The Foxification of the Chinese Media?

In the 1990s, when Rupert Murdoch had high hopes of building a significant TV and print media business in China, News Corp put considerable efforts into helping the People’s Daily design and launch the paper’s online edition. It seems that the People’s Daily organization – which is the authoritative newspaper voice of the Communist Party – has continued to learn from the Master.

John Garnaut of the Sydney Morning Herald has published a very revealing interview with Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a fiercely nationalistic tabloid published by the People’s Daily that sells 1.5 million copies a day. While TV news in China is still quite stilted and staid, the newspaper and magazine world has become raucous and competitive. As long as the editors don’t go after the Party, powerful government agencies and state-owned-enterprises – or the property developers who fill their pages with advertising – China’s  editors have lots of running room. Foreign companies and foreign countries live in a free fire zone.

The Global Times has become the Fox News of China, a very profitable enterprise that attracts a loyal audience by playing on people’s fears and insecurities. I think it was New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff who coined the phrase “nationalism of resentment” to describe how Chinese propaganda in the 1990s was aimed at motivating Chinese people to stick together because the world was out to keep China down. The Olympics brought forth a more positive nationalistic message that celebrated China’s great accomplishments rather than stir-frying resentment. But in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and China’s discomfort with its sudden emergence as a global leader, the message has been drifting back to resentment and fear mongering.

What is undeniable is how profitable a business model built around “nationalism of resentment” can be. Fox News is estimated to earn $700 million in annual profits. It is expensive for a TV network to hire lots of reporters and editors and thoroughly cover the news. It is much more profitable to have a skeleton news gathering presence and instead draw large audiences with flamboyant and controversial figures like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck who courageously help unhappy and worried people focus their anger and fears.

The People’s Daily isn’t a profit center, but the Global Times is a money-spinner, according to Garnaut’s article.
A couple of years ago Premier Wen Jiabao said that the American media is too commercial, meaning that it was too focused on profits to the detriment of supporting the country’s development and political stability. If you watch cable news in the US today, he does have a point.

Maybe somebody should pass along that same message to the People’s Daily. 

Excerpt:

…(Hu Xijin) says he personally vets each story and usually writes the paper’s bellicose editorials. He has a particular talent for attracting commentaries from China’s more firebrand generals, including one this week who lamented ”we have not recovered the land looted by our neighbours”.

And he is every bit as uncompromising up close as he is in print.

”What you portray is a distorted China, a totalitarian, uncivilised country,” he says, from beneath forward-brushed hair, as we drink tea from paper cups in his office inside the vast People’s Daily compound. He says the Global Times ”represents the true heart of the ordinary Chinese people”, to which I ventured that Chinese people did not seem remotely as aggressively paranoid as his newspaper. He told me I was ”naive”, I lacked ”education and experience” and I was ”not qualified as a journalist”…

… The cocktail of aggression and conspiracy is a profitable one. Hu says he paid tens of millions of yuan in dividends and a further Yuan 53 million in taxes last year. In our interview he didn’t seem to care whether his missiles were aimed at me personally or my profession, my country or the wider Western world. Australia was too insignificant to lecture China: ”You are driving a cart and we are driving a truck.” Ditto for Japan, given its entire stock of highways was no greater than China could build in a single year. And the New York Times was ”full of lies”.

 The link: http://bit.ly/exs7iB

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About James McGregor
James McGregor is an American author, journalist and businessman who has lived in China for more than 25 years. Currently, he is chairman of APCO Worldwide, Greater China. A professional speaker and commentator who specializes in China’s business, politics and society, he regularly appears in the media to discuss China-related topics. McGregor is the author of the books "No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism" (2012) and "One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China" (2005). He also wrote the 2010 report "China’s Drive for ‘Indigenous Innovation’ – A Web of Industrial Policies." From 1987 to 1990 McGregor served as The Wall Street Journal’s bureau chief in Taiwan, and from 1990 to 1994 as the paper’s bureau chief in Mainland China. From 1994 to 2000, he was chief executive of Dow Jones & Company in China. After leaving Dow Jones, he was China managing partner for GIV Venture Partners, a $140 million venture capital fund specializing in the Chinese Internet and technology outsourcing. In 1996, McGregor was elected as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He also served for a decade as a governor of that organization. He is a member of the Atlantic Council, Council on Foreign Relations, National Committee on US-China Relations and International Council of the Asia Society. He serves on a variety of China-related advisory boards.

One Response to The Foxification of the Chinese Media?

  1. emerich says:

    Just started reading your blog and I’m a little surprised by your comments about Fox. Have you ever seen Keith Olberman or Chris Mathews, and if so, don’t you think they might, in your words, be “playing on people’s fears and insecurities”? Do you think there’s more protectionist, China-bashing sentiment on Fox than on NBC, ABC, et. al? John Stossel, to take one example, just did a show on the foolishness of protectionism and the benefits of free trade. Is that a wrong-headed view in your eyes?

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