Is China using the earthquake to political advantage?

with 4 comments

The LA Times has a distinctly different take than most newspapers on the Chinese earthquake on its front page today. The article – ‘Amid the tragedy lies opportunity’ – suggests the Chinese government is using the disaster as ‘an opportunity for a dramatic image makeover’.

‘After months of relentless coverage of Tibetan clashes and human rights abuses,’ Barbara Demick writes, ‘the earthquake shows a new China, one that is both compassionate and competent’. Demick emphasises how ‘much of the footage seen at home and abroad so far comes from state-owned CCTV television’.

Too cynical? Well, if you compare it to the New York Times it is. The NY Times, which also assesses media coverage of the earthquake, comes to a very different conclusion. For the NY Times, ‘the rescue effort playing non-stop on Chinese television is remarkable for a country that has a history of concealing the scope of national calamities and then bungling its response’.

Like its West Coast counterpart, the NY Times notes that the Chinese government news agency, Xinhua, has ‘offered an unusually vigorous stream of updates about casualties and problems confronting rescue teams’. But the East Coast paper has a much less sceptical explanation. Indeed it concludes by quoting a Chinese media professor saying that ‘this is the first time the Chinese media has lived up to international standards… I think the government is learning some lessons from the past’.

Still, Chinese media’s recent reaction to the Olympic flame debacle adds some fuel to the LA Times’ scepticism. During the protests Chinese television news was screening, on a repetitive loop, the moment when a protester tried to grapple the flame away from a disabled flame carrier. In other words – you got it – protester horrid and bad, carrier of the flame good.

Written by Martin Moore

May 14th, 2008 at 9:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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4 Responses to 'Is China using the earthquake to political advantage?'

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  1. Why you so fervent to bring every events in China into political assumption?Why you so stick to the gaudy political slogan of human right, not the compassionate humanity?You are brainwashed by the westen mainstream authority!It is projective eisegesis! You should ask if American goverment is using the earthquake to poltical advantage. You have such shadow in your heart, so you think every body and every government has. As a righthearted journalist, you should not use other people’s tragedy for political use.


    14 May 08 at 11:57 pm

  2. @ angeldew – thanks for your comment. As I’d hoped was clear from my blog, I was highlighting the discussion about media coverage of the earthquake by the LA Times and the NY Times, not using ‘other people’s tragedy for political purpose’. Indeed my intention was to raise awareness about the possible use of a tragedy for political purpose.

    Martin Moore

    15 May 08 at 4:58 pm

  3. Martin:I found this blogpost quite enlightening. It’s quite interesting to observe a possible opening up of media coverage in China, but also to wonder the motives behind the coverage, seeing as the media there is a different beast.


    16 May 08 at 10:03 am

  4. Frankly speaking, I don’t trust any of media now, both chinese media and US media. Journalists have added too much personal crankiness or political inclination into the reports. The newpapers and websites are full of coldblood gazing pictures and cynical comments. People in the developing country are so sad. They either were cheated by their own government or were condemned by the Western. Some of Journalists nowasays loose their integrity and compassion.


    17 May 08 at 4:03 pm

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