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China's Crackdown on Western Journalists
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:42 pm    Post subject: China's Crackdown on Western Journalists Reply with quote

http://pri.org/stories/2013-12-12/beijing-about-pull-plug-two-major-american-news-operations-china

Quote:
In an unprecedented move, the Chinese government has declined to process visa applications for the entire Beijing bureaus of The New York Times and Bloomberg, in apparent retaliation for investigative reporting those two media organizations have done on the considerable financial assets of certain top Chinese leaders’ families, including current President Xi Jinping and former Premier Wen Jiabao.

China’s leaders have reason to feel uncomfortable about such coverage. They know that income disparity is growing in China, with much wealth concentrated in a relatively tiny circle of political elites. China’s two legislative bodies boast at least 83 billionaires — compared to the grand total in the US Congress of zero. The New York Times’ investigation of Wen Jiabao’s relatives, published in October 2012, found they controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion. A similar Bloomberg investigation of Xi Jinping’s family found assets worth a more modest $376 million.

But even this is embarrassing to a president and Communist Party leader who has vowed to crack down on corruption, who told a gathering of Party cadre in 2004, “Rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff, and vow not to use power for personal gain.” At a time when few Chinese, including members of the Communist Party, believe in Communism anymore, credibility matters.

. . .

Things got better still in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics. The government changed the regulations, to say that foreign correspondents could now interview anyone who agreed in advance to be interviewed. And for a couple of years, reporting in China became much easier, and China more or less got the positive coverage of the Olympics it wanted.

And then the party was over. Foreign correspondents began to find that when they went to places that had been having demonstrations or disputes, plainclothes thugs would physically harass them, their sources and their reporting team, while uniformed police stood by. The government would claim, each time, that these were merely patriotic villagers, upset that foreign correspondents were coming to try to rake up muck.

Antipathy got ratcheted up more amidst Chinese leaders’ anxiety that the Arab uprisings of 2011 might spread to China. Bureau chiefs, including myself, were called in to the Foreign Ministry and told, “the regulations haven’t changed; you just didn’t understand them.” From now on, we were told, police could decide on the spot if ‘getting permission in advance’ meant the foreign correspondent should have contacted the interviewee’s employer, or neighborhood committee, or district government, days before doing the interview. “And if you argue with the police, you become the problem and we can’t help you,” the Foreign Ministry official told us.

For all this, most foreign correspondents, most of the time, are able to do their reporting in China with no government interference. But when the topic at hand is deemed ‘sensitive,’ all bets are off. It may be easy to interview a dissident recently released from prison, or you may be detained. It’s hard to know.

It does seem clear that Xi Jinping’s administration has more of a taste for playing hardball with foreign correspondents than did the previous administration. Expelling journalists was not uncommon in the 1980s and early ‘90s, but there’d been a long stretch since 1998 when there’d been no such expulsions.

Then, last year, Melissa Chan of Al Jazeera English was told, after five years in China that included many reports focusing on human rights abuses, her visa would not be renewed. This autumn, Paul Mooney, a correspondent who’d been resident in China for 18 years, reporting for Newsweek, the South China Morning Post and others, was told his visa to take up a position with Reuters in Beijing was also denied.

Next came an announcement that the procedures for foreign correspondents to renew their visas would change. It used to take one week for visas to be processed; now it would take three, and all foreign correspondents needed to do it at the same time. That effectively tied them down to Beijing, since they can’t easily travel without their passports.

Even with all this, it’s a dramatic leap to go from turning down one or two visas to declining to process visas for all journalists in an entire bureau, much less for two different news organizations. The move may have come, in part, because even after a year in which neither The New York Times nor Bloomberg have been able to get any new reporters credentialed in China, each has continued to pursue investigative reports on the financial dealings of China’s political elite. The New York Times published a follow-up report in November about the cozy financial relationship between Wen Jiabao’s family and JP Morgan. And Bloomberg had in the works another investigative report, about financial ties between Chinese leaders and one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen.


