Tit-for-tat media spat decays ties

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/18 13:54:57 Last Updated: 2020/3/19 0:55:33

Beijing takes direct aim at Washington's ideological attacks

Photo: GT

China's latest measures against several US publications in the country have been billed as a tit-for-tat move against similar restrictions on Chinese media outlets in the US, but it also signals that Beijing has taken a more direct approach against Washington's constant ideological attacks and serves as a warning to anti-China forces in the US that their words and deeds will no longer go unanswered, Chinese sources and analysts said on Wednesday.

Behind the major shift is long accumulating frustration and indignation among Chinese officials and the public over ideological bias and attacks on China by certain US elements, including politicians and journalists, who have intensified their aggression in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic with racially charged rhetoric, leaving Chinese officials no option but to strike back, analysts noted.

Direct fightback 

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs  announced Wednesday morning measures against five US media outlets operating in China - Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time, requiring them to declare information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China  in response to recent US restrictions on Chinese media organizations. Among other things, some US citizens working for the publications - the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post - were ordered to surrender their press credentials within a few days. They will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in China, including its Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

"This is a sign that [China-US relations] will see major changes. A series of recent clashes in the ideological areas and China's significantly higher intensity in retaliating show China has made adjustments in its relations with the US," a Beijing-source close to the matter told the Global Times on Wednesday. "China's attitude is no longer to avoid ideological conflicts but to directly face it."

Since the coronavirus broke out, US politicians and media outlets have intensified their smear campaign against China with racially charged rhetoric, such as calling China the "real sick man of Asia," drawing widespread outrage among the Chinese public. 

Chinese officials have repeatedly protested, including during an apparently heated phone call Monday between Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But US officials only doubled down, with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday calling the virus "Chinese virus," in an apparent attempt to shift blame. Chinese officials have rejected the term and some, most noticeably Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, have raised questions about the origin of the virus. 

China's move on Wednesday was an accumulated answer to Washington's relentless ideological attacks on Beijing in recent years, said Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, noting that the non-stop smearing of China by top officials like Pompeo has reached an almost unprecedented level since former US President Richard Nixon visited China nearly five decades ago.

"Even the most reasonable person has a temper, not to mention the fact that you are constantly pointing a finger at the nose of a great power. It would indeed be abnormal if there was no fightback," Mei told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that the US has singlehandedly dismantled the rare platform offered by the recent trade agreement on which the two countries could try to ease tensions.

While the move drew criticism from the affected US publications and US officials, who billed the move as oppression of free press and counterproductive to the global effort against coronavirus, many in China applauded it, pointing to Western media's bias. 

For instance, the NYT recently reported on its Twitter platform about the lockdown situation in various Italian regions, saying the action is "risking its economy in an effort to contain Europe's worst coronavirus outbreak." The post showed a different stance from its other tweet 20 minutes ago that claimed the lockdown in China "came at great cost for its people's livelihoods and personal liberties." This was a vivid example of the newspaper taking sides in their reporting based on ideological motivations.

In recent years, the NYT and other US media have often used the Xinjiang issue to smear and attack China. They claim to have obtained "internal documents" from "detention camps" in the Xinjiang region alleging that China has conducted ethnic persecution, religious repression and forced labor. However, these so-called "internal documents" were all from the overseas based "Eastern Turkistan" group. 

The documents have been refuted by Chinese officials and large numbers of local people have also spoken up, pointing out their mistakes and inconsistencies.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Geng Shuang, another spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, blamed the US for starting the whole thing and issued a strongly-worded warning that the US would face greater damage if it does not stop cracking down on the Chinese press. "China does not start trouble, but it's not afraid of trouble," Geng said. 

Major deterioration 

The media feud between the two countries foreshadows a major deterioration between the two countries, which has so far centered on trade and economic disputes, analysts said. 

"If the war of words on the epidemic that led to tensions between China and the US is the black swan of 2020, then the deep-rooted ideological confrontation between the two countries is a gray rhino event," the source in Beijing said, adding that the battle over trade and high-tech issues has now inevitably expanded to ideology.

"This is clearly a weathervane, showing that the confrontation between China and the US is now escalating and expanding. If it continues, bilateral relations will deteriorate and fall into a new Cold War, and the US started all this," Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The responsibility to prevent a full-scale confrontation lies in Washington, analysts said. If the US does not properly correct its mistakes, the matter will lead to an unpredictable domino effect, the source close to the matter said. "If the US unilaterally suppresses China, bilateral relations will go nowhere but continue to worsen," the source said. 

Posted in: SOCIETY

blog comments powered by Disqus