Does the PRC news media lie?

Does the Chinese Media lie, or is their culture and worldview so diametrically opposed to Western norms that the recent “conflicts of narrative” between the two are more a case of cultural misunderstanding than Chinese moral malignance?

Reading through the recent content of the Chinese news media, any fluent and engaged reader can see the many recent instances where the PRC media has obviously distorted its’ information, downplayed an event, been duplicitous in its argument and perhaps even lied openly. At least when it comes to the English news content of the PRC media’s, spotting these aberrations of reality and the objectives behind them are relatively simple; whether the Chinese journalists flip flop on an issue, boldly oversimplify a complicated situation or deliberately falsify modern and historical events, their claims are usually framed within a self-serving PRC narrative.

As a nation that relies upon patriarchal top-down political control and Confucian modes of ‘social harmony’ rather than openness and political inclusivity, examples of dissent, protest and arguing with the Party directly challenges the power system and are usually shut out of the public sphere. Recent cover-ups and journalistic manipulation of issues that cast poorly on the PRC, like the high speed rail crash that killed dozens last month, the handling of the Sichuan earthquake and the Sanlu milk formula poisoning cases of 2008 illustrate this. All three examples were marked by underwriting, the purposeful withholding of potentially damaging information and blatant scapegoating by journalists unwilling to go against the Party. Meanwhile editorial pieces from Xinhua, People’s Daily and the Daily Times,  all PRC run publications, openly and regularly state historical mistruths as if they were irrefutable, evidence of which is so abundant that providing direct examples would be trifling.

When it comes to issues that cast poorly on the PRC, the Chinese media can be expected to fall in line behind the Party and to spin or ignore the story so as to cause the least amount of damage. Not only does the PRC maintain its own print, radio and television medias’ in order to affect this however, it also reserves itself editorial rights over any and all publications in China. Likewise, through the “Great Fire Wall of China” and the PRC’s internet censors it also edits online news and blogs; in effect, the Chinese news media is the PRC.

Because all mainland news outlets are either directly controlled and run, or stringently moderated by the Party it is impossible to tell if the various “untruths” in the Chinese media are solely the result of PRC directives and intervention or if they are also because of the intricacies of Chinese, Confucian based culture. Confucianism, now a reformed and accepted part of Chinese life since the end of the Cultural Revolution does, at least theoretically, make provision for journalists, unmolested by the Party, to feel obliged to protect it, even if they weren’t Party members (though it is unlikely that there are many non-Party affiliated journalists and editors in China). This Confucian concept of “Filial Piety”; child-like subservience to your superiors, is still a strong and certainly goes some way to restrict the acceptability of speaking out against the Party in modern China. This ingrained subservience, along with the practice of “Guanxi (good ol’ boys) networking” also ensures that people in power, support one another, maintain their control and respectability and that no one important “loses face”, another important facet of Chinese culture.

The very nature of the PRC and the culture that it exists in means that publicly accepting failures and mistakes is difficult; when you control everything with an iron fist the way the PRC does: from education all the way through to economics and even entertainment, then any and all problems within society become your fault. The people of China do not have the opportunity to vote out regimes that make mistakes like those in the West do. Thus, the only way for the Party to maintain popular support  is to make sure the news is always ‘good news’ or at least to ensure that scapegoats are ready to take the blame. As such the Party is compelled to act immorally and to deceive its’ people rather than face their condemnation, which in the worse case could result in mass protests, revolution, the ousting of Party heads or force Party reform.

As an organ of the PRC does the PRC media lie?

All we know for sure  is that, as an organ of the PRC, it is definitely in its interests to do so.

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One Response to Does the PRC news media lie?

  1. Pingback: Ryan Padraig Kelly Newspapers | ryanpadraigkelly234

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