Beijing Olympic Official Takes Media Coverage of China To Task

Posted by: Dexter Roberts on August 15, 2008

The head of Beijing’s organizing committee for the Olympics has responded angrily to Western reporters asking about China’s promise to allow dissidents to speak out. This follows just days after Chinese police roughed up a British journalist reporting on a Tibetan independence protest.

When asked whether Beijing had allowed protests in any of the three designated protest parks, BOCOG secretary general Wang Wei first said he had not received information from the public security bureau about that, and so could not answer the question. When asked the question again, he apparently decided to go on the attack:

“After 30 years of reform China has developed greatly,” Wang said. “People enjoy more freedom. People are living a good life. Everyone is happy. That’s a fact. Of course there are exceptions, like in any other country. But they need to take the legal process and procedures to resolve any issues. We cannot allow this country to be in chaos.”

Fair enough—China has developed greatly. Most people do have far more freedom than ever before in China’s history. And avoiding ‘chaos’ is obviously important anywhere including in a massive country like China. He continued: “There are a few people who have come here to peek, to be critical, to dig into the small details and find fault,” he said.

Okay, that’s where he begins to lose me—if nothing else, a reporter’s job should be to peek, to dig into the small details and to expose what otherwise might be missed—whether it is positive or negative. Yes, there should be lots of reporting about how much China has progressed—and I think we are seeing much of that variety of news coming out of the Games.

But at the same time, there is a grand tradition in journalism of so-called muckraking, or reporting that digs up wrongdoing in public or private life. That fact seems to be something lost on the vast majority of Chinese officials (and perhaps too on many officials around the world—but they not the subject of today’s blog.)

Reader Comments

Diva

August 15, 2008 1:17 PM

I am American and I believe the Press was very unfair to China. They keep reporting the smog and weather.I stronly believe they where very unfair reporting,after all the Chines have done to make every so awesome. All the reported did was try and turn people off to the games. Shame on them

To Dexter Roberts AKA Silly Bob

August 15, 2008 4:09 PM


Dexter Bob or Dexter Robert or Silly Bob follow this guideline
http://time-blog.com/china_blog/2008/07/a_reporters_guide_to_covering.html
“Reporter Guidelines for Covering the Beijing Olympics. 1) On arrival, set the scene by saying a few nice things about the infrastructure—the high rises and the multilane highways, the interchanges. Developmenty sort of stuff. 2) Make an amusing, self-deprecating comment about your inability to speak or read the funny language they have in China. Play down the fact that you are dependent on a translator for quotes and newspaper reading. Never admit in print to getting story ideas or borrowing quotes from the China Daily. 3) Get story ideas and borrow quotes from the China Daily. Make sure you do this discreetly. For background only. 4) Now for reportage. After saying the nice things about the new buildings, get your translator to find a Beijing yam seller whose slum was knocked down to make way for the Olympic badminton hall. Do a few paras on him, and how all the money thrown at the Games is not helping the poor, and how terrible the huge income gap is. Make sure you write at least three times as much about the yam seller whose slum was pulled down as you do about all the new apartments, new metro lines, the growth in car ownership, the expanding health insurance and all the other good news about China that nobody in the west really wants to know about. 5) Say how horrible the air in Beijing is, even if it isn’t on the days you are there. Everybody says Beijing air is horrible, so play along. 6) The political bit. Interview a token party member, but reword him subtly to make it sound like he is just spouting the party line. Bend the translator’s words to fit—it’ll be rubbish English anyway. (Ditto in all quote treatment). Then find a good Chinese, one who is fluent in English, has lived in America or Britain, and is prodemocracy. Give them lots of space, let them sing. Martin Lee types, but preferably younger and female, for the mugshot. If you can get an interview with the Olympic artist, Ai-whatsisname, who is an anti-Commie quote machine, give him full throttle. Hopefully, he hasn’t been arrested yet.

