The Chinese Media

Monday, July 23, 2012

In the West, the Chinese media is often used as an example of government propaganda and censorship. Fred Teng, CEO of NewsChina, and Rong Xiaoqing, reporter for Sing Tao Daily, talk about the myth and reality of the Chinese media both in China and around the world. 


Fred Teng and Rong Xiaoqing

Comments [34]

Ed from Larchmont

This segment wasn't about China's one child policy, but it was mentioned. That policy has killed more human beings than any policy probably in the history of the world - 2-300 million. Is one OK with that?

Jul. 26 2012 08:12 AM

f88: Don’t feel too personal about the Asian Taxi drivers. The westerners (the white with colorful eyes) were usually considered part of the rich and powerful in China. From their perspective, having being crewed up for generations by the people on the top, to have a legitimate opportunity to make money of those who exploited them, is no more than a rightful revenge. Yes, you did exploit (especial if you proudly carry an iPhone). They are made to believe by the establishment that you are worse than their own government because you are an outsider and look different. Don’t get me wrong, the regular Chinese people by nature are among the friendliest people on earth, but I don’t want to state the obvious and, they have been through a lot of crape, and they need to make a living.

I often picture this in my mind that if the late Christopher Hitchens and Jerry Falwell would ever appeared on Chinese television together, the majority of Chinese people may not care about the sticking difference of their world views, but might well think they all work for Fox News. They may not know what is WNYC, but they do know who is Rupert Murdoch. If you tell them Leonard Lopate is a journalist, most of them probably think Murdoch and Wendy Deng are better and more successful Journalists. But please don’t blame them, because they cannot access all the ready information as you do, they have to search for it online, and there is the language thing in between, not to mention that any of the keyword may be blocked at a particular time of the day. Besides, who has the time for this when you are busy to barely make a living?

You are right about joining the CCP for power and privilege, the secret of getting rich quick in China these days. And it’s been going on for some time. And CCP now has more appeals for the young because of it. In Beijing, even for an entry level of government job, the Gongwuyuan (Translated in English: The Public Service Personnel), you may have to dough out a pretty hefty sum of a million yuan’s (about $156k) bribe just to get on the waiting line for the job. For a regular Chinese, a million yuan is a lot of dough, they could have worked for it in 20 or 30 years if not more. But for a party official, this 1 mil yuan might not be even enough for their monthly spend on fancy drinks alone, and they don’t have to pay from their own pocket. (I did not learn this from the “Weibo”, and I do have relatives and friends in China who have to live through this sort of challenges on a regular basis)

Of course, you won’t find many stories about this type of things in the official Chinese media, because it is not “positive” in helping the Westerner’s to understand what’s going on in China from a “Chinese perspective”. If you see negative stories about China online, it is all rumors. And no REAL “Chinese journalist” should spread rumors according to our distinguished guests on the Chinese Media episode.

Jul. 25 2012 12:27 PM

I had to leave asia when i had my fill of doe-eyed westerners, who thought they were smart, getting rooked by smooth talking locals.

did you know there is a name for getting the westerners' money before the car makes it from the airport to the hotel? it's a zero sum game, friends, and if you don't like money it's just boring. if you do like money, though, and you're elite, join the party and learn english. you're family name is good thru at least 2212.

Jul. 24 2012 09:48 PM

I appreciate that Mr. Teng clarified that he only represents himself. But while he can: “…as one Chinese American speaking my own mind”, a lot of Chinese cannot in China. I am troubled by the fact that the guests were sugar coating the facts of media censorship in China in the name of progress or the western view of lack of understanding of the “real China”.

Having worked in the Chinese news media, and spent most of my formative years in China, I can tell you that NPR is very ineffective in the brainwash business. American media is certainly not perfect, but it’s not the same as the censorship you will experience in China, as some want us to believe to the contrary.

Do you know that the reporters of China’s major state media company, especially those being sent to station overseas, was selected and deemed “politically reliable” by “Dangwei” (CCP committee), now tactically changed into “Executive Committee” in many such institutions? And many of these reporters are CCP members themselves lead by “Danzhishu”, the party secretary now with the fancy corporate title of the “Director of the Executive Committee?

