As the investigation into the Bo Xilai case continues, without yet reaching a final conclusion, rumors of miscellaneous juicy details swirl among Western media. One of the latest sensational reports was published in the New York Times Wednesday, which implicated Bo in a "wiretapping scandal," citing a group of anonymous sources.
This front-page story quoted more than a few "insiders" to confirm Bo's "eavesdropping," but none of the sources themselves could be confirmed. These "insiders" included "a dozen people with party ties speaking anonymously," "senior party members including editors, academics and people with ties to the military," "one political analyst with senior-level ties citing information obtained from a colonel he recently dined with," "two journalists," "one senior party editor" and "party officials." The whole story, if not published in the New York Times, could be mistaken for a tabloid tidbit fabricated from dinner table gossip.
It is incredible that the New York Times, which remains a leading daily in the US despite its declining profits, decided to run a report that barely meets professional news standards. Perhaps the story was intended to cause a new stir among its yawning readership and win applause from those who dislike the Chinese government.
Since the initial exposure of the Bo case and the Wang Lijun incident, foreign media outlets have been engaged in a cut and thrust battle to see who could dig out the most dramatic and juicy stories. Over the past couple of months, they have largely focused on the "power struggle" theory, which even some US analysts describe as a shallow interpretation of the known facts. The latest report is a new bombshell targeted at an audience increasingly bored with the story.
It remains unknown whether Western readers totally buy these speculative stories, as those who actually visit China now can increasingly make their own objective judgment of China's political future. However, it is clear that some foreign media outlets like the New York Times are seizing every possible chance to narrate a politically bizarre China, including reports on some Chinese dissidents and the latest Bo case. It is high time for them to think twice about the habit of insisting on depicting a "dark" China.
One thing that needs to be noted is that claims around the wiretapping scandal were initially voiced in the Sound of Hope, a radio station affiliated with the Falungong, a group that endeavors to propagandize the obsolete "China collapse theory." Imaginary factions and splits among the Party leadership have long been a mainstay of Falungong media.
Since China announced the investigation into Bo's case, rumors about the leadership have been rampant on Falungong websites and newspapers, including claims of a power struggle between Bo and other leaders. The website of the Epoch Times, a Falungong run newspaper, published three articles in March on how Bo's supposed wiretapping of other leaders, along the lines of the recent New York Times story.
It is a shame that the New York Times, which claims to be an objective voice, now draws inspiration from Falungong rumor mills and conducts its China reports based on deeply rooted political prejudices.
Given such political stereotypes, the New York Times and some other foreign media outlets may go even further in depicting China and deliberately resorting to rumors. These may help them cause a fuss for a while, but if they insist on such unprofessional methods, their time-honored credibility will be shattered.