Posts Tagged ‘media’

CTP Podcast: International Perspectives on Bo Xilai Case

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012


Eric & Michael discuss the international media coverage and public perceptions of the Bo Xilai case.


The Bo Xilai scandal and the Western media by ChinaAfricaProject

[AUDIO] Exploring the limits of Chinese censorship

Monday, February 14th, 2011

In this edition of the China Talking Points podcast, Michael and Eric tackle the politically sensitive issue of China’s censorship policies in both the new and traditional media sectors. Just what the Chinese government wants its people to know surfaced again last week when the government banned the word ‘Egypt’ (埃及) from micro-blogging sites and restricted all coverage of the Egyptian uprising to be managed exclusively by the Xinhua news agency.

In a dramatic flashback to an earlier period of Chinese media management, on the very night that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from office, the People’s Daily website was among the only major international news outlets that did not mention this monumental event. Instead, the People’s Daily had a front page story celebrated increased Chinese grain production.

The Chinese government’s decision to limit access to news about the instability in North Africa is entirely predictable, however it begs the question as to whether or not the ‘cure is worse than the illness?’ That is, by denying its people access to this information how much will it cripple China’s long term ability to engage a world it increasingly dominates? Already, there are startling large information gaps among many educated Chinese about their country’s international engagement. Continued censorship of these types of events will only worsen that ignorance.

Conversely, Michael argues, the Chinese have been extremely adept at managing their information policies and if/when it is necessary to release the pressure it can do so.

We also discuss the precise measures that the Chinese employ to censor the increasingly large volume of content flowing over the air and through the ether to inform, educate and entertain hundreds of millions of Chinese. Michael explains that it is a complex blend of those famous ‘red pens’ along with the most sophisticated computer monitoring equipment on the market.

[VIDEO] China’s Rush to Build Global Media Brands

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Al Jazeera’s excellent international media affairs program “The Listening Post” featured a report this week on China’s ambitions to create a global media brand with this year’s launch of CNC World.  I was featured in the report as one of three experts to share my thoughts on some of the challenges that Beijing and CNC will likely encounter with this endeavor.

One of the big mistakes that many international observers make about the Chinese and their global media ambitions is to frame the issue in purely, Western terms.  That is, if CNC World or CCTV News are not competitive with any of the major American or European media brands than somehow China’s media strategy is a failure.  While the Chinese no doubt have ambitions to create media properties with equal heft of CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera among others, I do not think that is their only benchmark of success.

There is growing evidence that networks like CNC may not be targeting already competitive markets in North America or Europe but instead focusing their energy on emerging ‘Southern’ markets in Africa, South Asia and elsewhere. So it is critical to look at this issue in considerably broader terms than most Americans and European media watchers are accustomed.

The barriers to entry in the mature media markets in the developed world are simply too high for networks like CNC to viable without billions of dollars to invest in marketing and distribution.  By contrast, it is considerably cheaper for the Chinese to gain traction in less developed markets where it will not only be cheaper to penetrate but their product will likely receive a much better reception.

The Personal Challenge of Being Chinese in Africa

Friday, October 1st, 2010

For most people, the Chinese engagement with Africa is an enigma.  The combination of these two peoples, cultures and, increasingly their politics, are just so foreign to most of us that we do not have the necessary reference points to form an opinion. Instead, what emerges, is a series of emotional arguments that mistakingly lay a Western colonial filter over a lack of understanding of Chinese culture on top of deeply-ingrained stereotypes of Africans themselves.  From coffee shop conversations to newsrooms to college classrooms, the misunderstandings of the Chinese in Africa are pervasive.  And I think I know, in part, why…

The Faceless Monolith

The prevailing perception of the Chinese in Africa is one of massive international conglomerates doing shady deals to extract the continent’s natural resources with no regard (e.g. No Strings Attached) for politics or human rights.  While there is no doubt some truth to that, as is there is with all stereotypes, it is entirely misleading.  The hundreds of thousands of Chinese who have emigrated to countries across Africa are individuals that are too often hidden behind physical and cultural walls that prohibit meaningful interactions between the Chinese and outsiders (Africans, Westerners, etc…).   This lack of engagement leads to journalists, academics and others to extrapolate based on what limited information is available and that leads us back to these huge generalizations that too often mislead the outside world.

