion with distortions of reality.

    Which blends right into my response to CLB. Here’s the difference between journalists and bloggers – journalistic integrity is something that has formed over centuries of a free press charged with delivering the truth. Generally speaking, to become a journalist you must attend higher education to do so. This, in the same way that doctors are taught to follow the Hippocratic oath, schools journalists in the responsibility and ethics of what it is to be a reporter of the news.

    Sure, I can self medicate, or I can ask my aunt, the nurse, her opinion on my illness. But when I ask a doctor for her opinion – she has a responsibility to her profession to advise me based not on biases or personal presumptions, but rather by using the skills of her trade.

    A blogger is not a journalist. Bloggers may make money writing/publishing, and they may take pride in being ethical bloggers, but they are not journalists. They are not charged with the duty to present facts in a clear and even light.

    It’s why newspapers have news, editorial and advertorial sections. These clear divisions are there in professional media outlets for that very reason – they know their obligations to their readers.

    A blogger has no such requirement. And shouldn’t. It’s exactly the lack of structure that separates bloggers from professional media outlets. Together they create a more interesting, versatile and rounded expression of the world.

    It’s not to say blogs are media, of course they are. Media is any method used in communication. But company newsletters are also media, and there’s clearly a line between a company newsletter and the New York Times. Just as there is between bloggers and CNN.

  13. Avatar of

    A good article. I disagree somewhat that AP and the likes are the first cut. The photographers are the first cut. They sell their shots, and know what’s going to sell, and so consciously or unconsciously take the shots they know will sell.

  14. Excellent debate.

    I do have to day that the Chinese state-run media should be more scrutinized. Millions, if not a billion, Chinese consider it much more reliable than anything else out there. Why is it getting s free pass?

    I don’t like CNN and have not ever liked it, but I would trust their reporting to Xinhua any day.

    Steven Colbert says it best, it is all “Truthiness”. The reader also holds a responsibility to not be so easily swayed. I’m going to get some flak for this, but it seems to me that too many people are sheep, and let headlines make decisions for them.

    Many talk about the ethics of journalism, but I do not think there was ever a completely ethical time in journalistic history. Wars, politics, and even mundane events have cultural biases thrown on them every day. After all you want the newspaper to sell right?

  15. No media is 100% objective. But when you look around the news presented by western media on the Tibet issue, you’ll know how biased they are. Why are there so many so-called “wrongly used photos”, “mistakes”? These are misleading news, which do not tell the story and let the readers/viewers judge.

    Many overseas Chinese held protests against western media distortion in Canada, Germany and so forth. in the past two weeks, which does not seem to appear on CNN. Or is it just politically correct to present China in a negative way?

    By the way, many Chinese read/hear/watch both Chinese and Western media. Are you listening to different voices?

  16. Zhang:

    Are you saying that Xinhua has covered the Tibetan crisis 100% truthfully?

    I would venture to say the anti-Olympic protests are bigger than those protesting western media.

    As a lecturer at a top ten Chinese university teaching Ph.D candidates, I can honestly say that before this debacle, less than 1 or 2% of my students would read western news, not to mention have the English level to really be able to digest it.

    Of my students that do read western news it is solely due to the fact they know that their news is full of lies.

  17. The current anti-Western media movement in China has a dark side to it, and that is, it could cause the Western media to be more self conscious and therefore allow themselves to hide their hypocracy better the next time. This would work against us in the long run.

  18. Sean:

    Please look at my previous post once again, in which I’ve already mentioned that 100% objectivity of media is just like Utopia. Maybe less than 1 or 2% of your students read western news. But many Chinese in China and abroad read western news. Did you know how many anti-separation Chinese showed up in the torch relay in London? Of course it is not well covered in your major media. Am I right?

    Also, most overseas Chinese who are against western media distortion are educated in western countries with your democracy and freedom of speech. Doesn’t this ring a bell to you?

  19. Finger in the dyke here, but just wanted to step in again and say that the post is not about Chinese vs. Western media. I (wrongly or not) hold Western media to a higher standard than any State-controlled media.

  20. To be fair, any rioters that cause this scale of damage (vandalizing and burning buildings, and killing civilians) have always been dealt with by any countries’ laws. We should not say the cracking down of these rioters as human right’s violaters. What about the victims’ human rights?????

