Journalists everywhere have been guilty of occasional credulity. Nevertheless, it seems to me that China’s media is at a rather different state of overall development than Western media. It also carries with it the legacy of having grown quite recently from filling a much different social role than Western media. This is not meant to be a comparative criticism, or a judgment on whether Chinese or western media is “better”. It is simply meant to provide some context for comparison. With those thoughts in mind, I’ve a few observations of my own. I’ve managed and attended a lot of press conferences in China, and have seen Chinese journalists to ask some tough, penetrating questions and deliver some hard-boiled interviews. I’ve also seen press releases and press event stenography (commonly distributed to attending journalists) published more or less verbatim in apparently credible media. I think it’s relatively hard to generalize about Chinese journalists with regards to their credulousness at PR events.
Grim and stern as an old friend would say. The People’s Daily online just carried a story announcing that Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of China’s State Food and Drug Administration (see here for story on his crimes), was executed this morning. I thought Zheng’s appeal of the death sentence handed down on May 29th was still pending but the story also noted that it had been rejected on June 22nd. I guess that it still seemed likely he would receive some sort of last minute reprieve, given how senior he was and the fact that his deputy was just given a suspended death sentence, which usually means effective life imprisonment. I don’t know why I was even a little surprised, though. As we observed earlier, Zheng’s timing was awful if he was hoping for a pardon. With the current international hullabaloo about safety regulation in China there was no way he was going to be let off the hook. Will his execution make a difference? Hard to say. Certainly it’s got to have some impact in the short term, but memories fade and the allure of stacks of those crisp, roseblush 100 renminbi bills is strong.
If there is a meaningful Chinese discussion about tackling climate change, it takes place largely behind closed doors, well out of sight of foreigners. Perhaps recent natural disasters will motivate Chinese leaders: Over just the past year China has suffered floods in the east that have affected more than 10 million people, while drought this spring left 13 million people and 12 million farm animals without enough drinking water. The Communist Party’s argument over the past fifteen years has been: Since China came late to the industrialization game, the core economies, with their significantly greater historical greenhouse gas contributions, must pay for a global transformation away from fossil fuels. Now it is China’s turn to develop, so deal with it.
Image from Shanghai Scrap.