There are a lot of brave and good journalists in China are working hard and risking their own careers or even lives within the censorship to give the much needed voice to the “voiceless”, and there are also those who are more than willing to join in the party propaganda apparatus for money, fame, privilege… But the fact is that even some CCP members confessed that they do not even believe the party lines in private if you can drink hard liquor with them, and hang out at the karaoke or underground brothel. “Ain’t we all love the money and privilege that comes with it (Being a CCP official)? Ideology is only a means to an end”, as one of them said to me once.

The fact that the CCP is pouring huge amount of money to expand their overseas operations, sometime registered as private companies, is by no means just an innocent good will. Today, with many "elite” and rich CCP and their family members coming to the US with their ill-gotten money washed clean by the global financial system, to settle or study, I am sure there will be, and already are, new dynamics in the global media landscape.

As for the discussion after five years that Mr. Teng has entertained as the proper time when I will be proven wrong, I’m flattered that it will take that much time. I must confess that I never understand the infatuation with the five year increment as referred by many party bosses I used to deal with back in China. Could this be the time when the CCP’s new five year plan of global propaganda will reach its major milestone? Or the time when NPR will be harmonized by global big money and dirty politics of the rich and powerful? I do not know. Meanwhile, if many Chinese journalists focus on the positives as your guests suggested, many more ordinary Chinese citizens will be freely exploited by the powerful.

Jul. 24 2012 07:06 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Fred Teng, you said: "Communicating to the American public is still a great challenge for China. Well understandably so, because English is not the native language of China :-)"

I have a feeling a greater proportion (because the raw numbers would have to favor China just because of its much larger population) of Chinese speak decent English than the proportion of Americans who speak Chinese. I wonder if the US has equal trouble communication to the Chinese public? Aside from any efforts of the Chinese gov't. to impede that communication....

Jul. 24 2012 01:15 AM
ericjhenderson from brooklyn

superf88 - I'll leave it alone with this one, but I really appreciate the discussion. However,we can only agree to disagree if we speak on the same question. We can't get there if your logic is "We are free to be informed or ignorant; they are not." The growth of Chinese Christanity alone - an example I already noted - belies that. Yes, you're right they're not 'free' to express that belief, but they most definitely aren't uninformed, now forming the world's largest Christian nation.

Shoot, truth be told, we espouse a related media-as-government circumscription on certain beliefs in this country that carries serious consequence. Try being a Muslim and running for Congress and watch the unskilled (or purposely ill-biased) way journalism handles this. Or mention a belief in Christ and the Bible from an apologetical and personal conviction basis and you'll be called closed-minded, anti-science or anti-intellectual, not by citizens but by the (objectve?) media - apparently to simply believe is a way more troublesome stance than to traffic in the pablum-driven "values" feints offered by the so-called "religious right." Neither the Left nor Right journalists want to deal with Jesus in proper historical or journalistic fashion. (look here to see what I mean:

The point is: Yes we have different overt structures, but we share a degree of moral practice we won't state openly. This doesn't leave me in a position to criticise China from a moral high ground. I am thankful for that overt structure in the US that, unlike many countries, defers explicitly to "inalienable rights" and thus gives its citizens the express right to legally protect those rights. So, don't take me as making a case for China. ...or against it.

For the purpose of this interview - a totally new and different type of guest - I thought it offered an opportunity to drop any idea of agreeing or disagreeing with China. It is so so uncommon to hear in broad media such a direct representation of China, even if only the personal opinion of the commenters. I am fluent in the media version of Ai Wei Wei, but I'd also like to hear other people, journalists, and regular folk interviewed in this kind of media format.

Two reasons I'm pressing the point here... (1) We are more tied morally than commercially to China - thus requiring a refreshing of the dialogue beyond "those people aren't free and we are." We fail in thinking we can outsource the moral part of that link while clothed fully in Chinese goods. (2) The comments in the thread surprised me. I think that the stereotypical npr audience should be able to have a dialogue about this. (Cooler heads than mine usually don't traffic web threads - so I can't diss npr folks just because this issue happened to ping me.) Much peace, Nuf respect :: e

Jul. 24 2012 12:16 AM
Fred Teng

sirkeg, Thank you. I don't agree with the way Leonard prefaced his statements, nevertheless I thank him for inviting me to the show.

