China can't cede agenda-setting to Western media
Global Times | 2013-12-17 0:43:02
By Global Times
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Columnist Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times has written an open letter to the Chinese president, demanding China remove the block on Bloomberg's website, and some Chinese-language websites of mainstream Western media such as the NYT and The Wall Street Journal. He also requested visa renewal for correspondents of the NYT and Bloomberg. Their sensitive reports, according to Friedman, are "a warning heart attack."

This is not the first time that Friedman has written such a letter. More than two years ago, he wrote to the then Chinese leader under the name of China's State Security Ministry about what the Arab Spring could offer China.

Western journalists often express their incomprehension toward China's Internet regulations from their own perspectives. The influence of mainstream Western media in China has been declining. Their survival and influence in the West has also been squeezed by the Internet, which worries them.

In the past two years, with the development of China's Internet and the public's wider participation in the country's political affairs, many mainstream Western media have been trying to make breakthroughs from topics that the Chinese public is most concerned about. They would create quite a stir or directly set China's political agenda. If successful, they will be at the center of China's public opinion sphere.

No matter if these reports are the result of Western journalists' individual impulse, or collective efforts of the newsroom, they highly conform to the West's strategy in interfering China's political agenda-setting and future policy orientation.

Friedman supposedly understands China well. He should have known that information security is among China's core security concerns. China is willing to communicate with the world, but it won't yield its own agenda-setting rights to the Western media.

Friedman should understand that Chinese authorities are breaching their duty if they allow Western media to work in China unchecked.

In the letter, Friedman strongly emphasized the importance of letting Western media participate in information communication in China. But Western media have never left China. They are sources from which many Chinese media outlets pluck information about the West. But we are clear where the traps could be.

Information technology brought by the Internet has added the uncertainties in a society, which China needs time to adapt itself to. Many storms from the West created by the Internet are from within, which indicate that the West has also set boundaries for information flow. No country would allow its information gate open wide unguarded.

China and the West may have further frictions over opinions which may evolve into diplomatic discord. Even so, China's stance should never change.

China should have its own judgment. The Western media will have an advantage in public discourse for a long time and would like to become a force that can influence China. But they will be challenged by our wisdom and determination.

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