    Let the governments deal with their internal issues, and leave the 2008 Olympics a alone, it’s a sporting even. We should not punish althetes who worked so hard toward this.

  21. You all can argue all you want either supporting or against either side.

    I just want to leave politics to the Politicians. It’s an Internal affair that China has deal with China Law. When the Twin Towers building went down on 9/11, the U.S. had to deal with it using US laws etc. It’s none of our business.

    I am just going to enjoy the 2008 Olympics to the fullest. The athletes deserve to be watched after what they have gone through.

  22. @Chen

    The thing is, the world is increasingly globalized and events, even internal ones, cannot be ignored as easily as it could be anymore. Countries interfere (publicly or subtly) more often as economics and trade play a larger focus between them. Sometimes these interferences are beneficial to both sides and other times very unhelpful.

    Internal affairs can easily spiral out of control to other nations in turn further affecting other nations, so the idea that there are no interaction effects (especially with politics) is becoming further away from what goes on in reality.

  23. To imply that Chinese nationals 100% trust the State-controlled media and nothing else is an arrogant dismissal of our mental capacity to discern truth from propaganda, our ability to think critically and our sense of social justice, which reeks of Euro-centricity. To justify the manipulation and crafting of evidence committed by Western media by disparaging Chinese press is a weak and contemptible way to gloss over Western media’s atrocities. Unreliable as the Chinese press may be, do know that they have not stooped so low as to concoct evidence to slander other countries.

  24. To Demerzel
    Imagine China or another developing country trying to interfere with America’s internal affairs. What kinds of reaction would that draw? Think about it.

    International reality is based on power and strength. The economically and politically strong ones naturally think they are justified in interfering with the internal affairs of relatively weaker nations. Those of us in the receiving end of such “interfering” action think otherwise.

    Early in the last century, the major foreign powers came to China to tear its territory apart. We lost Hong Kong to the British and Taiwan to the Japanese. Western countries set up shops in China with signs that read “Chinese and dogs not allowed”. Money and our national treasures were looted out of China and are now residing in Western museums. Naturally when Western countries start to inflammatorily espouse any cause that would compromise our territorial integrity, we become suspicious and rightly so. Your intentions are questioned by the ordinary Chinese. History is a ghost that never leaves us, unfortunately.

  25. A German friend talked with me month ago about the development in China. He is very honest to me, and said “lots of German worried about the development of China, if the every Chinese have a similar income as German, what will happen, 1/4 of world population will share the resource with them”. I think there is no problem for the western world if China still keep producing shirts, but if we begin to produce cars and planes, it is a big threat. I think lots of the westerners have the same thoughts. It is a competing economic model the now world. So, lots of Chinese will doubt the real reasons behind all the criticism about human rights, tibet, all the issues. Lots of Chinese know that there are much more freedom in Europe and U.S., but facing Chinese people is democracy or bread(rice), there is easy option, ask the Iraqi if they really want this kind of freedom and democracy right now. Lots of Chinese believe when the country keeps economic grow, and keep being aware of the environment and the real human right, we will get a better future. U.S.S.R have been splited, Serbia is splited, the aim is obvious. Ethical problems is not invented in China, lots of problems in Europe and middle east, every ethics is a treasure to the world and being respected, but do not treat these problem with a double stardard.

  26. In China, the human right it not great, but what about America, and all the other western countries, don’t tell me the government is treating everyone as equal all the time. In western countries it is also about the majority that counts, what about the minority, do they always have a say? I don’t think so. My point is when you start yapping about another country’s human rights record,you better make sure your own country’s is clean also. Some of the people out there who criticize China really don’t know what they are talking about. In the West, I almost never ever had seen anything positive about China. But the truth and the fact is, the CCP government has done more good to its people than bad over the past 2 decades. Today, China is developing to improve its society in various aspects. China is much more open to the world than it was 30 years before and dramatic changes happened. The situation of the world has moved on, but unfortunately the mood of the cold war persists. Some western media still work hard to emphasize the “devilish nature of communism”. China has constantly been devilized by medias and is under double standard under many issues. Why should the western society criticize China intensely while they are having or have had similar problems? My perception is that many well developed western societies have fear for the rise of a new powerful competitor.

