Author Archives: Lu Fan

The view from China

By Lu Fan

Chinese media think that U.S. and South Korean media are inaccurately framing relations between China and North Korea as China acting as big brother to the North. This inaccurate framing results in an expectation that China will take an important role in controlling North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s called “China’s responsibility theory.”

The basis for reasons for the theory is:

  • Korea even pledged allegiance to some feudal dynasties in China in history
  • In 1950s, China sent troops to the Korean peninsula to support Pyongyang against the United States Army.
  • China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner. According to Observatory of Economic Complexity, 85 percent of North Korea’s imported commodities come from China.

However, this is not what Chinese government or its official media think. A commentary in Global Times on Sept. 7, a newspaper launched and published by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of Chinese Communist Party, said the influence China has on North Korea has been mistakenly exaggerated, and that playing a leading role in the Korean Peninsula issues is beyond China’s capability.

“North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapon is the result of the abnormal politics of the whole Northeastern Asian. North Korea itself and the U.S. are responsible for this result. Some Chinese overestimate the power of China…” However, a reader commented below the article: “Since China has chosen to let North Korea be independent on how to develop, then China has to accept the consequence of doing so.”

http://mil.huanqiu.com/observation/2017-09/11221915.html

Another commentary in this newspaper published in July said “the U.S. and South Korea always try to frame the complicated situation based on their own logic, ” so “China’s responsibility theory” prevails. The commentary also called for official guidance on public opinions to eliminate “China’s responsibility theory” as Chinese government usually guide and shape public opinion by publishing information and reporting on official media.

http://opinion.huanqiu.com/editorial/2017-07/11052395.html

A program called Chinese Perspective (Shendu Guoji) of CCTV, the state-run TV station in China, also made a similar point in March when South Korea and the U.S. were conducting joint military exercises. The program blamed the U.S. for forcing North Korea to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and later prepare for war.   The editor of the program said, “The more pressure the U.S. puts on North Korea, the more North Korea develops nuclear weapons. The Korean nuclear crisis has entered a vicious cycle,” and cited Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The cause and crux of the North Korean nuclear issue lies not with China, but with America. The nature of the North Korean nuclear issue is a North Korea/U.S. conflict… and the one who caused the problem should solve it.”

The editor of Chinese Perspective also says the current situation is a result of “extreme mutual distrust between the U.S. and North Korea.” The initiative to solve the problems is in the hand of the U.S., according to Teng Jianqun, director of the Institute of U.S. Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.   According to Teng, the U.S. wouldn’t sign the peace treaty because “it would not have the excuse to cause chaos, stir up trouble and create tensions” on the Korean peninsula.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npl2qo2uXVk

There were a few dissents to this consensus view. Qiu Zhenhai, an analyst of Hong Kong Phoenix TV Station, said on Sept. 7 that the U.S. and China need to take responsibility for solving the nuclear issue as they are the two largest economic powers in the world.

To respond to North Korea’s possessing and launching nuclear weapons, South Korea deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system. China has opposed deployment of Thadd in South Korea from the very beginning, saying it threatened the safety of China and Chinese people. China News Live, a program of Hong Kong Phoenix TV Station, reported that China regards North Korea developing nuclear weapons as extreme, but the deployment of Thaad is as extreme as North Korea because it threatens the peace of Korean Peninsula. Yang Xiyu, a member of China Institute of International Studies, said in an interview in China New Live that Thaad gives North Korea an excuse to launch missiles, which is a security threat to China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. as well as the Sino-U.S. cooperation on North Korea nuclear issue.

A commentary of Global Times in August refers the action of South Korea deploying Thaad as reckless and stupid because Thaad isn’t going to solve nuclear problem. It also says that Western countries always bear moral arrogance towards non-Western world, which needs to be restrained because the situation is not as simple as only NK did something wrong.

http://opinion.huanqiu.com/editorial/2017-08/11087006.html

Social media in—entertainment, fear and censorship

Before North Korea’s missile launch Sept. 3, Chinese social media users considered Kim Jung-un’s missile launch a threat only in words. Many social media users had joked that such news about Trump and Kim fighting in words should be moved to entertainment section.