To Dexter Roberts AKA Silly Bob

August 15, 2008 4:11 PM

Continuation of the Western press guideline to report on Chna

Lastly, please remember: Chinese who love their country are called “nationalists.” Never use this word for Americans, French, Tibetans and other civilized peoples who love their country or territory. When demonstrators protest over Tibet they are acting in a heartfelt, spontaneous way, waving pretty flags you would be happy to see woven into your granny’s bedspread. When Chinese counter-demonstrate, they are always “bussed in,” the mood is “ugly”, and they are draped in intimidating red flags that can be made to look a bit Hitler Jugend-ish with the right kind of photo. (They probably did arrive in buses as this is the cheapest way of moving numbers of not-very-well-off people around, but you don’t need to prove the insinuation that the regime laid on the vehicles). Beijing is always a “regime,” by the way, and is not to be confused with western “governments.” (But: Hong Kong is an exception. Because it was under benign, enlightened British dictatorship for a long time, it cannot be a “regime.” “Regime” only applies to dictatorships in rubbish countries).
That’s about it. Don’t be deceived by all that friendly smiling and optimism, that’s just a front. It’s your job, with your long days of experience of the Far East and your fluency in a language spoken by nearly 0.005% of the locals, to get under the radar and ferret out the truth. Did I mention how bad the air in Beijing is?”

Realist

August 15, 2008 4:58 PM

As a fellow North American, I concur with the previous blog that the Chinese have created some incredible architectural facilities, and that the entire nation has embraced the games. However, please be realistic. In a democratic country, like the United States or Canada, the media is never going to present just one side of the story. It is the media's responsibility to report accurate stories that can be supported by effective evidence.

Bob

August 15, 2008 6:21 PM

I agree with Diva. Give the Chinese some credit for what they have achieved in such a short time. Unfortunately we in the West are too quick to view everything through our own rose-tinted lenses. China is not perfect, but then neither are we.

jcage

August 15, 2008 10:36 PM

Dexter Robert what is you opinion of reporter that made up fact? Should he/she be fired for lying to the public?
What about using fake picture and using them as evidence as it was done during the Lashas riot? Are you angry or speechless?
Thank

YinduAsan

August 16, 2008 12:33 AM

I lived in the US for almost two decades, before that I lived in China for almost three decades. And I frequently travel to China for business.

I have been keenly following any storied of western media on China, almost as a habit. Take AP for example, according to my statistics, only about 20 to 30% of reports can be rated as fair and all-perspective. Rest of the 70 to 80% are either very misleading, fact-distorting. After Tibet riots, I completely lost confifence on any western media. The violent Tibetan monks, who burned over 900 business shops, over 200 residential, 5 schools, 5 hospitals, killed 19 innocents, have always been branded as "peaceful demonstrators". Chinese government enforcement of law was always "brutal crackdown". There was zero truth from Dalai Lama, yet, he was quoted again and again, "Chinese troops killed over 200 Tibetans". The westerm media, in my eyes, was nothing short of tools for evil-doers.

Jibadan

August 16, 2008 12:45 AM

Whenever bad news broke out from western government, it was always "alleged", "claimed". When even a rumer broke out in China, it was always reported as firm. For example, just a month ago, mobs burned down police building in Gui Zhou out of a rumor that the dead girl was raped by relatives of government officials and then murdered. Later, the truth came out that the girl did commit suicide right in front of her three classmates, and all of them are son and daughters of farmers. I piled up a miles of nonsense reports from western media.
Here is another one: Terrors committed by the extremist Urghuer in Xinjing was because Chinese government's oppression, abortion to due one-child policy. The fact is, only Han Chinese is bound by the one-child policy. All minorities are exempted. Bin Laden bombed US because he was evil. US invaded Iraq because Iraqis need to be liberated. Yea, we are all fools.

JiaMing

August 16, 2008 2:33 AM

Mr. Roberts,
To characterize the American media's coverage of China for the past couple of years and especially the Beijing Olympics as balanced is disingenuous. Let's at least agree on the obvious, that the China reporting in the West has been quite negative. Just a simple count of negative articles on BW can show this fact.

