Home > Analysis, media > Reader westiseast’s claim of “zero balance whatsoever” in Chinese media

Reader westiseast’s claim of “zero balance whatsoever” in Chinese media

In the spirit of bridging understanding, reader westiseast responded to my request to give a quick analysis on why he thought there is “zero balance whatsoever” (refer to his original comment as it was a bit more nuanced) in the Chinese press. After all, we frequently criticize the Western press on this blog, it only seem fair we look at the Chinese press too.  To give this exercise a little bit more context, this was how I phrased my proposal:

Are you interested in doing this exercise – pick an article in the China Daily, Xinhua, or any mainstream Chinese media. Enlighten us why you think it has zero balance. I will publish it on this blog for all of our readers to see.

In this post, I have put the article cited by westiseast and his analysis side-by-side. I ask readers to open their minds.   Remember, we are strictly talking about balance.

Left column below is the Xinhua article carried on China Daily on February 5, 2012 about the Syria resolution vetoed by Russia and China.  On the right is westiseast’s analysis with my thoughts beneath his.  Regardless of your position on the veto, what do you think of the article in terms of balance?  Where do you agree or disagree with westiseast’s analysis?

Russia, China veto Syria draft resolution“Updated: 2012-02-05 06:57

(Xinhua)


UNITED NATIONS – Russia and China on Saturday vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution on Syria backing an Arab League plan which demands a regime change in the Middle East country, the second time since October 2011.The draft resolution, tabled by Morocco and backed by the United States and European powers, received 13 votes in favor.In order to be adopted, a draft resolution needs nine votes in favor and no veto by any of the five permanent members of the 15- nation council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Russia and China staged double veto on October 4, 2011 against a European draft resolution, which meant to strongly condemn “the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities” and threatened punitive measures against the Middle East country.

The unadopted draft “fully supports” the January 22 Arab League decision “to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system … including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.”

The Arab League plan contains demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down to pave the way for a new national unity government and national elections in the Middle East country.

Russia and China have voiced their strong opposition to forced regime change in Syria.

Russia warned some countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, saying that the international community should prevent a replay of the Libya model, in which NATO military action help topple the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi.

Hours before the Security Council entered into a scheduled meeting on Saturday, with Western powers pushing for a council vote on the draft, Russia insisted that the document be amended.

“We circulated an amended resolution which aims to fix two basic problems …(first), the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and second, measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also armed groups,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, adding that these two issues are “of crucial importance” from the view of Russia.

French and US ambassadors said after the council vote that they were angry with what they called the inaction of the Security Council to address the current situation of Syria, which has been plunged into a political crisis since March 2011.

 

westiseast’s Analysis below:

So this is the straight news reporting. It focuses on the Russian and Chinese side of the story exclusively, with some relatively emphatic writing not contained in quotes or given as opinion – eg. “meddling”. It doesn’t mention any of the violence or killing going on in Syria right now at all, but instead repeatedly uses the words “regime change” and “forced regime change” to describe the motivation of the bill (framing this whole situation as stable country being forced into regime change, instead of an unstable country that is already collapsing). There’s no quotes from European sources, Arab league members, Syrians on the ground, or any pro-resolution people at all, whether that’s to express support for the resolution, or just in criticism of Russia/China. Throughout the piece, the resolution is repeatedly framed as if its a ‘Western’ bill, raising the spectre of the usual bogeyman (‘the imperial powers’) – despite its support from all members of the temporary security council (India, South Africa, Pakistan, Colombia, Germany, Azerbaijan, Togo…) AND the Arab League.

 

I agree with westiseast’s point that the Xinhua article gave no coverage of the violence and killing going on in Syria.  Though to be fair, the article neither covered the government side nor the opposition’s side.

I also agree that the article played down the fact that Russia and China were the only two countries that voted ‘no’ – as oppose to the rest of the 15-nation council voted ‘yes.’  Unlike the Libya case, BRICS + Germany actually abstained.  The facts are there though for readers to piece them together.

Internationally speaking, this resolution actually has much wider support than Libya’s case.

Where I disagree is as follows:

The article specifically stated it an Arab League + European resolution. The article didn’t single out the ‘West.’