Regrettably, the Chinese in Africa story does not fit neatly within the traditional narrative structure of western journalism.  It is just too complex a story to portray within the traditional protagonist/antagonist formula that has come to define so much of contemporary Western journalism.  To understand this story, you have to get know the individuals who live it.

Meet Kafka

Picture of blogger "Kafka" taken in Qingdao, China

While perusing through the online classifieds posted on the Chinese in Africa BBS I came across an entry from a user named “Kafka” (卡夫卡) who emigrated a few years ago from the Eastern Chinese city of Qingdao to the Cameroonian city of Douala on the West Coast of Africa.  In his signature on that post, he included a link to his blog on the popular Chinese portal site (the 17th largest website in the world incidentally, according the internet ranking service that features entries that are essentially a diary detailing his experiences managing a small hotel and restaurant in Douala.

Kafka is typical of many young Chinese expatriates who find refuge online from the rigors of daily life in Africa.  As with all expatriates everywhere, there is obvious relief being among your own people who share a common language, values and experiences.  Chinese bloggers in general, including Kafka, are far from shy and reserved as they so often are in the presence of foreigners.  So blogs like Kafka’s are an invaluable resource to get to the personal level that is so often missing from the standard coverage of the Chinese in Africa.

“Time moves so slowly,” Kafka wrote in a June 2010 blog entry, “that it makes your brain go stupid.”  In this particular entry, that is representative of a lot of the posts from young Chinese living in Africa, Kafka shares his struggles of dealing with the monotony of daily life for young emigres in often remote parts of Africa.

“Everyday, all I know is to go online, eat, work, sleep and don’t even know what the point of reading or studying are.  Occasionally, I see online when the annual college entrance exam starts and finishes — all now faint memories of when I left school .  I once had tremendous opportunities [written with the Chinese idiom of  a ‘thousand soldiers and tens of thousands of horses’] to cross those bridges (into a different defined by academic success), however today I have probably forgotten everything.


“Before I heard people say, after work then you can become lazy, for me that’s ridiculous as I have  become so lazy [all the time], I just need to find a reason to stop [being so lazy] and when I go to work to not feel that this isn’t always the case.  Everyday I feel so lazy, lazy when I wash, lazy when I leave the house, lazy when i’m walking down the street… I just don’t know what to do with myself.


“The work life here in Africa is obviously not the same as it is back in China.  Here [in Cameroon] you don’t work from 9am to 5pm, you don’t need to check in with the boss everyday, don’t need to wear a tie; but here things just don’t work very well and there’s not the security there is back home and sometimes I am held-up at gun point and blackmailed.  There aren’t the conveniences that there in China where whatever you want you can have — if you want a certain kind of entertainment you can have it.  [Here] there’s just nothing to do but stay home, surf the web and watch TV.


Looking through the blogosphere

Kafka’s isolation and disappointments appear to be quite common across the Chinese in Africa blogosphere.  There are dozens of posts published in the just few weeks alone that reveal that same sense sense of personal despair.  Obviously, it is hard to tell how representative Kafka is of such a large and diverse expatriate population however, his and the other blogs do offer a rare, first-person view of the distinct challenges confronting this new immigrant population in Africa.

Your Letters: CTP Readers Respond

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

One of the biggest challenges that confronts any media professional is getting honest feedback on the content s/he produces.  TV journalists at the biggest networks in the world share the same complaint as the lone blogger — constructive criticism of one’s work is extremely hard to come by.  So when we received a pair of thoughtful, well-written feedback emails from a reader in Scandinavia and another in the United States, it was immensely appreciated.  Although the critiques (below) do sting a bit, their suggestions are valued and, in some cases, have already been incorporated into how we produce content on China Talking Points.   We thought it would be great to share their comments as a way to invite other readers to contribute feedback as well.  The comments below have been reprinted with the authors’ permission however both individuals did requested anonymity. (more…)

No Noise About

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Sure, the NYTimes & WSJ carried headlines; there were the ‘usual’ blog posts; one or two nightly news mentions ocurred.  Protest, though? Outrage? Op-eds?

