I didn’t know that when Deng Xiao Ping unleashed economic reform that he also set up China’s first attempt at training real journalists. (As opposed to the party hacks at Xinhua and other party publications.)
Training came from well-known Western journalists who brought those subversive ideas of media free from interference and no fear-no favor.
That is not what the party wanted and the events at Tiananmen Square June 4, 1989 proved (to them) that too much freedom is a bad thing.
So now China is trying again. But with more rules. The party and government leaders are applying the same logic to journalism that they applied to economics. They are looking at “journalism with Chinese characteristics.”
Problem is that none of the Western journalists are buying it. And it seems some of the Chinese journalists aren’t either.
The foreign students at the new international journalism program in Tsinghua University are told:
“[T]hey were not allowed to discuss in class, including Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen Square and the Falungong.”
And experts brought in don’t buy it either:
“I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘Chinese journalism’. There is either the journalism practiced with professional principles that we all recognize and understand, or there is not. It’s like physics. Physical laws are universal. You can’t have ‘Chinese physics’, or ‘physics with Chinese characteristics’,” said Glenn Mott, managing editor of the Hearst Group in the United States, who taught at Tsinghua’s journalism school as a Fulbright scholar for the past academic year.
The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government want global respect but they keep doing things that ensure one of the most vital part of a global power and developing nation — free media — is shackled to an outmoded ideology.
The story notes how some Chinese reporters are disheartened when they meet their Western counterparts because of the Party hack image they carry.
And they should be embarrassed.
There are many in the field — outside Beijing — who are trying to push the envelope. But eventually the Party apparatus comes down hard on these brave souls. At least now the offending reporters and editors are just transfered to backwater sites where they will cause no more problems. Before they were taken out, beaten, denounced and jailed. Some were killed.
This is something to keep an eye on.