We know too little about China, and will soon know a little less. Beijing is kicking out three excellent reporters, in the first direct expulsion since 1998. Officials said the trio’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, had refused to apologise for a headline on an opinion piece about the coronavirus outbreak: “China is the real sick man of Asia.”
The headline was offensive to many people, including staff at the paper. Not only does the phrase date from the era when foreign powers were carving up China, but it draws upon racist beliefs that Asian people carried and spread diseases, which reverberate and fuel bigotry even now. It was also insensitive given the hundreds killed and thousands sickened by the virus.
But its link to the expulsions should not be taken at face value. Reporters have nothing to do with comment pieces, and this was written and edited outside China. The journalists – Chao Deng, Josh Chin and Philip Wen – have produced important coverage, including on the horrific treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Wen also wrote about an Australian investigation into a relative of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping; his co-author was refused a visa renewal last year – one of several reporters forced out that way in recent years.
Strikingly, the decision was announced one day after the US said it was designating five media outlets as operatives of the Chinese state. (Not only are they part of the propaganda apparatus, but staff at the news agency Xinhua, for example, produce reports reserved for senior leaders in addition to regular coverage.) Though the move is primarily symbolic, many had predicted that Beijing might act in response.
Correspondents in China already face harassment and surveillance, and know that their Chinese colleagues and sources are at much graver risk of retaliation. The expulsions are a clear attempt to intimidate foreign media and shape reporting and commentary done far beyond China’s borders. As news broke of the WSJ expulsions, Chinese diplomats were pressuring Nepalese media over a coronavirus commentary and illustration.
Back at home, the Chinese journalists who have produced outstanding coverage of the epidemic face increasing curbs. On the same day that Beijing announced the WSJ expulsions, a well-established Chinese blog vanished; its last article was reportedly titled “Chinese are all paying the price for the death of media”. Meanwhile, Wuhan’s new party secretary said officials would be held responsible “if a single new case is found” – a remark supposed to encourage thoroughness, but giving cadres good reason to conceal any further infections.
Since the WSJ headline caused real anger in China, the expulsions may help to divert growing rage at the official handling of the outbreak towards foreigners. But reliable, detailed and humane coverage – of the kind that Deng, one of those expelled, has been producing from Wuhan – is in the interests of the public as a whole, and Chinese citizens most of all.
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Must admit if the UK was like China it would clamp down on newspapers the print nothing but Pro- Eu propaganda, bet your glad that the Guardian is not in China.
We do not needs lies coming from China about the virus. China will never be forgiven. Luckily I have not a Huawei phone otherwise this would not be posted.
I don’t doubt that in an apparent move to be seen by its own people as coming down hard on the WSJ for this editorial, Xi is in fact removing journalists who have been a thorn in his side and have shone light on places that he would have preferred to remain dark…
but the real tragedy is that in the face of a disease that is still most likely to spread worldwide in the next few months and with the ability to cause untold suffering and loss of life across the Planet…. that the Countries of the World, their Leaders and the MSM in these Countries, are still firmly stuck in the role of gaming this for narrow political advantage…. and not working resolutely together to do all we possibly can to counteract this.
To be honest, this likely pandemic will be bad for all and terrible for very many, but not an existential threat but perhaps the worst aspect is the augers that this delivers on the likelihood of our being able to cooperate across the World, when we really are facing an existential threat, which may very well be happening in the definitely not too distant future.
None of this is new of course, but the West – which given the amount of trade it does with China might be expected to have at least some leverage – cares more for its endless supply of iphones and laptops than the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Uighurs incarcerated in Xinjiang.
We let them get too strong by giving them out technology and helping them build their economy. Historians will puzzle over why the West decided to commit suicide like this.
It’s following a pattern. It’s more or less inevitable.
Those brave reporters deal in facts that may ‘hurt the feelings of the Chinese people’ but facts about this contagion will help the Chinese and foreign scientists solve this problem.
The CCP has locked down millions of its own citizens to deal with the situation but complains about foreign countries closing their borders to prevent the ongoing spread of this damaging sickness ….
Brutal Communist Dictatorship acts like a Dictatorship who would’ve guessed !
China really needs a regime change ASAP.
Obviously, you don’t know the difference between Socialism and Communism.
debatable whether China can even be described as ‘communist’. It’s now second in the global league table (to the US) of home grown billionaires and far ahead of third placed India, while the workers meanwhile live in vast sprawling cities where the air is barely fit to breathe. I don’t think Marx would be too impressed.
No longer socialism. It’s an overused word but the best descriptor of this totalitarian, nationalist, mixed economy under government control is Fascism.
It does when you’ve been lying to the Chinese people for the past 70+ years. The truth hurts very much to the Chinese Communist Party.
National Conference cancelled because the top CCP officials are helping their communities, or was it cancelled because they are scared to death of catching the conovirus at a large gathering.