Sunday 14 Aug 2022 | 16:44 | SYDNEY
Sunday 14 Aug 2022 | 16:44 | SYDNEY

Global Times: On the record


Rory Medcalf


8 February 2012 09:13

Last week I blogged about how I had been misrepresented by China's Global Times newspaper. So it was fascinating and pleasing to see this follow-up article yesterday, written by the junior Global Times editor who had handled the original story. One observer suggests this apology is quite a remarkable step for the Global Times to take.

I appreciate Gao Lei's willingness to write about this, and the fact that his article contains a link to my blog post, complete with its criticisms of his newspaper. His piece is an illuminating read for anyone interested in the way China's media is seeking to adapt to the responsibilities of engaging with the world. On newspapers everywhere, junior editors or subeditors are typically an anonymous crew. So for one of them publicly to explain her judgment in editing a story is unusual and commendable. 

Gao Lei writes that he personally and somewhat emotionally decided to alter a quote of mine about Tibetan and human rights protesters at the Olympic torch relay in Canberra in 2008, without any propagandist prompting from above. One thing that troubled me, though, was that the words thus falsely attributed to me ('triggered by Tibetan separatists' attempt to block the event') happened to match the official Chinese version of the events. Of course, both the foregoing sentences may be true at the same time.

The whole episode reinforces the view that Chinese media outlets need to be willing to use vocabulary that may not fit with official or orthodox thinking if they are to be taken seriously by international readers. No source – foreign or Chinese – likes to be misquoted.

In conclusion, I agree with Gao Lei that the experience underlines how easily misperceptions can arise. It also emphasises how essential will be a genuinely free flow of words and ideas – involving all forms of media, old and new – if the frictions surrounding China's rise are to be minimised.

Photo by Flickr user Peter Konnecke.