Today, August 8, 2007, we are one year away from the opening of the Summer Olympics 2008 in Beijing, China.
America will be greatly influenced by the National Broadcasting Sytem’s reports, promos and advertisements about the Olympics and China, to say nothing about the activities and reports surrounding the Games themselves.
What China does not want westerners to see or hear is any negative reporting about China. The issue of Human Rights, for example, is not allowed on any agenda.
Just remember: NBC has no obligation to say anything but that which is self-serving. And, because millions of dollars are at stake and China can shut down any media outlet at any time because there is no freedom of the press in China, you’ll see scores of reports from NBC that resemble the sucking-up one generally finds only among teenage male suitors. China is more than NBC’s bride and prize in this money making affair: China is the Golden Goose.
The essay below, published in today’s Washington Times, is my singular effort to provide some balance and perspective on China and that massive country’s government and culture of corruption.
John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
August 8, 2007
China: Less Than the Whole Truth
By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
August 8, 2007
With a public relations scandal involving food and other product safety looming if not already roiling for China on June 12, 2007, the Vice Minister for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in China said, “We can guarantee food safety.”
Starting in December 2006, news media had reported to the world on tainted (poisonous) products manufactured and exported from China. China denied the allegations but a steady “drip, drip, drip” of news revealed tainted pet foods, seafood, toothpaste, medical supplies, children’s custard and even children’s toys painted with lead based paint.
But, by still claiming that food products from China were completely safe last June, China in fact demonstrated that it “didn’t get it.” China doesn’t know what almost every experienced American movie star, politician and prominent sports figure knows or will soon hear about as soon as a scandal breaks: come clean.
On August 4, 2007, the official China news agency Xinhua quoted the deputy head of the State Food and Drug Administration, Hui Lusheng, as saying “Dealing with and preventing food safety risks is a long-term, arduous and complicated project.” Finally, a probably reliable admission from China.
Why does China “not get it”? Why, when a crisis or scandal breaks, does China at first issue a denial and only reverse course once the mess is a firestorm?
First, China does not have a fully free and open media. During many scandals, especially largely internal scandals, China gets away without telling the truth or suffering consequences.
The second reason many believe that China generally denies the truth to escape responsibility and public scorn is more complicated, cultural and deeply rooted in the communist system.
Because China and other communist countries have no free and open elections, the communist party and its officials stay in power using a system of coercion, force and putting down public unhappiness – sometimes ruthlessly and violently.
Public confidence among the Chinese in their government is not widespread. Public obedience from the countryside to edicts from Beijing are often ignored.
China has another problem: with 1.3 billion people and an immense land mass, seemingly small problems are often found to be huge.
In last spring’s tainted pet food scandal, China at first denied any wrongdoing.
But western reporters found that the pet food was largely poisoned by a product called melamine, which is used in fertilizer and plastics. Using melamine, Chinese manufacturers reduced production costs while still charging customers top dollar: as if beef or other high quality protein products had been used in the pet food.
Melamine is a prohibited substance in American pet food according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, melamine is a widely accepted fertilizer in China. And farmers mix it into livestock feed, pet food and other products because it is plentiful, inexpensive and usually undetected.
When the reporters in China followed up on this story, they asked some farmers why China couldn’t just stomp out those few using melamine. Farmers told them everyone used melamine this way since the 1950s. The reporters wrote their findings under the headline, “Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China.”
The China government has a three phase plan for dealing with a crisis. The food safety scandal gives us a perfect example.Phase one is denial, phase two is a flurry of activity that does little good but serves to distract the media, and phase three is the “come clean and solve (or at least seem to solve) the problem phase.”In 2003, China faced an epidemic of a disease called Severe Acute Reparatory Syndrome (SARS).
As the story broke that the disease was reaching epidemic proportions in Vietnam and Singapore, China didn’t make a sound.
Then China started issuing denials. Sure enough, after many denials of any medical problem in China, news reports began to come out of China that it, too, was experiencing SARS but that the problem was being competently managed. Phase two was on.
Near the end of the crisis China began to escort news people around hospitals and other facilities to demonstrate the professionalism and medical readiness of China’s system.
It was then that many realized the government of China responded the same way to every crisis. I documented my conclusions in a Washington Times commentary on Sunday, May 4, 2003.
Recall the Bird Flu crisis? Phases One, Two and Three were used again.
The bottom line is this: China has now established the unenviable record as a government that cannot be trusted in many cases: especially when a crisis darkens China’s door.
John E. Carey is former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to the Washington Times. He has lived in and studied China.
The article above appears in the Washington Times today, August 8, 2007, at:
In this run up to the Beijing Summer Olympics over the course of the next year, you’ll see many “happy face” “news” reports from westerners in China. As I was writing the essay above, Meredith Viera of the NBC TODAY show was sampling food in China during a report from China. Of course, NBC has a huge contract to televise the 2008 Summer games and is in no position to offer any criticism or balanced and rational reporting from China.
So there is a different view of China, an alternative to NBCs, that needs to be known and understood.
And oh, by the way: The web sites of The Washington Times and Peace and Freedom are “blocked ” in China and unavailable to internet users inside China.