Western journalists really should have seen this coming. Chinese leaders interpret these bold stories as personal assaults on their power, and do not regard them as the press holding them in check in some sort of democratic system. I will not call it press freedom, but press tolerance in China is still rather broad. Do not report on the corruption of the central government leaders. Beijing will certainly tolerate it if Western journalists went after provincial officials, but censored any central government connections.

Quote:
Vice President Joe Biden warned Xi Jinping in a meeting that there would be consequences for China if those bureaus aren’t allowed to operate. One possibility would be to refuse or restrict visas for the hundreds of Chinese journalists for state-run media who are based in the United States. Some argue that the United States should uphold media freedom, and should not stoop to China’s level.


Retaliation will not work because the subject of the reporting was simply very sensitive. Western leaders should agree to leave Chinese central government leaders alone and demand the entire rest of the field of press tolerance. The reporting is an existential threat to particular Chinese elites, and even somewhat erodes the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party's legitimacy (although it is the Western press, which limits the threat). It is amazing and telling that the New York Times and Bloomberg calculated that there would be no Chinese government retaliation, or that it would be worth the story.
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No_hite_pls



Joined: 05 Mar 2007
Location: Don't hate me because I'm right

PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting post Kuros. Thanks for posting.
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Blockhead confidence



Joined: 02 Apr 2008

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Firstly, China hasn't yet rejected those journalists' visa renewals. They're stalling, but the story starts when those visas are effectively cancelled.

What Kuros is proposing is radical. Do you know of a precedent? Perhaps not reporting criticism of the Thai king? But what the leaders of China do doesn't just affect the Chinese -- they're a 'global player' now, so it's us as well as their subjects who have a right to know this information.

One creative suggestion for hitting back I read was for the US to stall on renewing the visas of Chinese officials children who study at Harvard, etc. Another was to make it a trade issue: US business can't properly invest in China without an adequate information supply.

In any case, it's not really an issue yet.
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Fox



Joined: 04 Mar 2009

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blockhead confidence wrote:

One creative suggestion for hitting back I read was for the US to stall on renewing the visas of Chinese officials children who study at Harvard, etc.


I must admit, I would rather my homeland did not engage in such pettiness. It would be nearly as pathetic and unseemly as the Russians "hitting back" against the US by restricting adoptions.
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rollo



Joined: 10 May 2006
Location: China

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is not new. A few years ago they booted a bunch of NYT journalists. Of course they have arrested and imprisoned Chinese citizens for being stringers for the times. They have many times attempted intimidate or control Western media.
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Blockhead confidence



Joined: 02 Apr 2008

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rollo wrote:
This is not new. A few years ago they booted a bunch of NYT journalists. Of course they have arrested and imprisoned Chinese citizens for being stringers for the times. They have many times attempted intimidate or control Western media.


They've been doing it for years. This time it would be different (if it actually happens) because:

1 It's a significant regression after the opening up of 2008

2 it's the entire journalistic team of the NYT, not just a few isolated journalists at a variety of organisations. That it's the Times as well, not some minor organ like Al Jazeera, who come nowhere near the Times' reputation, is of consequence.

Most importantly, 3, China is no longer irrelevant. Like I wrote, if Thailand doesn't want outsiders criticising their king, who cares? We all have a stake now in how China behaves. Just like we do with America.
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Blockhead confidence



Joined: 02 Apr 2008

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fox wrote:

I must admit, I would rather my homeland did not engage in such pettiness. It would be nearly as pathetic and unseemly as the Russians "hitting back" against the US by restricting adoptions.


What was that story? The US put in place some human rights law and Russia retaliated by banning adoptions?

I'm not saying I agree, but blocking visas for the princelings of China fits the crime, so to speak, as foreign education is highly coveted by the Chinese, and it's using the same weapon. Ideally you'd block Chinese journalists from entering the US, but that would be meaningless for China.

On the global level, even Russia hardly matters. What China and it's leadership are up to thou -- that affects us all.