President Obama and the Arab League have publicly stated they want a regime change.  Given what we saw happened to Libya (as the article has spelled out), it is logical to conclude the purpose of the resolution is the same.  It was written in the resolution!  However, that clause was changed in the last minute.  The final draft still assigned all blame to the Syrian government and none to the opposition side.

It is clear that the Xinhua article implicitly don’t believe acceptable foreign countries meddling in another country’s civil war. Assigning all blame to the Syrian government legitimizes the actions (including violence) of the opposition, and as the Chinese ambassador to the U.N. have already said, such action only further escalates the conflict. The responsible action of the international community is to condemn violence on both sides and get the two sides to negotiate.

According to Wikipedia.org, Wikileaks have revealed the U.S. have secretly funded political opposition inside and outside of Syria since 2006. Given the support from the Arab League and Western governments against the current Syrian government, it is not surprising they are fighting for their survival against opposition. Again, they only need to look at Libya.

Hence, China clamps down on people like Liu Xiaobo and Hu Jia for taking money from the likes of NED. If not, such political oppositions can escalate and potentially become violent as in Syria’s case.

Anyways, on the strict issue of balance, I must say, the article is arguing the Chinese foreign policy position (though I happen to agree with). For the Western audience, I can see how they view the article as having lack balance.

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  1. February 9th, 2012 at 01:07 | #2

    It is difficult to condemn Xinhua for lack of balance given that

    A) The piece is so short, and
    B) The pro-boycott side’s media coverage outweighs the Russia/China side’s coverage by 99:1.

    Furthermore, westieast seems to accept (from the people who gave us WMD) the assertions of Syrian government misbehavior. The 160-person Arab League inspection team found no evidence for these accusations.

  2. dan
    February 9th, 2012 at 02:06 | #3

    The Chinese press has indeed learned a lot from “the Western press”.
    It is true that a theme for which they have more sympathy would be brought in just the same way by “our” press.

    The difference beeing that “Western press” is a very broad concept and when I use it, I refer to the majority of the mass media.
    In addition, there exist, in each country, also quality newspapers, alternative media and an internet and blogosphere with an unbridled newsflow.
    That makes that I, from my living room in Brussels, can track what happens every day in Syria, receive analyses about the causes of this conflict, can see what are the positions of the various parties in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, but also in Turkey, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Israel, Egypt, Libya and Iraq …
    So did I get, till now, more than a dozen hypothesis why Russia and China used their veto…
    So I know why South Africa, which abstained on the Libyan vote, now agreed. This thanks to the Southafrican press and to the text of the proposed resolution.
    And so I agree that they (like the other 12 members of the Security Council) are right.
    So I could monitor how each neighbour of Syria (also Turkey, till recent Syria’s most friendly neighbour) were forced to distance themselves from Assad …
    And I still remember well how less than one year ago Hillary Clinton said: : “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”
    And how, after long hesitation and only 4 month ago, she eventually changed her mind on november 18, 2011 and said that she awoke to the fact” that Bashar al-Assad’s so-called reformist attitudes were baseless”.
    I would like that everyone, anywhere in the world, had access to such news flows who enable him to form well informed opinions on such conflicts.
    From someone who once walked in the old historic city centre of Hama , and noticed that it was a Disneyland, where every house, every wall, every street stone was brand new, because of reasons who could not be explained by the accompanying state guide ….

  3. LOLZ
    February 9th, 2012 at 06:30 | #4

    Like the Western reporting of Libya, I think the Western media left most of us completely clueless about the opposition in Syria other than that the opposition is a force of super goodwill. I seriously doubt that. As the case with Libya, I predict that the Western media will continue to ignore any war atrocities committed by the opposition group until long after Al-Assad is gone.

    I don’t get people who try to defend Western media’s bias by pointing out Chinese media’s bias though. The Chinese media doesn’t pretend to be free of bias, the Western media does. This misplacement of confidence in western media has lead many Western people think they know more about China than the Chinese in China, which is laughable. Even if westiseast proves that Chinese media is biased this doesn’t make the Western media any less biased. If westiseast actually cares about the truth he would be supporting efforts to eliminate Western media’s bias just as he enjoys condemning Chinese media’s bias. That is clearly not the case.