Jul. 23 2012 10:57 PM
Fred Teng

superf88, Communicating to the American public is still a great challenge for China. Well understandably so, because English is not the native language of China :-) And to build understanding and trust, it will take a long time. Whether between you and me or between China and the United States. I hope we will continue our dialogue.

Jul. 23 2012 10:50 PM
Fred Teng

waylonwood, I am talking about Chinese Americans having our places in mainstream America. I give Leonard a lot of credit for inviting Ms. Rong Xiaoqing and me. I don't claim to represent other Chinese people or all Chinese Americans. I represent myself, as one Chinese American speaking my own mind. If you don't agree with me, that is fine, maybe we can have this same conversation again 5 years from now.

Jul. 23 2012 10:41 PM

Ultimately, this radio segment was an perfect illustration of the New Chinese media.

Today's Communist propagandist no longer unfurls curses at the foreigners, nor need he threaten the bravest of homegrown journalists or would-be journalists.

Instead, he is smooth tongued, fluent and intelligent, ambitious and worldly, cosmopolitan and polite. If there is censorship it is to be self-directed. If there is a self-criticism it is to be insulated by defensiveness.

Do today's guests even know it? They, of course, *are* the New Chinese Media.

Jul. 23 2012 09:01 PM

ericjhenderson -- Re: your comment:
"If they are brainwashed, we are too..."

and your thoughtful reply, I still stand by my characterization of "apples and oranges" in comparing China and the USA. We are free to be informed or ignorant; they are not. Even Chen Guangcheng had no idea how brainwashed he had been, until a few weeks living in NYC, reported the NYT recently. The USA is a special place indeed and we are fortunate to be as ignorant or informed, passionate or silent as we like.

Must agree to disagree. Peace.

Jul. 23 2012 08:50 PM

I cannot help with a cynical smirk as I read Mr. Teng's comments: "(... is already a great advancement for the American media. 10 years ago they will only invited White Male Americans to talk about China, as if the Chinese Americans' opinion does not count." This makes me suspicious about the real intensions of your guest on this program. Race has nothing to do with the topic here (as Mr. Teng implies in his comments). I don't think your two guests can claim that they represent Chinese Americans. Being a Chinese American myself, I disagree with the two on many points. It is unfortunate that they never give real answers to many sharp questions that Leonard asked on the show. It is sad to hear them paraphrasing the Chinese government officials' lines on this program. Disregard if I agree or disagree with them, listening to the way they talk, why do they sounds like a new generation of CCP officials armed with some levels of pseudo-sophistication and a new type of propaganda tactic to me? I wouldn't be surprised to know they are here on a secret mission, whatever it is, they are neither representing Chinese people or Chinese Americans I know.

Jul. 23 2012 08:04 PM
Fred Teng

Eric,indeed an open discussion is the best way for open-minded people to learn from each other.
I was talking with Ms. Rong Xiaoqing about being on the show today. We both agreed that having two Chinese Americans invited to participate in a show like this, is already a great advancement for the American media. 10 years ago they will only invited White Male Americans to talk about China, as if the Chinese Americans' opinion does not count.
There are many misunderstanding about China, and I will continue to try to share my learnings with my fellow Americans on this issue.

Jul. 23 2012 05:09 PM
ericjhenderson from brooklyn

Mr. Teng: Thank you for clarifying. This is the spirit of my two posts below that have nothing to do with whether I agree with your perspective or not. My point is to reserve sweeping judgments (and especially simplistic comparisons about degrees of freedom, and I'm not talking math.) In a thread like this and on the show, it's welcome to have a chance to actually delve into and dissect someone's perspective, witholding judgment.

For example: The ft this past weekend had a novel-like article on the recent tales of bo xilai. They would pitch it as scandal, while you have said it is not. Whether it is or not is not important to me vs. hearing as many cultural perspectives on supposed facts. Change one variable, e.g. race, and two people witnessing the exact same car wreck have been known to offer exact opposite accounts while believing they're right. Cognitive dissonance must be accounted for to a real degree as much when the Chinese view the US and when Americans view the Chinese.