However, things changed Sept. 3. At first, most mainstream media reported that an earthquake happened in North Korea. About nine hours later, CCTV published on Weibo, a Twitter-like social networking site in China, that North Koreans were conducting nuclear missile test according to Chinese government’s preliminary judgment.

According to the BBC, the popular social networking site Weibo and mobile APP Wechat (Chinese version of WhatsApp) were highly censored after the launch. Weibo users still cannot see any results if searching for the word “hydrogen bomb” on Weibo until this GJR newsletter is posted. Instead, they see a notice of “according to relative law, regulation and policy, the search results of ‘’ are not shown.”

But Weibo users still find a way to express their feelings. One of the users “Yaoguangxiao_wayne” posted on Sept. 5: “As a Chinese, one of the surviving skills is to sort out the truth from various life-concerning but paradox information from authoritative sources. Since the day before yesterday (Sept 3), (the official media) have been deleting posts and announce that the test has no influence on China while publishing such information via the Weather Bureau…” The information this user refers to is that Chinese Weather Bureau announced they had started an emergency security alert and warned of a burst of nuclear environment pollution, suggesting an emergency plan for members of the public to protect themselves.

Chinese Weather Bureau announced on Sept. 10 they had withdrawn such an alert after they had tested the air and found nothing dangerous.   However, many users left comments below this post that they do not believe the Weather Bureau’s claim that there was nothing dangerous.

Asia media examine Trump: The view from China

by Lu Fan

“Messy.” That’s the best word to describe coverage of Donald Trump in the Chinese media. As the new president acts so differently from his predecessors and has attracted so much public attention in China during the presidential campaign, media here spare no efforts to cover all the details of Trump – everything from his political moves to the golden curtains in his office. The following demonstrate a range of views of Chinese media on Trump’s first “messy” month.

China in his imagination

According to the U.S. media, Trump called China “grand champions” of currency manipulation. This statement caused great concern among Chinese media. An article form Global Times, a publication of the People’s Daily, says: “He almost talks about China out of his own imagination. It looks like he does not know the actual currency policy of China or the direction or aim of China managing foreign currency.”

The resignation of Michael Flynn

An analytical article from Global Times argues that the resignation of National Security Adviser Flynn decreases the authority of Trump as a new president. “All facts prove that it is hard for Trump to be a tough president … it is difficult for his personalities to become the collective attitude and action of the U.S. system. The cost of him promoting his political orders could be the highest in history.”

The winner of Trump-media war goes to…

The protracted war between Trump and the U.S. media has attracted the attention from the world, including Chinese media. The news and analysis of the relationship between media and Trump outnumber those of any previous U.S. president.

Several articles say one of the reasons Trump is confident railing against the media is that the U.S. media are not financially healthy, and thus vulnerable and easy targets. Another reason is that the U.S. public no longer trusts its media as it once did. Although the U.S. media are sometimes seen as being partisan, such partisanship became extreme in the past presidential campaign. And such partisanship damages the objectivity and credibility of the U.S. media.

Anbin Shi, a professor and associate dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University, recently published an article in Global Times, saying, “Trump’s declaration of war on mainstream media is a critical move to break the political game of the elites. But the outcome of the war is that he and media both win. The public’s interest in mainstream media increases, the responsibility of media supervising (government) and filter (information) also increases … do not forget that Trump is an astute businessman … the ‘war’ might be a strategy of compromising with the mainstream.”

Another article from Guancha.cn speculates that the war between Trump and media is actually a show paid by the public since more people are reading or watching mainstream media, so the “CNNs” are happy to be under attack. But how long such a win-win status could be maintained is up to the public.

Some media similarly think that no matter which party loses this war, it will bring a heavy strike to the U.S. system and the public.

And finally…

Regarding all the mess during the first month of Trump’s administration, some Chinese media say it is the result of Trump trying too hard. He considers himself “a revolutionist” and hopes to do something different without good strategies, which leads to brutal action and policy in controversy, in the view of Chinese journalists.

