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February 04, 2009


john brown

Hi, Had the pleasure of citing your blog in my "Public Diplomacy Press and Blog review." Best.


Communication is what we demand.what matters is the way to communicate.
as a student learning English, I gradually notice the difference between us, realizing that there is no inferiority or superiority in culture.A s long as we have a happy life, we can choose any lifestyle ,because we are all human.


Hi John, many thanks for that! Cheers, David


Ancky, thanks for commenting. You are of course absolutely right. Communication is essential to bridge the gap in understanding between China and the world. Properly handled, this government effort could be an important part of that, but I suspect it will take some time and experimentation before our leaders here in China can become comfortable with that.

MacLean Brodie

This is refreshing to read and I agree wholeheartedly with your points above. To steal a phrase, it's good to see them putting the PR back in the PRC.

It seems to me that the primary and lasting need for this service is education. I live in China, and I suffer day to day trying to understand and assimilate the rapid changes I see around me. Consider my mother, whose primary education about China was delivered more than 30 years ago, and is updated only intermittently when disaster (man-made or natural) strikes. How can they impact her?

In a sense, there's a particular historical narrative that determines why the West is so skeptical, and why media and citizens are as critical as they are. Developing programming and playing on the audiences terms won't begin to even address China's own national interests. The dialogue that dominates (in Canada, from my experience) is far too narrow for the average citizen not to dismiss any new station as propaganda, regardless of its veracity. I don't see how a Chinese media outlet can possibly win at playing this game in the short term.

On the commercial viability front, Al Jazeera has a natural constituency, since it serves a distinct linguistic and cultural group that has been traditionally under-served by state-operated entities. The English service has grown out of A-J's increasing credibility and capacity. While there are many overseas Chinese who may tune in, I don't feel that my compatriates at home are screaming for more Chinese programming.

If the solution by nature has a longer time-horizon, I think that China may win by loosening the reigns and developing better programming on CCTV 9 while continuing to expand its reach around the world. There are a new generation of China-aware governments and citizens that will watch the programs with interest and will pick up on the social and systemic constraints that are naturally portrayed.

A reinvigorated and restaffed news bureau may also be picked up by foreign media as a viable alternative to AP/Reuters/Xinhua if and when they begin to act less like state automatons or high school reporters. It's not hard to pinpoint exactly why CCTV 9 isn't watched internationally or even here at home.

My experience with Chinese TV is that CCTV 9 is among the most conservative channels already, and would benefit from being closer to the Chinese popular media in portraying the struggles and successes of the average citizen. If perception management is the game, then I can't see how starting at home, even with a censored media outlet isn't the obvious solution.

David Feng

Here's a BIG Chinese-language (not just "PRC") media problem (and this could prove the case for some "foreign media" outlets, too): there is no neutral tone in the Chinese media. (The closest thing is Cankao Xiaoxi -- the "all-black-'n'-white news newspaper -- but they started ditching "unfriendly" articles right after it became available to the general public.)

Think about this in the Greater Chinese media sphere: PRC media, if we're to look at it very narrowly, is "red" so-called. The CCP has all the mics here. (Then again, I did mention this was a very "narrow" view.)

Go on over to Taiwan. You think there's "liberty", "no censorship" and "freedom of the press" there? It's all an illusion. (Sorry.) Tune into Taiwanese TV. Yes, they're free to criticize the President and folks like that. Freedom of speech? Heck yeah! There were even cases when a "Blue" (pro-unification) guy and a "Green" (pro-independence) guy -- beat each other up on a talk show. (I swear I'm not making that one up!)

But notice how some TV channels are pro-KMT while others are pro-independence? This is a bigger thing in the Taiwanese newspaper market. The China Times is "blue"; the Liberty Times is "green". If you do Wikipedia-speak: POV? NPOV?

OK, so "neutrality" (especially from one source) is difficult, then. I do admit -- it's not easy. The Swiss have tried their best on Swiss TV, and they're doing a fairly good job, but that's not to say never ever made a mistake or something. Here's one thing worth thinking about: presenting multiple viewpoints (especially on one channel). This is not just for a PRC-established "global news channel". It's for anyone starting Chinese-language "CNNs" (and please -- don't just outright copy other folks. Ain't good.)

Off on a slight tangent: you know what's a real killer program? (This one you can ape -- it's good.) Euronews -- and its No Comment bit. There is absolutely NO COMMENTARY -- AT ALL. The audience is treated to clips with no comment -- leaving THEM to formulate what that clip could be on about.

That's the ultimate killer. If anyone could do more No Comment-ish like programs, that'd be something.

Chris Carr

Damn good post, David.



Chris Carr

Damn good post, David.




I used to watch CCTV 9 at my home in Indonesia on Satellite TV. From my opinion it has many informative and interesting stories, especially the documentation series. However I'm aware that the station is perhaps strictly controlled by the government, but still it still doesn't lose what we call "Popular Taste". So I just enjoy them... :)

Amazing Chinese Tales & Anecdotes:

Chinese Translator

Hi! Thank you for this post. I really appreciate it!

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