(Edited after rereading your post)


Last edited by Blockhead confidence on Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ginormousaurus



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Location: 700 Ft. Pulpit

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blockhead confidence wrote:
But what the leaders of China do doesn't just affect the Chinese -- they're a 'global player' now, so it's us as well as their subjects who have a right to know this information.


I think you're wording it too strongly by saying it is our right to know.
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Blockhead confidence



Joined: 02 Apr 2008

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ginormousaurus wrote:
Blockhead confidence wrote:
But what the leaders of China do doesn't just affect the Chinese -- they're a 'global player' now, so it's us as well as their subjects who have a right to know this information.


I think you're wording it too strongly by saying it is our right to know.


Maybe, if you only use 'right' to mean human rights.

Anyway, one day China might be global overlord of the planet. At that point there'll be even less chance of journalists telling us what's going on in there, and it will matter to us more than ever.
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Ginormousaurus



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Location: 700 Ft. Pulpit

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blockhead confidence wrote:
Ginormousaurus wrote:
Blockhead confidence wrote:
But what the leaders of China do doesn't just affect the Chinese -- they're a 'global player' now, so it's us as well as their subjects who have a right to know this information.


I think you're wording it too strongly by saying it is our right to know.


Maybe, if you only use 'right' to mean human rights.


Maybe I misunderstood you then. I took it as meaning it is a universal human right to be informed as to the dealings of the Chinese government.
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blockhead confidence wrote:


What Kuros is proposing is radical. Do you know of a precedent? Perhaps not reporting criticism of the Thai king? But what the leaders of China do doesn't just affect the Chinese -- they're a 'global player' now, so it's us as well as their subjects who have a right to know this information.


Its not really my position. Its the Chinese government's position, and it is sovereign of China, at least for now, as I think we can all agree.

Furthermore, the corruption of Chinese central government leaders has been reported once. Now that the Chinese leaders have squelched this sort of reporting, what will be the logical inference? That corruption continues unabated.

What exactly should Western journalists fight for here? The Emperor has no clothes. Does the so-called free press really need to report on this more than once? Better to move onto other important stories which need awareness within China and here in the U.S..
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stilicho25



Joined: 05 Apr 2010

PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Insane. The massive distrust of the elite is what is spawning most of the other problems in China. Stay honest and report what you find. Why should factory owners care about the law when the people at the top break it to their advantage at whim. If they don't lead by their own example they will fall. There is no way the current pollution/corruption problems continue unabated without society collapsing. Watching your kids suffer from lung ailments creates the perfect environment for a revolution.
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Blockhead confidence



Joined: 02 Apr 2008

PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kuros wrote:


Its not really my position. Its the Chinese government's position, and it is sovereign of China, at least for now, as I think we can all agree.

Furthermore, the corruption of Chinese central government leaders has been reported once. Now that the Chinese leaders have squelched this sort of reporting, what will be the logical inference? That corruption continues unabated.

What exactly should Western journalists fight for here? The Emperor has no clothes. Does the so-called free press really need to report on this more than once? Better to move onto other important stories which need awareness within China and here in the U.S..


Your position still seems strange. Do you suppose the Times would continue publishing similar stories about top level corruption without saying much new? Personally I'm not sure. They might, they might not.

What if it was a story about Xi Jinping owning a massive stake (through some cloaked form of investing) in, I don't know, Goldman Sachs? That could trigger a similar response from China.
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Titus



Joined: 19 May 2012

PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kuros, I think you'll find this long essay interesting:

http://handleshaus.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/review-of-the-rise-of-china-vs-the-logic-of-strategy-by-edward-luttwak/
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Leon



Joined: 31 May 2010

PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Titus wrote:
Kuros, I think you'll find this long essay interesting:

http://handleshaus.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/review-of-the-rise-of-china-vs-the-logic-of-strategy-by-edward-luttwak/


That was pretty interesting, thanks for posting that. I find Luttwak interesting. This is probably more suited to the Syria thread, but since you posted something about Luttwak here, I'll put it here.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/55210/edward-n-luttwak/give-war-a-chance

We read this in one of my classes this past semester, and many people hated it. If you haven't read it, it seems like the sort of thing you'd agree with.
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