The Foxification of the Chinese Media?
December 22, 2010 1 Comment
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.
…(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