I said the coverage has been largely negative, but not necessarily untrue. The problems that the Western press has been focusing on are mostly real and serious issues. China has a lot of problems despite 30 years of reform and almost 60 years since the birth of People's Republic. I would say that China today is about where the US was 100 years ago. Corruption is rampant, human lives are grossly undervalued, the government is systematically oppressing the civil rights of its citizens, and big business dominates the society, jus to name a few. The US struggled for decades and finally fixed a lot of these similar problems in the 1960s and 1970s. Civil rights were officially recognized and guaranteed to minorities, big monopolistic trusts were busted and child labor was outlawed. These are all great achievements that should be celebrated. Today's America is definitely a society to strive for and the American experience should be a valuable guide for China in her development.

With that said, it did take the US 200 years to go from a rural society with a slavery-based economy to the modern industrial superpower with equal rights for all her citizens. Now the American press is calling for the independence of a Chinese territory (Tibet) because of Beijing's human rights abuses. Keep in mind that China only had 60 years since her government was established. If China is US 100 years ago, then it would mean that she has achieved 150 years of American progress in 60 years. That is no small feat. Of course China still has a long way to go compared to America today. But don't you think it is a bit harsh to say that China has not progressed fast enough so she must lose Tibet? Remember, there were plenty of reasons the US a centry ago should have given up many territories for the same human rights problems that existed back then if the same standard applied.

To make this point even more obvious, US is like a successful 45-year-old man at the height of his career, and China is like a twenty-five-year-old young man who just starting his. What is happening now is that the successful adult is constantly ridiculing the youngster for how much of an underachiever he is and even tries to take away his child because this young man is not as successful as he is. It doesn't matter that this successful adult man made the same mistakes the youngster is making now when he was young. Mr. Roberts, if you have a son or daughter, you probably wouldn't treat him this way or wish any other adults to treat him this way, would you?

At the same time, I do believe there is too much overreaction from Chinese all around the world. I think simply admitting that China has a lot of problems that need to be addressed but she needs time to change for the better would be more than enough.

goulin

August 16, 2008 3:25 AM

I am just tired of seeing these kinds of comments in the headline news especially in this prestigious magazine business week. Why are people still complaining for those small portion of angry human being? Just considering who and how many world leaders have attended the 29th Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony, everyone should be proud what China has achieved. Since the beginning of opening and reforming policy in the late 70th, China has been making progress in every aspect. Ordinary people have more freedom to speak, more money to spend. The bottom line is people are happier than everbefore. Are there any issues remaining? Of course there are still many problems needed to be solved just like many other democratic and wealthy countries. No country on earth is free from issues including America. The most important thing is how to solve these proplems. The government is listenin and its own people are responding. China is not a 100% democratic country yet because the politicla system is completely different from the western's. The Tibentan issue is a thorn for Chinese government because some people are trying to break the law or even to seperat from their motherland. No one will allow this to happen under current situation. They protest over and over again. But the fact is that Tibet is one part of CHina and the Government deeply cares about them and is helping them a lot by pouring lots of money into that area. Why these small things are so interesting to many people? There are just so many positive things to be written and reported in the media. Whoever visits China will be surprised be the change China has made only within 20 years. As professional writers or reportors, you should be more focused on the positive things instead of these negative things.

Jolly Good

August 16, 2008 5:32 AM

Do listen to Hugo Chavez opinios on free press and you will be really angry. Next to him, Chinese officials are boyscouts..

Anfernee

August 17, 2008 4:52 AM

I don't think the western medias have ever make a postive
reports on China. I think that is really unfair. The medias just care about their viewing rates, not the truth. For Chinese have make such incredible achievement in such a short time ,
I think they are so great!

