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U.S. media, you chicken shit. We dare you.


Back in February 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Asia. She was interviewed and featured on the popular “Yang Lan One on One” television program in China (杨澜访谈录—希拉里). While this program was aired in Chinese, the interview was actually conducted in English with Chinese subtitles. I highly encourage you to watch it even if you do not understand Chinese. Afterwards, you will realize:

1. Hillary Clinton is given chance to fully articulate the U.S. perspectives on many issues and without discrediting commentary.
2. The program projects Clinton respectfully as a mother, a leader, and a real human being.

I have a simple challenge to the U.S. media: do a similar program on any top Chinese leader and air it in the U.S. while accomplishing 1 and 2. If they lack imagination on who to pick, I’ll recommend Wu Yi (吴仪), one of the four vice premiers of the State Council of China.

Why haven’t we seen such a program on a Chinese leader in a mainstream television program in the U.S.? Any program dare to show the Chinese perspectives unfiltered? What are they afraid of?

So, how about it, U.S. media? You chicken shit. We dare you.

  1. June 17th, 2010 at 18:39 | #1

    I’ve already seen this kind of thing twice in the U.S. media. Once was when Fareed Zakaria interviewed Wen Jiabao around the Olympics, explicitly without commentary. Not characterizing Wen’s statements was a prerequisite for the interview, apparently. The only “commentary” Zakaria gave was some complimentary statements about Wen being a nice guy, the rest was just long quotes from Wen.

    The second time was when Evan Osnos interviewed one of the founders of anti-cnn.com. While it wasn’t 100% free from commentary, at the time it was held up as an example of good American China-focused reportage that allowed the subject the space and freedom to speak for themselves, without being characterized by the reporter. I’m too lazy to find the links, but it shouldn’t be hard.

    I also just now remembered, I forget what major U.S. newspaper it was (maybe the NYT?), but they were “dared” to print an unedited essay from some Chinese academic, with its 100% unfiltered pro-China stance, and they did.

    Actually I have so many issues with the U.S. media (unrelated to China) that I don’t like appearing to defend it, but your post did bring these three examples to mind.

  2. June 18th, 2010 at 01:59 | #2

    @Joel,

    Thanks and I’m glad you brought up these specific instances. The instances you have cited do not even come close.

    a. The Wen Jiabao interview was conducted by CNN’s Zakaria back in September 28, 2008:
    Transcript here:
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0809/28/fzgps.01.html
    Video here:
    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2009/01/14/gps.wen.jiabao.intv.cnn?iref=videosearch

    BUT, you probably also know that Zakaria’s program airs 10am and 1pm EST on Saturdays, which meant the interview got basically no viewership. Whereas, CNN had programs like Lou Dobbs Tonight spewing sinophobia on a daily basis during prime time (7PM ET). You must have heard of Jack Cafferty too.

    For the Zakaria interview, U.S. media deserves a little bit of credit for my point #1.

    b. The Evan Osnos article in the New Yorker – “Angry Youth.” buxi back in 2008 had made a post about that article and he said:

    If the facts and people presented in this article became recognizable in the West, this blog would (almost) have no reason to exist.

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2008/07/new-yorker-angry-china-must-read/

    The paper has 1 million subscribers. Like the Zakaria program, this is hardly mainstream.

    The facts and people in that Osnos article are NOT recognizable in the West. And that’s the reason we continue to blog.

  3. Jack
    June 22nd, 2010 at 01:59 | #3

    Western media is manipulative and often tells lies and misinformation about China and Chinese people.

  4. 2010
    June 26th, 2010 at 16:34 | #4

    Not only China, Jack

    http://www.johnpilger.com.

  5. Dragan
    July 9th, 2010 at 23:16 | #5

    HI,

    as Joel mentioned above , actually Zakaria’s interview of Wen Jiabao counts – it was almost apologetical in avoiding confrontation, as far as I remember, even though it touched on many important issues…. not good piece of journalism, but certainly satsifies your points 1 and 2. also, if I remember correctly, the request from Wen Jiabao was that his answers would not be edited and that was respected – again it reponds to your no.1

    My impression is that the western media, at least that I read and watch, are certainly much more balanced now then few years ago.

  6. Dragan
    July 9th, 2010 at 23:17 | #6

    and, by the way, Wu Yi has retired from the post of the vicepremier 2 yrs ago

  7. Shijie Ren
    July 17th, 2010 at 05:00 | #7

    yinyang, you’re tossing out a red herring. The problem is not in the Western media’s inability or unwillingness to present a “human” picture of Chinese leaders. It is that the Chinese system does not allow Chinese leaders to be seen as “human” – with the notable exception (in recent times, and only partly) of “Ye Ye Wen”. For instance, why don’t we see any reportage – IN THE CHINESE MEDIA – about the Chinese top leaders as family men. Why don’t we know anything about what kind of men they are – other than the wooden waxworks they are projected as in the official media. And if the Chinese media cannot gain that kind of access, how can the Western media penetrate the layers of protocol and logistical Great Walls erected around the leaders? Your dare – to the “chicken shit” media – is actually directed at the Chinese media. Chew on it!

  8. July 17th, 2010 at 22:06 | #8

    @Shijie Ren

    First, you should compare Yang Lan’s interview / program of Hillary Clinton against CNN’s Zakaria interviewing Wen. I would say the former is “human” and the latter is “wooden waxworks.”

    You said: “And if the Chinese media cannot gain that kind of access, how can the Western media penetrate the layers of protocol and logistical Great Walls erected around the leaders?”

    Just what do you think is “that kind of access” Yang Lan got from Clinton that you think the Western media can’t get from the Chinese leaders?

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