  27. @yinbin

    What’s your point? It already happens. Antigua (WTO IPR), Iran (wanting to change oil currency from dollars to euros), Venezuela (threatening to nationalize all oil industries), etc.

    @Emma

    Right on all except on the concept of minority rights–that’s where the concept of a “republic” comes in–specifically dedicated to protecting the rights of the minority (obviously never perfect). I laugh at people when they still try to claim China is a Communist country–I ask them how it is and they just state it’s a one party system… *shakes head*

  28. @Ryan this sort of “us vs. them” thing was bound to happen because both sides are too polarized. It also appears that someone linked to your post. Hence the flood of pro-anti-CNN commenters, some of whom have been pruned away, eh?

    @Emma I’d agree that your point about China’s tremendous progress holds true in the cities, but not so much in the countryside, which is where most of China’s human rights problems occur. Ironically, the Western media is too fixated on “sexy” stories like Tibet to cover, say, farmers being terrorized by rent-a-thugs and robbed by local officials. To be fair, these problems happen in spite of Chinese law, not because of it. The big story that gets undercovered here is the degree to which central government power does not penetrate to the peripheries, enabling feudalistic arrangements between peasantry and local officials that by all rights should be banned by Chinese law.

    The Chinese commenters do have a point about China rise commentary, which is almost wholly negative in the West, not just in the US but also in Germany and Britain. That said, most people in the world seem sanguine about China’s rise.

  29. @Demerzel Good points, and people who say that China doesn’t interfere with other countries’ internal affairs ought to look at China threatening to remove investment from Zambia if the candidate who demanded better working conditions in Chinese-run mines was elected president, or the situation in Chad, where the Chinese government pressured the Chadian government to change its foreign policies towards Sudan and Taiwan in exchange for China cutting off the supply of Chinese-made weapons to anti-government rebels.

  30. @Matthew – re: polarization… yeah. Sigh. One world, one dream my ass.

    Re: The pruned comments – it’s my policy to allow all but spam to remain. Yesterday we received a flood of comments from different names all saying essentially the same argument – but IPs never lie. So, they’ve been canned.

  31. Well suffice it to say that all countries act in their own interest or as expression of their ideals. But the degree to which they act on this principle differs considerably. I would like to bring up the examples of Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and Serbia and how the sole super-power of our times created great friction and animosity in those regions by extending its meddlesome hands. But I gather that would carry us further from the topic of the blog and would risk creating further “polarization”.

    In addition, it would be fair to say that the examples mentioned above either of Gambia or Chad (pending verification of the truth value of such claims) do not represent cases where those countries are constantly tarnished and demonized by China in its national, political, media and diplomatic discourses. But that is precisely what China is going through, courtesy of certain Western powers.

  32. @yinbin

    I think Matt’s point was noting China is beginning the “normal” course of an emerging power–interference in internal affairs of other nations–not about tarnishing or demonization.

  33. The anti-xinhua is rather well, childish, should I say. To begin with few people actually believe in the kind of opinion generated by xinhua. I know I don’t, as a Chinese national myself.

    From this I would like to briefly extend to a larger problem bedeviling the official Chinese media, which is that they are rather clueless as far as packaging of their reports is concerned, which seriously compromises the already low level of their credibility. This is especially so in the English reports they deliver, which are often written in heavily opinionated language with a presumptuous and censorious tone that characterizes communist propaganda discourse. This style would only serve to diminish its credibility as far as English-speaking audiences are concerned. Not sure to what degree you guys would agree to this.

    In Straits Times (a Singapore daily)’s recent editorial titled “China’s recurring PR nightmare” (not freely available online), has the following comment to make:

    “The archaic language and methods Beijing uses to deliver its message often make things worse.

    For example, in the aftermath of the Tibetan unrest, China’s official Xinhua news agency unleashed a series of harshly worded commentaries slamming the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. The English-language articles were clearly targeted at an international audience, for similar ones did not appear in Chinese.

    Here is a sampling of Xinhua’s diatribe (no other word is possible):

    ‘From flat denials to completely false accusations, Dalai tried to wash itself (sic) of brutal violence, which was his orchestration, now he is ready to quit. What a drama!’

