Monday, April 20, 2009

Pushing Soft Power

China Daily is getting some competition now with a new English-language paper called Global Times.

It just launched today with a big bash in a hotel this evening.

The new paper is part of China's plan to use its soft power to influence the world.

But will it work?

As soon as people hear "state media" attached to any mainland Chinese outlet, the sirens psychologically go off and dismiss it as propaganda.

Should we immediately discount it?

Most people believe state media is one-sided even though they claim to give a more balanced view for foreigners to "understand more about China". Some critics have the theory that if you tell a lie 100 times it becomes fact.

And then there are the China watchers who are intrigued by the way some stories are written, looking at the articles as coded messages hinting what officials and leaders are saying with regards to a certain issue or policy.

But the majority of people outside of China have never been to the country and don't understand how it works or why things are worded the way they are mostly thanks to difficult translations and the naive perceptions the Chinese have of foreigners.

People from overseas are usually called "foreign friends", a cringe-worthy term that simultaneously points out our differences yet at the same time urges us to not be the bad cop.

Unfortunately the Chinese -- the government -- doesn't understand that for the majority of people outside of China, freedom of the press is crucial in terms of credibility. No matter how many new papers are launched, or an Al Jazeera-type news broadcast are aired, the intended audience won't believe them without a big dose of skepticism.

Until the government cuts its links with the media and these organizations are free to report on whatever they want will people -- both foreigners and Chinese -- really take China seriously.

When that will happen nobody knows.


muffin said...

We do have freedom of press--with chinese characteristic^.^ And I think no country has unlimited freedom of speech-it must in line with the national condition. Do Western Countried really have speech freedom?Doesnt it also serve those who has the power and money? The freedom of speech should be basd on the understanding towards the country.
Foreign countries still have vague understanding towards China and since it is hard for every foreigner to carry out "seeing is believing", it is good to have some "state media". It is not propaganda(I know china do have many). Just think now some government setting cam everywhere and is starting to detect daily pubic emails--ha,will it like in book "1984":some people just disappear without being noticed?

cheesecake said...

Yes we do. We can write anything we want about anyone or anything, as long as its not slander or obscene. Not so in China. Talk to any editor working there, and their long list of experiences of censorship or self-censorship. Our media is not perfect and there are a lot of vested interests, but there are a wide variety of sources providing a wide variety of opinions. And then you have individual media sources, such as bloggers, who can also post news and opinion on anything they want without fear of government intervention. I totally and whole-heartedly refute your claim that China's media can be compared to the West's in terms of press freedom. You are deluding yourself.

As for the publication, it may not be "propaganda", but when a source of news is significantly restricted by an entity with large vested interest, such as a government, you must understand that we cannot take it seriously.

As for your comments about "some" governments overuse of CCTV, and proposed detection of public emails (I take it you mean the UK, and as a side note I agree with you here) that has nothing to do with the subject or your argument.