Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Where are we heading?

with one comment

My good buddy Bianj, who occasionally adds his two cents to this blog (see the London piece below), often comments on the paradox between professional and personal interests.  As a teacher during my time in Taiwan, the psychological battles I waged dealt more with an up close and intimate look at the fragility of our future– our children.  The basic principle of the day was progress.  And though I dealt with a fair amount of inner-school politics and curriculum based haggling, the job was straight forward.  There was no slight of hand.

I have found new challenges.  Working in television news, in China, is a myriad of perplexing personal gripes.  Most of it, I internalize.  Occasionally I bemoan a certain situation in as subtle and polite a manner as possible.  But I am only a piece of the finished product.  The manufacturing of the news is a political process that I am only beginning to learn.

Chinese journalists have a daily meeting in which superiors tell them what will be the primary focus of the day and what is not to be mentioned.  The first aspect of this is common in any newsroom around the world.  There is top news.  It leads.  But the later aspect, the self-censorship, well, that is the more interesting part.

The company I work for now is in a very tight spot. I believe it holds ambition and promise.  I believe it is coming along at a time of principle importance.  But, it must step gently.  It still must appease a government overseer, who fingers the strings of its future.  Attempting to cut free too soon would be catastrophic.  It must be a measured and lengthy battle, and in that, not even a battle.  No, more subtle, more subversive.  The government must accept it as one of their own, harbor it, let it expand, let it go international, build a base.  And then, and only then, will it possibly hold a card worth betting on at the table.

A lot of this has come to light for me in the past few weeks.  I have taken great pleasure in my ability to form the wording of news stories.  This began with news on Palestine.  I was finally able to personally remove some of the pro-Israel bias so embedded and intrinsic to Western media.  Some of you might question what that means.  Am I, too, biased?  How can someone “form” the news?  Well, that’s complex and simple.  To offer a simple example, remember in elementary school or in peer counseling classes when we were taught to make “I” statements to begin rehashing an argument.  Don’t say, “He stole my pencil.”  Say, “I was angry he stole my pencil.”  It seems pedantic but it matters.

Well, I was satisfied to be making minor (and truthful) adjustments to the presentation of some complex issues.  But then, then came Tibet.

I have never been witness to something so contrived, I thought.  Images of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan flag are banned from Chinese television.  He is to China what Osama bin Laden is to the US right now, a terrorist, public enemy number one.  And similar to the US, rather than engaging the public in even a very minor discourse as to why such animosity has emerged, the state is choosing to ramp up nationalism and ethnic identity to “defuse” the situation.  There is no discussion of how Han-Tibetan ties have been strained by unequal access to education, land, healthcare and opportunities.  And, now, it’s all about protecting the sanctity of the Olympics.

It is funny how much of this actually echoes what the US has done in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I hadn’t even made the connection until writing this now.  I had assumed it was such a Chinese move.  But take for instance the fact that foreign journalists have been barred from Tibet.  Weren’t all journalists practically barred from the US invasion zones during the run-up to war?  Or another example.  China immediately came out with a list of nations supporting its reaction to the outbreak of rioting in Lhasa.  It included such powerhouse nations as Mauritania and the Seychelles, not to mention a few regional neighbors too threatened to challenge the status-quo.  How much does that resonate with our Coalition of the Willing?

Malaysia just canceled a dance performance in its capital because it feared one short segment might anger China.  Well, to be specific, China said it would.  So officials in KL ex’d the show, refunded ticket sales, taking a major loss and inconveniencing people who traveled to see it.  All because China said so.  The economic weight is balled up like a fist behind the CCP.  Cross China and your gonna get one in the jaw.  Less and less does the world stand-up for the people getting pummeled beneath the feet of human(e?) progress.

Protesters were just arrested at the Olympic Torch lighting ceremony today.  That’s the crux.  Protect the sanctity of the Games.  How dare someone politicize such a holy event, right?  How dare people speak out against a country basking in glory while repressing entire regions of the world!  I was sitting in our newsroom watching the “live” coverage of the torch ceremony on CCTV, China’s national corporation in control of nearly everything, especially live events.  We were watching because it was going to lead the news tonight.  I had my head down and heard a slight blip of something.  Everyone poked their heads up, curious.  When we looked, the channel was normal.  Just a cut away, and then it went back to the man giving the speech.  The entire raucous was edited out!  The entire nation missed it!  Smart, I suppose.  How can discontent even be stirred?  After all, masses are generally timid, awaiting others to step up, seeking security in numbers, before speaking out for some cause.

So, as far as making a connection Bianj… as far as bridging that divide between the personal and the political… well, I am still working on it.

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Written by Miles

March 24, 2008 at 6:16 pm

One Response

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  1. I’m still working on it too my friend. I have not felt like I’ve gotten any closer to answers, but for the time being, I’m satisfied by struggling with the issue.

    bianj

    March 25, 2008 at 8:56 pm


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