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Op-Ed: Xinhua and China's new openness: PR logic in the PRC

By Paul Wallis     Aug 7, 2008 in World
Xinhua has a piece today which is an interesting view of the news pieces about terrorism and the Olympics. It may be a footnote to history, but it’s an article you wouldn’t expect to see. It actually mentions change, and “traditional mindsets”.
It’s a matter of opinion exactly why the world expects China to behave like the Western democracies. This is a country with no history of democracy. China went from the Manchus to Sun Yat Sen’s brief, localized republic, to Fascist-clone Chiang Kai Chek, to Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
The extent of the difference in cultures is made much clearer by this piece. You'd never see this sort of article anywhere else on Earth.
On July 17, the anti-terror bureau of the Ministry of Public Security made public a pamphlet on the prevention of terrorist attacks, guiding people how to detect terror traces, and how to take measures to fend off dangers in case of a terrorist attack.
It also tells people how to carry out simple but necessary self-rescue in an emergency situation.
Behind the popularization of such common knowledge is a remarkable breakthrough the Chinese government has made in its traditional mindset.
The government now realizes that common people should be taught how to prevent terror attacks in case of an emergency, even if the knowledge may never be used in one's lifetime
Consider the phraseology: “Common knowledge”? “Might never use in one’s lifetime”? That’s the lead into a further intriguing bit of logical progression, this time about foreigners and information available to foreign journalists:
Another thing that testifies the country's openness is its permission of the sales of some foreign publications to domestic and foreign readers in the Games venues and dozens of hotels.
Meanwhile, foreign journalists now have more access to interviewing Chinese, if they had the interviewees' consent.
Over time, quite a lot of foreigners have had their doubts over the question as to how the host country can effectively prevent terrorist attacks and what attitudes it will hold toward foreign publications and journalists.
Now the doubts are being cleared by an open attitude and a series of measures the Chinese government has adopted.
Well, yes and no. The foreign media, however flat footed, has been exploiting some opportunities to get news from China. But it’s also been souring some of those opportunities by grandstanding.
The world has never been slow to find reasons to criticize China. It’s a matter of opinion whether the efforts of Chinese citizens are fully appreciated as being very brave. Many people, complaining about corruption in their provinces, (which is a very serious offence in China), seem to be getting the short end of the stick.
Talking to foreign journalists isn’t necessarily the way to solve their problems. To add a further indignity, the Chinese police seem to have forgotten that these people are protesting against those breaking Chinese laws, because they’re talking to foreign news media. The cause of their complaints gets lost in the public relations exercise.
So the jerks who built those schools which were demolished in the Sichuan earthquake are having their critics silenced because of a photo op mentality on the part of the police.
Logical continuity may not be the strong point of this Xinhua article, but its point is clear:
Giving the green light to the circulation of foreign publications and to interviews by foreign journalists would probably bring about some negative or even untrue coverage of China, in addition to some objective reports about the country.
We welcome those objective reports and even criticisms, and will hope to correct wrongdoings if there is any. For the twisted reports, the government will hold timely press briefings to refute rumors and give people correct information.
Note the “we”.
Press release turned article?
Or just a pronoun to remind everyone who’s who?
To close, there’s a bit of Chinese, translated into literal English. (Note: It’s possible that some of the article’s context has been blurred, if this is a computerized or reworked translation.The arrangement of the paragraphs is a bit iffy)
The more the country believes in its people and their perception, the more confident the country would be. Similarly, the more self-confident and more open the country is, the more reasonable and stronger the perception of the people would be.
Keeping such a virtuous cycle alive would inject ceaseless vitality into the country's advancement.
That’s very close to Confucian philosophy.
China will be China.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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