Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Good Cop, Bad Cop": China's Global Times

The Global Times newspaper of China has been much in the news of late being heavily criticised for it's bellicose, belligerent and highly nationalistic editorials.

 As a subsidiary of the People's Daily, the official news organ of the Chinese Communist Party, the Global Times has taken over, what Asia Sentinel  has described, the "Bad Cop" role from the People's Daily and is undoubtedly used by the Chinese Communist Party to pass, de facto, messages that diplomatic niceties prevent the government from saying out loud.

Asia Sentinel recently posted an excellent article entitled China's Foreign Policy Bulldozer where it looks at the role of the Global Times in China's Foreign Policy.

Asia Sentinel argues that whilst not directly under the control of the CCP, coming under the direction of the People's Daily, it has a position of "denyability" being arguably at more than arms length from official Government/Party lines. It's highly nationalistic pronouncements and sabre rattling editorials speak very plainly to the target market whilst allowing the Government to play "good cop" in dampening any negative response. Nonetheless, the points have already been made.

Some examples are provided in the article of editorials recently

For instance, demands made within the last two months alone include strikes against US weapon systems if Taiwan purchases them as well as against the Vietnamese and Filipinos for defending their littoral interests in the South China Sea and even the South Koreans for having detained Chinese fishing boats.

Asia Sentinel opines

Allowing the Global Times to articulate hard-line nationalistic views enables the government to remind its foreign policy interlocutors the pressure it – as the moderate voice of China in comparison – is under domestically and thus permits it to ask for more concessions from foreign governments without appearing too aggressive.”

Another alluding to the Global Times role in China's Foreign Policy is Elizabeth C Economy in her Council on Foreign Relations article Beijings message to Asia: if you can't join 'em, beat 'em 

Finally, an excellent look at Global Times is by Christina Larson in her recent Foreign Policy article China's Fox News  where she takes a very in depth look at the workings of Global Times particularly focusing on the  editor-in-chief Hu Xijin.

But despite western negativity concerning the Global Times I believe it is not without it's good points, one example, as Larson points out, is it's stance against corruption

Given how much of what Global Times prints is obvious anathema to liberal Western readers, it's worth noting that another recurring topic is criticism of China's own culture of official corruption (so long as no Western government is allowed to look good by comparison).

I also find that, in some areas, reporting is quite balanced, even to the point of being almost 'open hearted'. A recent article that had resonance for me was  Democracy doesn't have to start from revolt which seems to implore the reader (read the west as target market) to understand China's road to democracy. It makes a reasoned case for understanding "Democracy with Chinese characteristics"

Many questions can be asked about the Global Times. Is it just a tool of the CCP or is it's editorial stance purely a result of market positioning, with profit it's major concern? Is it's editorial stance simply a product of the guiding influence of it's Editor-in-Chief?

There are no obvious answers other than "all of the above" and perhaps many more to boot. 

Whatever may be the case, the Global Times provides a further insight into the mindset of China, be it the government, the  party, or, the people. It deserves to be read, albeit with a critical eye. So many western commentators look to western media in their attempt to understand China. The likes of the New York Times, Telegraph and Guardian UK, FP et al. are read and quoted as being the final words on understanding China. These are all valuable resources, don't get me wrong, but the old saying  "straight from the horses mouth" is where the real story can be best heard and best understood and that is the Chinese media for all it's constraints and peccadilloes.