China: Voice or Voices?

Beijing’s latest directives are to clean up the media and to make local party officials aware that the rest of the world is watching.

On the first point, once again Beijing wants to get rid of “pay for play” journalism. The problem is that the biggest violators are state-run media outlets.

The second point is the more interesting one for me.

The dramatic rise of mobile phone use and now smart phone use in China means very little of what happens in the Middle Kingdom is kept secret.

Last week, the Party’s official People’s Daily ran an interesting piece exhorting Party cadres at the “grassroots level” — those officials at the bottom rungs of the power bureaucracy — to be mindful of the international implications of their handling of local incidents. The bottom line was that local leaders must recognize that their decisions about how to handle a “sudden-breaking incident” on their turf could impact China’s international image and the country’s ability to engage on global issues.

In The Dictator’s Learning Curve,  William J. Dobson mentions how a massacre of Tibetan monks and families in a remote mountain pass by PLA troops was spread by YouTube from a person’s mobile phone.

It is not surprising that the leadership in Beijing gets the problem they face. They are still in the mode, however, that multiple voices — that is to say, the voice of the people — is not conducive to “stability.” And so there must be one Chinese voice rather than many Chinese voices.

One another — more familiar issue — once you strip away the efforts to control what people say and do, the fact that the Chinese government sees the connection between local events and global repercussions is something the United States could learn.

Not the control part. The connection part.

It is still amazing to me to see how so few people in the United States (even highly educated ones) really don’t see connections between domestic and international events.

While the main issue is getting more Americans to understand why international events are important, I am seeing more people whose sole focus seems to be international events with little regard as to how their ideas about what should be a U.S. foreign policy could affect Main Street USA.

But more on that another day.


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Filed under Censorship, China, Connections

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