While criticizing Trump for trying too hard, some Chinese media also try too hard to attract readers. In many news headlines of the White House keeping some media outside from a news briefing, “briefing” was substituted with “press conference,” which is apparently more dramatic and easy to attract attention, but is misleading for those readers who only look at headlines without reading the whole story.

Chinese media criticize American democracy

201610gjr_chinawatches01ac

The New York Times posts a cartoon of China enjoying the boxing battle among U.S. presidential candidates with popcorn, and says, “The Chinese Communist Party uses every presidential election to excoriate American democracy for its failings.”

(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/17/opinion/heng-on-china-and-the-us-election.html )

This is the typical tone U.S. media employ when talking about China’s attitude on any negative news in the U.S. However, an editorial in the state-run Xinhua News Agency seems to prove such an analogy. This editorial compares the three presidential debates to a boxing contest: “The three debates are more intense than real boxing match: Boxers would shake hands or hug their opponents after fierce battle; but the two presidential candidates refused to shake hands in the final debate. One of them even asked for ‘a dope test’ before debate.” The editorial concludes, “the presidential election is nothing but entertainment, which again implies ‘the failure of the American political system.’”

Xinhua News Agency set up a page of special reports on the U.S. presidential election and published several editorials after the final debate. In another editorial titled “The final debate sets a new records for the U.S. election, and slaps the American style of democracy,” the author quotes several Twitter users who criticize both Clinton and Trump, and says these voters reveal the dilemma the U.S. faces now, claimed to be the “largest democratic country in the world.” “This leads to a question: Is the election, of which the Americans are so proud of, not so serious? Audiences are getting more confused and helpless, the democracy that the U.S. is proud of has been tarnished.” (http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2016-10/21/c_1119763141.htm)

The editorial continues, saying the meaning of the election is to help solve severe problems of a country’s development, and that the long and complex campaign and competition between candidates should be the chance to expose the political defect and address racial and social issues. However, the campaign and debate policy Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton employ does not solve problems. Instead, the candidates attack one another’s past mistakes and manage to destroy each other’s public image.

The editorial lists the U.S. media’s reaction to Trump’s statement of only accepting the election results if he wins, and says, “Finally, even Trump began to question the election result. This slaps on the face of American political system based on their claimed democracy, and casts doubt on the effect of American-style democracy.”

The editorial concludes, “The U.S. has considered itself as the role-model of Western democracy. Now it is time for introspection.” (http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2016-10/21/c_135769827.htm)

Similar arguments appear in other Chinese media. People’s Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, says the American political system is not welcomed by the U.S. public, and thus faces a crisis of legitimacy.

Even though these editorials criticize the U.S. democracy harshly as the New York Times points out, most news reporting of media in China on the election and debates is fact based or based on news from Western countries. Chinese media generally show no preference for either candidate.

However, one exception is an article on Sohu, a commercial media website.

This article, “The ugly battle of the U.S. election, China is more concerned if this candidate wins,” says the Chinese public has treated Trump as mere entertainment from the very beginning, but that there are more people starting to like him. While the Chinese public does not know Trump very well, there is an unfavorable impression of Hillary Clinton due to her tough past policies against Beijing. From the Chinese perspective, if she becomes the president, the U.S. foreign policy against China would be worse than that of Trump.

Attacking the American political system directly is not always the theme of China’s news reports on the U.S. election. An article of Xinhua News Agency compares the election to the TV drama House of Cards, which is very popular in China. Xinhua argues that the election is very similar to the TV drama plot.

The New York Times published an interview with You Tian Long, a Chinese doctoral student majoring in justice studies at Arizona State University at an earlier time to reject such association. You said in that interview that American politics is so complicated for Chinese people to understand that they use the TV drama as a “shortcut” to learn.

One can only speculate: Either the reporter and editor of Xinhua News Agency did not read the New York Times article, or they are taking a shortcut to appeal to the political knowledge of the Chinese readers.