I take what I hear at face value in order to understand the perspective. Of course, my opinions appear, but I can document those and keep listening without judgment.

Personally, I hope to distill some level of truth from all of this open listening and develop what Dr. Ernest Wilson at the USC Annenberg School calls "cultural competency" with respect to media. We don't have to withold judgment when we have that confidence, because then we're acting on principle.

Jul. 23 2012 04:48 PM
Fred Teng from New York

I enjoyed being on the show as a guest. Leonard asked a lot of questions which represented a lot of the misunderstandings of China and its development. I have tried to explain some of those issues raised. However, I felt due to the time limit and the radio format, it is quite a challenge to fully explain everything. Yes, I have always suggest any American who wants to know about China should take a few trips to China. If you think any American by taking a few trips to China will be "brain washed" by China, then you have insulted American's intelligence, if you think Chinese people are "brain washed" by the government then you have under-estimated Chinese people's intelligence. China is a very different country then it was 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 5 years ago. Dr. Henry Kissinger, President Jimmy Carter, and many others cannot foresee the miracle China has achieved in the last 30 years. I can tell you the whole world will be surprise by its development in the next 30 years. I travel to China 4 to 5 times a year, and I am still learning about China on every trip. I will welcome to discuss with anyone regarding this topic or about China in general.

Jul. 23 2012 04:17 PM
Northwest from NYC

The host, Mr. Leonard Lopate, is great since he asked the questions that he supposed to ask! When I listened to the talking conducted by both guests, i felt that i had a political lesson taught by a Chinese government propaganda officical.

Jul. 23 2012 02:22 PM
ericjhenderson from brooklyn

superf88: I appreciate your comment/response but there are a few problematic assumptions in there. I think the discourse in this country has dropped so low that to call me open-minded or liberal should fall far far behind what I think is just common sense. I'm not talking politics at all.

If you suggest I talk to "a US expat who has lived in China or a similar country for three years or more" - this is another assumption. I have a great community of expats and, even better Chinese friends from China to the diaspora. I have not been to China but know many many expats and have had cultural and business interests in China for a while now.

All this to say, I am not "sympathetic" to China, except in a human sense, measuring the beam in our eyes here (again, the biggest criminal class in our country and world in terms of damage done is white collar, egged on by policy) ...and the mote in my neighbor's eye.

So, while I don't speak from a perfect context, there's enough to reason this opinion. Just an opinion but rooted in observable realities.

All in all, I think the thread just evinces our parochialism. I do have plenty of issues with China, but if I want to dispute their labor practices, for example, I don't have to get on a plane. I live at the root and cause of them. If I think their media is not free, I think we can even a great outlet like wnyc as example to say that cultural and even ethnic homogeneity is a hallmark of our media - our media is driven by central casting. Is that bad? I don't think so, intrinsically, i.e. as long as the work is done well. But should we recognize how that will bias our perspective and reporting? Sure.

We should see our media as cultural entities first, and reserve the labels of objectivity and freedom for what comes out in the wash.

Much peace


Jul. 23 2012 01:34 PM
Northwest from New York City

These people (journalists) are not right wing representatives any more. They are the people who talk for Chinese government years ago! They do not even the presentatives of middle. In other words, they talk for Chinese government, that is all!

Jul. 23 2012 12:59 PM

ericjhenderson -- I appreciate your open-mindedness and liberalism & I have similar inclinations myself.

But I suggest talking to a US expat who has lived in China or a similar country for three years or more (a growing group among which I am one). Many Americans would respond to your comment as "apples and oranges." If you meet such a person at the inbound portion of the ( filthy) JFK Airport, you will often find them literally kissing the ground, as I have done.

Jul. 23 2012 12:46 PM
Bill Rutledge from UWS

I've been to China three times. The Chinese people that I've met are rightfully very proud of their country and very patriotic. These people reflect that attitude. China will change when the Chinese people decide it should change, and change is inevitable. US pressures only distort that process.