Lei

August 17, 2008 5:52 AM

JiaMing made a really good argument. I saw my Chinese fellows are all disappointed here. To be honest, I am kind of happy to see this kind of unfair, biased, or even distorted news, because at the end of day such news will hurt America more than China. Also I was indeed happy when GWB was elected president 4 years ago, because I knew the U.S economy would be hurt within his presidency. I just don't understand how Americans tolerate such obvious, undemocratic news and presidency. Seems the downturn of a strong country is inevitable, like Tsing Dynasty in 200 years ago, UK in 100 years ago, and now the U.S. I have nothing against the America people, who are really great, but the U.S. media and government are terribly wrong.

Lei

August 17, 2008 5:53 AM

JiaMing made a really good argument. I saw my Chinese fellows are all disappointed here. To be honest, I am kind of happy to see this kind of unfair, biased, or even distorted news, because at the end of day such news will hurt America more than China. Also I was indeed happy when GWB was elected president 4 years ago, because I knew the U.S economy would be hurt within his presidency. I just don't understand how Americans tolerate such obvious, undemocratic news and presidency. Seems the downturn of a strong country is inevitable, like Tsing Dynasty in 200 years ago, UK in 100 years ago, and now the U.S. I have nothing against the America people, who are really great, but the U.S. media and government are terribly wrong.

Dan Harris

August 17, 2008 8:38 AM

You are 100% right.

singha

August 17, 2008 2:12 PM

Dexter Robert has an axe to grind against the Chinese people and cover his own prejudice and bias under the name of free speech! Freedom of press is very important so is it integrity. Western reporter could freely bash China with made-up (false) report as it was seen during the Lashas riot and not being punished by its superiors.
If the same reporter were doing the same type of hack job to a Western country, he or she could face serious legal consequence such as defamation or larceny charge. The law protect freedom of press but at the same time to keep it in check to make sure that it is reporting the truth or at least make the effort to check their facts before publishing any news. However, we don't see the same check and balance when western reporter report about China. For example, "Dog Meat free Olympic" it is to reinforce negative stereotype of the Chinese people even though there is true to it but imagine if a reporter do a "Vodka free Olympic" to play on the stereotype that Russian are a group of drunkard. Western reporter could play on racist stereotype on the Chinese without any consequence since they are approved by their managers. I guess China need to remind them to be more objective in their report of China. Many of the report done on China so far has been very negative like 80% or more has been negative news either real or perceived.

plumblossom

August 17, 2008 2:45 PM

I have lost faith in the western media - period.

Perry W

August 17, 2008 11:21 PM

"Realist August 15, 2008 04:58 PM

In a democratic country, like the United States or Canada, the media is never going to present just one side of the story. It is the media's responsibility to report accurate stories that can be supported by effective evidence."


Realist, like you, I used to watch superman on tv, where the Daily Planet reporters investigated their stories.

Unfortunately, the real media is not like that, they just publish press releases as "news", and show their bias, especially when covering stories that show what the politically correct opinion should be.
==========
"goulin August 16, 2008 03:25 AM

There are just so many positive things to be written and reported in the media. As professional writers or reporters, you should be more focused on the positive things instead of these negative things."

Negative stories sell a lot better than positive ones do.

Which headline would sell better:

The usual headline:
Child killed in drive by shooting by illegally armed gang member, on parole for the 10th time for assault and illegal possession of weapons, felon to be paroled again.

Or,

Criminal responsible for violent crime wave in neighborhood ends career permanently when attempting home invasion of politically incorrect family of armed Kalifornians.

Paul

August 18, 2008 1:28 AM

From the Chinese perspective, the West and western journalists are always out to embarrass China. No matter what China does, westerners will find something bad to tell. It is a form discrimination.

Take the Olympics Opening Ceremony...most people agreed that it was great. So let's leave it at that? No, of course not. Western media is talking about some computer generated fireworks and a little girl was lip-synching....as if lip-synching was a Chinese invention.

When the Chinese girls won gold in gymnastics...leave it at that? Of course not...the western media talking about Chinese gymnasts might be underage.

Let's take one more example about freedom in China. Before the mid 1980's the people in China was not allowed to move from one city to another without permission from the government. This was changed and today people can move, live and work wherever they like. You would think that is a good thing. More freedom, right? Of course not...now the western media is talking about too many Chinese people moving into Tibet and Xinjiang provinces...overwhelming local cultures and people.