    ‘This impudent politician did not show any sign of shame when he disassociated himself from the conspiracy as an innocent monk.’

    ‘The Dalai Lama’s hypocrisy has put the power of his religion at stake, but he cannot cheat all the people all of the time. Buddhism is no harbour for separatism. All in all, it’s China’s Tibet, now and forever.’

    Tibet’s top official Zhang Qingli went a step further this week by describing the Dalai Lama as a ‘devil with the face of a man and the heart of a beast’.

    Observers say such language is way too crude for an international audience. ‘The accusations and language are way over the top for the outside world and will only encourage more foreigners to really consider boycotting the Olympics,’ said Dr David Zweig, director of the Hong Kong-based Centre on China’s Transnational Relations”.

    I really hope they could start to improve on this and cut on the overly opinionated part. I sometimes wonder what those editors in xinhua or China Daily are doing, writing reports that invariably fail to convince its readership. What a useless and counter-productive thing they are doing. Hope they can improve in this regard…

    What do you guys think? Just curious. Do you not believe in say China Daily because it is government-controlled media or is it also because of the bad editorial style?

  34. @Ryan: I caught the record of the spammy comments through my subscription mail. Annoying stuff, that.

    @Demerzel, yinbin: My source for the Zambia story comes from press accounts and from stories from Zambians here in China. Obviously, the Zambians’ personal accounts may be hearsay, but the press accounts are pretty easy to Google for:

    Here’s a Telegraph backgrounder on Zambian resentment towards Chinese.

    Here’s a Foreign Policy Passport run-down on the election issues and Chinese involvement in Zambian affairs.

    China-in-Chad stories are also easy to Google for, and the Chinese FDI as well as intrigue in North-Central Africa is the subject of a great documentary called Battle for Oil, which can be downloaded, rented, or found (in segments) on Youtube.

    Finally, Demerzel already made my point for me: imagine if the US said that it would pull all investment out of China if the Chinese government picked leaders the US didn’t like. China would deem this “interference in Chinese affairs,” would it not? Similarly, imagine if US weapons wound up in the hands of Xinjiang separatists, China would deem this outside interference, would it not?

    But China is a great power and an emerging superpower, and this is what powers do. Let’s not be coy and pretend that China doesn’t use FDI or military to manipulate the politics of other countries to China’s benefit. The US does it, France does it, Russia does it, Japan does it, and insomuch as China is a major state in the international system, China does it. The main difference is between the way the US throws its weight around and the way China massages situations: in this comparison, China looks much better than the US to most of the world.

  35. These are growing pains.

    If China wants to join the world community and continues to remain so nontransparent in the media sector, this is what is going to happen. If you do not allow access, they are going to write stories whether you like it or not.

    The US and the UK get a lot of flak for their deeds in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, but they still remain well reported. There are daily images of the war in Iraq from CNN and Al-jazeera depending on the point of view you subscribe to. Furthermore, most westerners do not freak out at every news story that does not support their party line

    I in no way condone the actions of the separatists, but until media is given full freedom to report in the aforesaid area, it will never change.

    @yinbin

    China Daily, CCTV9, and the press conferences they give in Beijing are horrendous because of the language they use. The language is taught from grade school and as someone that can read Chinese I also see this language plastered all over this country. It is not a friendly language, nor is it welcoming. I think in that way the Straits Times is spot on. The SCMP has pointed out the same thing on several occasions.

    As a lecturer I have been in contact with this kind of language for several years and still cannot totally get used to it. Some say it is the translation, but Chinese politics are a bit nationalistic and the Chinese lexicon for political topics is still 30-40 years old.

    You say you are a Chinese national, what does that mean exactly? You say that no Chinese believe their media, but let us not forget that at least 60% of Chinese are rural peasants. I’ve seen a figure that 5% of Chinese attend university.

