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June 27, 2007



I definitely agree with the findings of your paper, but I see a deeper crisis looming: the fact that foreign journalists are tend to live like poorly paid expats, and are thus insulated from many layers of life in China. Due to lack of language attainment, arrogance, and the undue sense of "righteousness" that foreign journalists have-- they are far away from the major china stories because they fail to maintain good chinese contacts and they can only talk with people who are politically similar to themselves and other foreign journalists. Its laughable when these foreign papers give each other awards for China reporting-- its selling the same china story with different little twists. Is there a china story that doesn't mention the cultural revolution?

They need blogs that provide them with a Chinese perspective and with information that they cannot secure themselves-- because they lack the cultural know-how and the ability to understand Chinese perspectives. They are advocates for free speech and western values, they are basically extensions of western embassies-- that's why people don't trust them.

They are the least objective people around when it comes to China. I'd ask a businessman who's been here 10 years before I ask a journalists-- theses guys are the most insulated and paranoid foreigners in Beijing.


I couldn't agree more with the comment previous. China is so different from the US that it takes years (if not decades) of living here to appreciate what is really going on. I've been here for six years now and am still barely scraping the surface. To see these journalists breeze in with no command of the Chinese language and just start pumping out the same old perspective is disheartening.

The electronic media scene in China has got to be one of the most dynamic in the world and certainly worthy of study in itself, but in order to fully understand how and why blogs (and BBS and forums and QQ) are so effective, you really need to understand an incredibly deep backstory.

Western reporting will only improve when western reporters can truly speak and read Chinese, and have a much broader understanding of what is happening here.

Rebecca MacKinnon

There are many issues and inadequacies when it comes to foreign reporting of China. However I'd like to point out that actually quite a substantial number of the foreign press corps based in Beijing and Shanghai speak decent Chinese. When I lived there (for a decade) as a journalist I conducted my own interviews in Chinese and spent more time with Chinese friends outside of work than with foreigners. However you might imagine that it's rather impossible for one or two reporters working for a news organization to cover ALL of China well. It's just too big and there's too much going on. Oftentimes the reporters are also faced with the biases and limitations of their editors back home, who only want certain kinds of stories.

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