For China...it's damn if they do, and damn if they don't. China just can't win.

Xiang

August 18, 2008 3:55 AM

I'm Chinese.
I think We need some contructive criticism because most of domestic media focus on only positive side.
But west media never reported China based on truth.some report is harmful even threat our stability of our contry.
More and more Chinese won't trust western medias. we don't want to lose Dark side mirror.So make yourself flat, western medias.or more Critism coming from local medias.

Michael

August 18, 2008 12:02 PM

What about all the Americans that were conned into taking-out a mortgage that they obviously couldn't afford--evidenced by the whiplash to our economy--by unethical mortgage and finance professionals, which were obviously a direct result of ineffective government regulation???

What about all the Americans now who are suffering?

Everyone is so biased against China, but if you go there, you'll see that everyone is happy and no one is in debt...

To Dexter Roberts AKA Silly Bob

August 18, 2008 4:37 PM


http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/olympics/2008-08/16/content_6940764.htm

UN official criticizes Western media bias
By Chen Jia
China Daily Staff Writer
Updated: 2008-08-16 07:57

Western media should take a more objective view when reporting on China, Wilfried Lemke, special advisor on sport for development and peace to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, said Friday.

"I am very disappointed by some articles and some news about China and the criticism of the Games," he said at a press conference in Beijing.

"For example, I read that the sun never shines in Beijing, but when I look out of my window, there it is."

The Western media should understand that China has a "different first priority" for its population, he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon speaks on a giant television screen prior to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008. [Agencies]

"I really hope they understand why the IOC was right to bring the Games to Beijing, because China will definitely be more open afterward."

Khalid Malik, the United Nations' resident coordinator in China, said Beijing and other Olympic host cities had made huge progress ahead of the Games, especially with regard to environmental issues.

"This has truly been a Green Olympics in which development has been achieved with an emphasis on environmental suitability," he said at the press conference.

"It is one of the great legacies of the Games the people of China will reap the benefits for years to come," he said.

Lemke agreed China has developed a lot since winning the right to host the Olympics.

"One only has to see the skyline of Beijing to realize the giant strides the country has made," he said.

Richard Fosbury, president of the World Olympians Association, said at the conference that Olympians are the best ambassadors of goodwill in the world of sports.

"Athletes can act as role models and use their influence to promote sport for development and peace," he said.

Many Chinese athletes have worked with the UN to promote poverty alleviation and HIV/AIDS awareness, he said.

David King

August 25, 2008 5:26 PM

It is funny to see so many "Americans" livin in China commenting here.

One of them claims "The violent Tibetan monks, who burned over 900 business shops, over 200 residential, 5 schools, 5 hospitals, killed 19 innocents, have always been branded as "peaceful demonstrators"."

It sounds to me like Chinese government propaganda than a fact. Chinese government claimed the "violent" monks did all the terrible things.

If so, I wonder why Chinese government kicked out western media from Tibet.
Could it be better for western media to
see how violent and brutal those monks are and report to the whole world.

Chinese agents stop spreading lies here

sone

August 26, 2008 8:34 AM

Ya, that's right. Muckrakers are nothing more than entertainers.

Down with "yellow journalism." The western media just likes to dig dirt up cause that's what sells to your dirty readers.

Huns

August 26, 2008 11:00 AM

ignore them, do our job and bury them.

Victor

August 27, 2008 11:10 PM

Poor David King, you even don't know it were western tourists who told public that the Tibetan monks killed people. Do some your own search.

Caroline

August 28, 2008 4:20 PM

Reporter are suppose to dig up stories. and report them to the public. But western media has only twisted the facts when reporting. And they don't seem to be interested in digging up positive facts. It's alway something negative. So they shouldn't be alllowed into China. Not if they are only one sided. I've yet to hear anything positive in the new about China. and we know there've been lots of improvement made in a very short period.

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