    I suspect you are abroad or reasonably well educated and have taken an interested in international affairs. I would say you are a minority in this

  36. China right now actually is in a painful transform stage, a average GDP $2000. People argued if successed, it will transform to the Europe, if failed, goes to Lati-America. The politics structure is definitely far from good right now. But it is on a right track, even the speed is not as fast as the economics grows. What I believe after the GDP (green GDP) beyond $5000 (most people get better education), the political model will be more easily to transform at that time, there will be less risk the whole country split. Again, who really care about Chinese human rights give China some time and understanding.
    Sure, because of media control in China, it is hard to hear different voices, but thanks to the WWW, things got better, in lots of online forums, people could freely complain the government, news block (except discuss the sensitive issues like Tiananmen Square, etc). Lots of cruption crimes, unfair treatment to farmers and exposed there, and then solved, even I know there are lots of not yet.
    @Sean
    The national control media in China is just like a old person, trust me, there are more people in China than you thought know that the CCTV is not a only a media, but also a propaganda tool. A example, this is sentence is popular right now in China, “don’t be too CCTV”. But now changed to “don’t be too CNN”. That is why people always thought all western media are nutrual. Too much expectation make them too disappointed this time. Western media are not nutrual but free and have different voices to let people judge. Even now if only one meida I have to believe, I will choose CNN. What lots of Chinese really disappoint are in the last two weeks, all western media only have one voice, with prejudice. Everyday, if there is a nutural comments, or news, it will cheer me up.
    @Matt
    I have some Irani and African friends, their comments on their country also different from the images western media portrayed.
    Deeply in normal Chinese, I think there is also prejudice on western countries, the painful two centries make people not trust western, even the criticism is really good and helpful. We always believe the Change of China must be made by Chinese themselves, it have to be, and the change is happening.
    30 years, the Chinese people’ thought is changing less than the economics, but after 1,2 generation, it will be much more better.I like to discuss here because people here could discuss rationally.

  37. Avatar of

    As OP on this – just wanted to say I agree Sean, great points from both Hao and Yinbin. For two (I’m assuming) Chinese to join this rather loaded-with-Laowai forum and voice poignant and thought provoking conversation in their second language adds a lot to the variety of this thread.

  38. Pingback: Sports + Politics = No French Bread | Lost Laowai China Blog

  39. How can CNN allow their reporters to insult the Chinese people and their leaders. They obviously condone the practice as this is not the first time this type of malicious and insulting remarks about Chinese people have been broadcast by CNN. Since CNN is the one who started it.. LET THE GAMES BEGIN. USA leaders are really the STUPIDEST in the world, look at what they did in Iraq..look at the state of the US economy and the USD, and Americans who voted for these leaders must be have similar IQ or worse.

    Boycott all companies that advertise on CNN. Dont buy their products or do any business with the companies who advertise on CNN. Write to these companies to stop their advertisements on CNN until CNN stops this racist, malicious and irresponsible behaviour and broadcast a public apology on CNN prime time to all the Chinese people in the world.

  40. CJ, it’s called free speech. You’re right that market pressure is a good way to punish CNN when it displeases you, but don’t look ignorant by saying “How can they do this?”

  41. I’ll also add that these servers are US-based – and for a reason. Despite the majority of this site’s users being located in China (or at least Asia), having the servers in the US assures we can all say what we want to say and not be subjected to forced censorship.

    We may not agree with Western media’s biased coverage of this or that, but it is Western politics that allow us the freedom to debate it.

  42. I am a American Born Chinese and I’m currently defending China!!! This is so unfair…i’ll be posting the truth every where now!

  43. Good point Ryan :)
    It’s true, freedom of speech and expression is much better protected in the West than it is in China.
    I sincerely hope that the Chinese society will progress to the point where such freedoms will be available to Chinese citizens as well.

  44. chinese need to fight for a better government that cares about them and thier neibours as well as hold a moral standad.

    • Ryan, are you aware the the two photographs presented above are not the same? I encourage you to try to splice or merge them. It is clear that a) they are two separate pictures or b) [in my opinion] a doctored version of the original.

      • I would respectfully argue it’s not. Look at both pictures, neither civilian changes position or stance, yet the smoke is able to rise by about 2 or 3 metres. Try to merge these two picture into one and you may see my argument.

        • Avatar of

          I can definitely see why it appears that way, but it’s really nothing more than the way it was cropped and scaled. You can’t merge them because the photos aren’t exactly the same size — as they would have been when originally taken. The photo on the left is slightly smaller than the one on the right. You can see from this quick splice and merge that I’ve done that they are definitely the same image.