  4. raffiaflower
    February 9th, 2012 at 08:25 | #5

    “less than one year ago Hillary Clinton said: : “Many…members of Congress … who have gone to Syria in recent months….believe he’s a reformer.”

    A year in politics is a very long time. Obama the Peace laureate who pledged `yes we can’ (change) took less than that time after receiving his Nobel to bomb Afghanistan.
    A year ago before he was killed like an animal, the `brutal dictator’ Gaddafi was still in an uneasy truce with the main imperialist nations; Libyans hadn’t been bombed in the name of `humanitarian intervention’ so that Western corporations could have their oil on the cheap.

    Now with Libya subjugated, the West has Iran in its cross-hairs, but Syria happens to be in the line of fire. By all the action(s) it has taken, the US and its allies would settle for nothing less than another regime change. But all this was a year or so ago, just as the Arab Spring spread unexpectedly like a prairie fire.

  5. February 9th, 2012 at 18:25 | #6

    From what I have seen and read of official Chinese media, they are without a doubt, far more balanced, objective, fair, nuanced and accurate than the western press. Not a doubt.

  6. zack
    February 9th, 2012 at 22:26 | #7

    @melektaus
    considering that the CCTV/Xinhua can afford to be balanced vis-a-vis middle eastern/european politics, they’re a far, far more reliable source than any of the usual western suspects, including the mouthpiece of the Qatari government: Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Vanilla. how can they afford to be balanced? cuz they havent really got a massive stake in any particular one actor-considering China trades and deals with everybody- whereas it’s obvious where Qatar’s interests lie

  7. Charles Liu
    February 10th, 2012 at 09:49 | #8

    Wouldn’t a better comparison for Xinhua be Freedom House PR, VOA, RFA? I would suggest the truth is somewhere in between. There is a large and growing private media in China. Baidu these key words, you’ll see a larger China media landscape that has reported on Syria’s violent conflict evolving in to an explosive civil war:

    叙利亚 爆发 内战

    For those needing a little help, the 3 terms are “Syria” “explosive” “civil war”.

  8. February 10th, 2012 at 10:41 | #9

    I should add, in the foreign policy establishment, I believe there is an understanding that media reflects a nation state’s foreign policy. How balanced or lack of balance reflects how the elites wish to project their sense of fairness towards the world.

    While taking a foreign policy course in college (a long long time ago), I recall a lecture on that topic. The lecture’s overall context was about media demonizing foreign nation states while glorifying its own.

    So, at the present day, U.S.-led West is very interested in toppling foreign governments it doesn’t like while China believes that is wrong.

    That’s the dividing line between the Chinese press and the Western press.

  9. LOLZ
    February 11th, 2012 at 23:41 | #10

    yinyang :
    I should add, in the foreign policy establishment, I believe there is an understanding that media reflects a nation state’s foreign policy. How balanced or lack of balance reflects how the elites wish to project their sense of fairness towards the world.

    This is one of the truths which many people simply don’t get or won’t admit. While the Western media’s local coverage is generally fair and balanced, the international coverage on conflicts are typically extremely one sided. The Western media’s anti-China bias aside, its coverage of what’s happening in MidEast is pure government propaganda. If Chinese military had drones to bomb “suspected terrorists” and kill their entire families as they slept, as the US is doing in Afghanistan/Pakistan, you would bet that the Western media would be interviewing the group who are getting bombed first and portray them as freedom fighters. I thus find it extremely odd that almost none of the family members of the bombed “militants” are ever interviewed, or any efforts by the Western media to ascertain whether the suspected militants are really who they are. Western media has been largely accepting what Pentagon tells them as the truth, although you can easily argue that Pentagon and CIA are not any more honest than the Chinese government.

    Of course, when you bring this up to the supporters of the Western media, they will typically tell you how censored the Chinese media is, as if the censorship from the Chinese media somehow makes it okay for Western media to misinform.

  10. February 11th, 2012 at 23:54 | #11

    @LOLZ
    Agreed.

    I’d also add the U.S. is more tolerant of political opposition (dissidence at home), but that largely is because she has the largest military in the world and she can be very confident about her security. Nobody would dare to fund any pocket of independence movements within the U.S..

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