Jul. 23 2012 12:44 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

These journalists don't even realize the extent of their brainwashing.

Jul. 23 2012 12:42 PM
Jay F.

Why do I not believe these guests?

Jul. 23 2012 12:41 PM
ericjhenderson from Brooklyn

I appreciate simply having perspective. It is impossible to say, "don't they just think that in China because they're brainwashed by the media" without accepting our Cable News corollary in the US. If they are brainwashed, we are too. If there are independent minds there, we might just have some, too. I always hesitate to criticize another government or business policy as I have a hard time first getting out of my own government's weeds to do that Where shall we start with financial malfeasance, labor practice, tax policy that gives incentive to capital flight do business in China.

"Chinese people don't need the western tools," the guest has said, referring to revolution and remarking on the power and creativity of the Chinese people. Case in point: China, despite official policy against the Bible and Christianity, is the world's largest and probably the fastest growing Protestant Christian population. That takes will and certainly creativity.

Jul. 23 2012 12:40 PM
Guy from NYC

Fred Teng is frankly misleading the NPR audience by repeating old saws about China under the pretense that someone needs to tell the world the good news about China. Ms. Rong's strategy is to downplay and draw false equivalences between Chinese oppression and western censorship.

"Go to China and see for yourself!" Yes, Fred, this strategy works well on Americans and has for generations. Take a few trips to Beijing or Shanghai and leave satisfied that the CCP's stories must be true. However, you don't see "how people's lives have changed" you see what the government and the favored political class wants you to see. Try booking a trip to Xinjiang or Tibet.

Jul. 23 2012 12:37 PM
Micheal from Manhattan

99% of the NYT's coverage of China is slanted towards the negative I just can't believe the NYT any more because of this...

Jul. 23 2012 12:33 PM

Leonard's doing a great job as usual but would love to hear some callers or a human rights representative to toss i some questions to these admittedly earnest and entertaining apologists.

Jul. 23 2012 12:32 PM
Guy from New York

wow could you have at least found one uncompromised "Chinese" media representative? These two are shills for the CCP--either out of fear or by of principle-- who pretend, like Fred Teng, not to have heard of the practices of censorship that Lopate brings up; gives the impression that Leonard knows more about Chinese politics than they do.

Hey Fred, we can't know what "the vast majority" of Chinese think or care about, because they're not free to express themselves or vote!

This segment is useless.

Jul. 23 2012 12:31 PM
jj from new york

You guys are using the famous people that Chinese governments do not want to touch and give more trouble to them. What about comment people in China? Does anyone can really say whatever they want?

Jul. 23 2012 12:30 PM
eledryth from New York Area

The statement "china isn't letting girl adoptions happen any more" is not true! People from european countries and America are STILL adopting as of last week anyway.

Jul. 23 2012 12:30 PM
Ed from Larchmont

This isn't the case of the one-child policy reported by the recent person in New York, or in other outlets. It's a barbaric policy and is carried out ruthlessly.

Jul. 23 2012 12:25 PM

sirkeg -- you DO realize that you are suggesting or intimating that THIS (US-based) media source be censored because you don't agree with the commenter? If this is an attempt at ironic humor, I approve!

Jul. 23 2012 12:17 PM

"China is only 63 years old" (so give it a break -- stability is more important than change...)

Environmentally alone, China is dangerously Unstable. Everything it does effects the entire planet's future.

Not because it is overly powerful, but because simply it is overpopulated and has become a haven for international corporate pirates and other business powers drawn to vacuums of power and regulation.

Jul. 23 2012 12:14 PM

Even before the show, a comment has been left attempting to discredit the guest. Why? Because he might offer an analysis that isn't the simple anti-China vitriol we here normally. So we are to dismiss any voice that doesn't conform to the anti-China paradigm because the all powerful all knowing Chinese government must have somehow gotten to them? So then in our conversations on China we must only trust the "neutral" foreign observer and discount any voices coming from within the country because they cannot be trusted?

Jul. 23 2012 12:12 PM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, Ca

How can we believe that they are sincere in what they might say? Even a good man can tell a lie when afraid of punishment?

Jul. 23 2012 10:29 AM

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