          The lighter overlay portrait-shaped rectangle is a chunk of the left-hand photograph from the image above — overlaid on the right at 72% transparency. All I needed to do to make it line up perfectly was to upscale it by a couple of percent (maintaining the aspect ratio). Sharp eye for noticing the size difference in the source images, but a bit inconsequential I think, as the point is that the media outlets that showed these images intentionally cropped them a specific way to remove aspects of the image that tell a different story — scale is less important than crop.

      • Yes I think I see your point there Ryan, although I’m possibly not explaining my argument as well as I would like. I have provided my splice of the two photos added together, my point being that if the above is the exact same picture it will make one continuous image:

        http://i1212.photobucket.com/albums/cc456/aftereffect1/Photo2Merge-1.jpg?t=1311261116

        As you can see, the bottom half of the picture is purely symmetrical. A perfect match, however the top half of the image suddenly (almost instantly) becomes dis-jointed, suggesting that not only has one of the pictures been cropped but possibly even Photoshopped or ‘tampered with’ in some way (observe the power line at the top of the split within the image).

        In fact, as you mentioned, the two pictures are off-centre, something that should certainly not happen if it is the same photograph (unless the two are a crop of an even larger image? In which case there should still be no difference in the light apeture as observed). Here is a my merge with the borders of each picture remaining to highlight the asymmetry.

        http://i1212.photobucket.com/albums/cc456/aftereffect1/Photo3Merge_with_border.jpg

        I must stress that I came across this anomaly as I am investigating the impartiality of Western media and thus don’t have a side, I purely want to get to bottom of this based on the furor this picture first caused so I can come to a conclusion myself. I suspect that the image above is two ‘snapshots’ in quick succesion of the same image, literally taken within milliseconds of one-another.

        Andrew

        • Avatar of

          Hi Andrew, I think I understand your argument, I just don’t think it has much weight or validity. Nothing personal or anything (this is all just an exercise in graphics for me, which as a graphic designer, is interesting). It’s definitely possible for them to be two in a sequence of fast taken shots; though with so much movement in the frame, even with a high-speed camera you’d be hard pressed not to have more variation when you appropriately scale the images and overlay them.

          That said, of course they’re ‘photoshopped’ — or digitally manipulated. Every photo that ever makes it into print or online would be processed in a number of ways — contrast adjusted, lighting fixed, cropping, scaling, etc. — that’s what the photo editor’s job is, as it is also his/her job to decide on the cropping to use. If that image is then reused by a different media outlet, it could potentially be reprocessed again in a number of ways. The integrity of an image isn’t decided by its processing, nor not usually even its cropping, but by whether or not the subject matter is true to the events — which is (or rather was) the debate with these two images. The entire point of the discussion around the photo is how the media outlet cropped the photo to display specific elements, not whether or not it was touched by digital photo manipulation. The photo on the left is simply a slightly scaled down (resized) version of the photo on the right, cropped differently. Though there is a chance that we’re looking at two photos taken microseconds apart (which I doubt, but for the sake of argument), that wouldn’t change the overall composition of the photo (fire, trucks, stone throwers). And whether or not a media outlet adjusts the contrast, does a bit of colour correction or levels adjustment, it doesn’t change the overlying argument about the photos being cropped to display drastically different scenes.

          And again, as my exercise with the image yesterday showed, they completely line up — there’s no break in the powerlines at all when you upscale the photo on the left by a few percent and then overlay. To better illustrate this, here is another image. If you wish to repeat this, simply:

          Take the image from the blog post above. Crop out the two image on either side of the red separating bar and insert them on two separate layers in your graphics program.
          With the left image on top, reduce its transparency to 80% and increase the entire layer’s size (both X and Y) by 2.9% (from 100% to 102.9%).
          Realign the top layer so it is matched with the layer below.

          If you toggle the top layer’s visibility on and off after that you will see that the only variance is in the quality of the two images themselves — a product of multiple JPEG compressions and that these two (cropped and processed) images that were spliced together for the example would have had to have come from different sources.

