New Zealand journalist challenges misinformation about China despite hurdles erected by Western media, politicians
Published: Dec 06, 2022 10:23 PM Updated: Dec 06, 2022 10:17 PM
Editor's Note:

China's modernization has been an epic journey over the past decades. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China has become an attractive destination for many foreigners. Many such expats in the country have fulfilled their career aspirations, while some have found love and started families in China.

Why do they choose to live in China? How do expats in China view and interpret China's achievements and persistence measured from various perspectives?

The Global Times interviewed multiple international residents in China from all walks of life, some of whom have made tangible contributions to China's development, to learn about their understanding of the essence of Chinese culture, and gain an insight into how far China has advanced in its pursuit of development and rejuvenation over the last decade.

Andy Boreham Photo: Courtesy of Boreham

Andy Boreham Photo: Courtesy of Boreham

"Not a speculator who touts China, but a media person who tells the truth." This is how New Zealand columnist, journalist, and video creator Andy Boreham, who works in Shanghai, defines himself on his Twitter profile page.

This self-description, however, hasn't stopped him from being labeled by Twitter as "China state-affiliated media."That means his Twitter account is nowshadow banned, a practice instituted to severely limit an account's reach and scope."So much for freedom of speech, eh?" he remarked.

This is precisely why Boreham remains active and vocal on social media - to present China in an unbiased manner that should not be censored by Western media forces.

After falling in love with China following three successful foreign student exchanges to China, beginning around 12 years ago, Boreham received a scholarship offered by former New Zealand prime minister John Key to study a master's in Chinese language and culture at Shanghai's prestigious Fudan University.

After graduation, and armed with his media expertise and triple degree in political science, media studies and Chinese, Boreham was offered a full-time job as a journalist at the Shanghai Daily, seeing him remain in China for nearly a decade so far.

Boreham's in-country travels are equally impressive, even rivaling Chinese nationals with visits to 28 provinces and 58 major cities to date.

With a great passion to showcase the real China, Boreham produces a popular series called "Reports on China," which conveys factual stories in China and analyzes how Western media sources distort such coverage. The series recently hit over 1.2 million followers on social media asReports on Chinaenters its second year.

The last decade has witnessed China's tremendous development, strengthening Boreham's resolve to share factual and accurate information about China on its remarkable trajectory upward.

"I want to bring balance and fairness back to the China discussion. It's an uphill battle with no end in sight, but I'm trying my best," asserted Boreham in response to why he repeatedly refutes false and inflammatory Western coverage of Xinjiang and many other aspects of China.

Andy Boreham goes to Central China's Henan Zhengzhou to cover a massive flood, sharing the stories of the people he met there. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Shengjie

Andy Boreham goes to Central China's Henan Zhengzhou to cover a massive flood, sharing the stories of the people he met there. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Shengjie

'I realized how much I had been lied to about China'

Boreham's first entrance to China was understated, as a tourist on bus from Hanoi in Vietnam bound for Nanning in Guangxi. "I remember being shocked at how clean and modern that city was, and I realized in that moment just how much I had been lied to about China. I was always told that my country, New Zealand, was clean and green and that China was dirty and polluted. Nanning was cleaner and more orderly than my hometown of Wellington. That was when I realized I had to discover more about this country," Boreham told the Global Times.

One of the most remarkable transformations in China's decade of development to Boreham was the drastic reduction in pollution across Chinese cities. "12 years ago, I remember saying to a friend back home once that if these levels of pollutants were seen in the air in New Zealand, it would definitely mean there was some huge bush fire or something happening nearby," said Boreham.

But now, even in Shanghai, where the air pollution wasn't as bad as it was in the northern industrial cities, notable and staggering reductions in air pollution can be noticed, he stated.

Changes in China's capital Beijing were also massive for Boreham when he visited regularly. Everyone knows about the term APEC blue, which described how the skies in Beijing were amazingly crisp and blue during the APEC summit after operations of polluting factories and so on were suspended for the event. Now Beijing seems to be experiencing APEC blue on most days," he noted.

Boreham marveled at China's rapid development over the last decade, both in infrastructure and poverty alleviation. He concluded that such progress can only be achieved under strong, stable, consistent, central leadership.

"I feel sad to say this but I truly don't believe that so many people can have their livelihoods lifted up, and that a country can witness such positive, widespread changes in such a short span of timeunder any other system," Boreham confessed."As just one example, there is a road that has been planned for decades back home in New Zealand - it would offer real benefits to ordinary people, but it has been stymied for decades exactly because of our governance style. It has still yet to be constructed."

As a foreign media expert in China, Boreham always hopes to learn about the country's real history and culture through personal experience.

He has been a dedicated researcher and loyal follower of China's old friend Rewi Alley, a New Zealand-born writer, social reformer, and educator, who lived and worked in China for 60 years before he died in 1987 in Beijing. He was the one who opened the door for New Zealand-China diplomatic ties.

Boreham also paid a visit to the city of Yan'an in June 2021 to learn of Alley's legacy in the city and his connection to the CPC.

Yan'an was known as the "Red Capital"for its important role during the revolutionary era, and it's where revolutionaries like Mao Zedong lived in caves as they studied and prepared to change China into what it is today. It's where American journalist Edgar Snow also wrote his hugely important book,A Red Star Over China, which gave the Western world its first true glimpse behind the "red curtain" and introduced the world to Mao Zedong and his struggles. For a foreign journalist trying to help the world understand the real China, Yan'an is a significant place where passionate journalists helped the outside world to see a China free from political biases and unfair reportage, according to Boreham.

Birdview of Shanghai Photo: VCG

Birdview of Shanghai Photo: VCG

Fight for disinformation

Boreham penned an article in December 2021, lambasting the "coordinated reports on foreign influencers" by the New York Times and ASPI stating that "any positive news from China must necessarily be fake," funded by the CPC, and therefore should be labeled as "misinformation."

"The reason I do what I do is because I truly believe that the world is overflowing with unfair and biased reporting on China, and that ordinary people have had the wool pulled over their eyes, like I did before I came here to see for myself," said Boreham.

"Contrary to the binary and stereotypical views many in the West hold around China and its media, I have never, ever been told what to say, and only ever profess views and opinions that are my own. A decade in China and a master's degree in Chinese language and culture are nowhere near enough to understand this massive country and its long history, but they're a start," Boreham wrote in his opinion piece in March.

"It takes but a quick glance at history to see that China and the Chinese people are peaceful and peace-loving. It takes an even quicker glance at the last four decades to see that China's re-emergence - which has seen hundreds of millions lifted from poverty and a rise to the second-largest economy on the planet - has been achieved without bloodshed, without violence, and without a single bullet fired. Can you say the same thing about the West?" the opinion reads.

Boreham also noted that Western media practice their own "underhanded" censorship in the form of commercial interests and self-editing while promoting contradictory viewpoints on China as both a backward nation and an "advanced, evil empire."

It's Boreham's true belief that Western powers know their time as the dominant force on the planet is quickly and steadily coming to an end. The West will no longer be in a position to dictate, usually by coercion and force, how peoples around the world live their lives.

"So that is why we are seeing ever increasing and ever desperate efforts to stop or slow that change from Western powers, be it governments or media or billionaires, or otherwise. They need to lie, cheat, and steal to keep the wool over everyone's eyes, but we can see now that it won't go on for much longer," said Boreham. "Me being tagged as 'China state-affiliated media' and basically shadow banned on Twitter is just one tool they have up their sleeves to slow their descent. But it won't stop me doing what I do, even if it means my work is more and more difficult."