No wreaths laid or candlelight vigels held.  This was just the Chinese government implementing policy on a company that has agreed that it couldn’t adhere to them.

Google is not leaving China and China surely isn’t leaving Google.  But the US media finally has enough perspective (or learning) to consider it relatively unremarkable.

This is probably the biggest disappointment out of the whole issue.  I’d certainly like to see unfettered internet access in China, but I’d really like to see less knee-jerk reporting by American media professionals.

Sadly, this isn’t an issue that only pertains to news on China.  I fear our news cycle is starting to  illicit rapid and uninformed actions on many fronts.  Something our Chinese friends are probably more aware of than ourselves.

[VIDEO] The Francis Brothers’ Documentary: When China met Africa

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Although the China in Africa story is receiving increasing amounts of media attention through blogs, print coverage and radio.  Producing video content on this subject is considerably more difficult given the traditional Chinese reluctance to speak publicly on camera.  After all, standard print and book journalists have a hard enough time getting people on the ground to talk on this issue much less someone with a full camera crew and all of the accompanying equipment.  So kudos to Mark and Nick Francis on their new documentary “When China met Africa” that, as far as I know, is the first long-form video project about the Chinese in Africa (please do let me know if I a mistaken here).  The program aired exclusively on BBC4 in the United Kingdom and was inaccessible via the BBC iPlayer to international viewers until now, thanks to You Tube.

Due to You Tube’s length restrictions on each clip, the video has been divided into six segment.  Watch segment one above and the following can be accessed below by clicking on the images below:

Segment 2

Click here to view segment two of "When China met Africa"

Segment 3

Segment three of "When China met Africa"

Segment 4

Segment four of "When China met Africa"

Segment 5

Segment five of "When China met Africa"

Segment 6

Segment six of "When China met Africa"

CTP Podcast – A Casual Rant on Media

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Ok, we just wanted to get a couple of things off our collective chest.

First we talk about a shifting in tone regarding China coverage – is this really the same media that was so negative on China in the first half of the year?  Not that we agreed with all the hullabaloo in the first half, but with currency debate subsiding, re-registered and a trade agreement with Taiwan, US media appears at a loss on how to sensationalize normalcy.

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Second, we had to return to a conversation about China’s efforts on creating a media outlet that presents an independent and impartial view of the world’s events from a Chinese perspective.  Eric is doing some work with France 24, and sees some lessons to be learned from contrasts in state media ownership – something he’ll blog on later.

3 Lessons France can offer China about government-run media

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Both China and France share a common frustration with the international media and that their country’s “story” is not being accurately conveyed via the CNNs, BBCs and Al Jazeeras of the world.  After years of bitterly complaining about the injustices of international (read Western) news reporting, they both came to same conclusion: “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.”   In December 2006, the French-government launched France24, its tri-lingual (French, Arabic and English) 24-hour news service distributed around the world via satellite and on the internet.  Similarly, the 2010 launch of CNC World marks China’s third attempt to persuade english language audiences around the world to “see the world through a Chinese perspective.”  The other two networks, CCTV 9 (now re-branded CCTV International”) and Blue Ocean Network (BON Live) are both on-air but have had little-to-no impact among its target demographic of english-speakers around the world.  In contrast to the various Chinese international TV networks now available globally, France24 appears to be gaining considerable traction with audiences in the US and Africa among other regions. (more…)

Three Steps to Improve Chinese Soft Power

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The rejection of Southern Media and Chengdu’s B-Ray Media’s offer to purchase the ailing U.S. magazine Newsweek is just the latest setback the Chinese have encountered in their desire for acceptance by the international media.  Chinese political and corporate leaders have regularly complained that “their story” is just not getting out, and as such, China is often misunderstood by the outside world.    So, Beijing (and in this case Guangzhou and Chengdu) are more determined than ever to expand China’s media influence beyond its borders through acquisition and the launch of new english language television networks to portray China accurately and fairly.  In addition to feeling both misunderstood and occasionally victimized by the Western media, the Chinese are also eager to expand their cultural influence abroad to complement their increased economic, political and military power. (more…)