          You said: “… unless the two are a crop of an even larger image” — yes, that’s absolutely true. Obviously both of these images are a crop from a larger image, as neither single image displays all three elements (fire, trucks, rock throwers). The original image would have had all three. It was then taken and cropped into these two images, with the image on the left scaled slightly down (either when the comparative image above was created, or by the source of that cropped image).

  45. Very interesting, I think seeing your new splice certainly brings it across as more authentic, however I would prefer to see it in this form without any prior editing. Your point concerning different media outlets is certainly a good one, in which case I would be thoroughly appreciative if you could provide the original untouched photo?

    The reason a difference in the two photographs is so important is because there was a noted distinction between the news agency’s covering up civil unrest and property damage (for obvious reasons) and if the left image has been doctored then (depending on ‘which side’ doctored it and how) it could be very significant to the impartiality of that media (and thus the next step of my writing). In regards to the image being one piece, the reason I am sceptical (of the original source of the photo and not yourself) is because I got in touch with Mr.Richard Quindry. As a graphic designer you may know he is a well respected Photoshop expert, his reply was;

    “I believe that two photos were taken in rapid succession from approximately the same position…I do not believe that they are crops from the same photo. To be sure about anything I’d need to see the original hi-res raw file.”

    The reason this is significant is that 50%of the active elements (either the stone throwers or the burning car) may not have even been in the original picture presented to the news agency, meaning one aspect of it would not have been intentionally cropped. Although granted, it is definitely a tiny detail in the grand scheme of things, it is a distinction that I am certain should be clarified in the interest of fairness.

    • Avatar of

      I don’t know Richard, but he’s absolutely right that seeing the original source (in high-res RAW format) would make telling if it is two photos cropped from the same image, or just two images from the same camera/time. I think I’ve illustrated pretty clearly though that Mr. Quindry might be wrong about them not being the same image. I’m willing to bet he simply eyeballed it, and upon closer examination (even with just the poor quality images from the OP) he would agree that it is simply a slight scaling difference — common in digital editing.

      As for the original photo — the post above was just commentary on Anti-CNN and CNN — I have no connection to either organization, and so have no idea where either got the photos used in their respective coverage.

  46. Dear Ryan,

    I have located the image proving that the photographs on this report were edited (obviously not by yourself). Here is the original photo’s from which they were spliced. The original came from the Pakistani Defence Ministry Website:

    http://i1212.photobucket.com/albums/cc456/aftereffect1/Original.jpg?t=1311602895

    And here is the site they are located on: (http://www.forum.pakistanidefence.com/lofiversion/index.php/t74001-0.html).

    If you could tell me where you found the above images I would be eternally and immensely grateful (so I can locate another news agency falsely doctoring images).

    Regardless, this page has been a great help in revealing some of the mistakes/distortions (depending on your viewpoint) of CNN. Thank very much for maintaining an impartial standpoint.

    Andrew

    • Avatar of

      Hey Andrew, the spliced image (two images side by side) in the post above came from ANTI-CNN site, which in the years since this post seems to have been shut down.

      I went to the link you sent above (to this image), but it doesn’t seem to show anything relevant to the debate about the images. The image, while clearly taken in the same place at approximately the same time (and likely by the same photographer), is not involved in either of the images in the set of images in the post above. The people in the shot, the flames on the car — none of it line up with either of the cropped/spliced images in the OP.

      I’m also pretty sure the original source wasn’t pakistanidefence.com forum, rather the images were likely re-posted there (without authorization of the photographer who originally sold them to CNN). The only other image on there (this image), which is in line with the images in the OP, is simply a closer crop of the right-hand image in the OP (you can see that the original image was taken and cropped tighter on the subjects.

      What I did just realize, and what I hope wasn’t part of the confusion in all of this, is that the image in the OP is captioned as saying that the right-hand side image is the “full image” — which it clearly isn’t. The full image would have been an image showing (from left to right) the car fire, the guy with the briefcase, the trucks, the guy mid-run, the stone throwers, the golden-bar barrier and the dude on the bicycle. I’ve yet to see that full image, but I imagine it exists somewhere though. I’m not sure how relevant the original image is though, as the debate is about the ethics of CNN using the photo (on the left) that cropped the stone throwers out of the image.

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