Tag Archives: Media

'Global Times' calls South China Sea a 'core interest'

The nationalist-leaning state-controlled newspaper Global Times on its English-language website Sunday made what might be a significant statement in the ongoing Chinese dispute with Vietnam and the Philippines, among others, in the South China Sea. In an unsigned opinion piece, the paper states:

As to China, it is not interested in being involved in frequent wrangles with Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea, which is merely one of its core interests. As a great power, China has strategic concerns all over the Asia-Pacific region and even the world. But if Vietnam and the Philippines continue to provoke and go too far, they must be prepared to face strong countermeasures from China. (emphasis added)

The question of whether the South China Sea has been identified as one of China’s “core interests” is important to diplomats, because it puts the waters on the same level as Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Quoting the International Crisis Group‘s excellent recent report on the issue:

In early 2010, speculation arose that China had defined the South China Sea disputes as one of its “core interests”, a term traditionally reserved for matters of national sov- ereignty such as Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, where China is unwilling to compromise its position and would resort to force, if necessary. Reports first suggested that Chinese officials used this expression during a private meeting with U.S. officials in March 2010, and then cited U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as claiming that the sen- ior Chinese leader responsible for foreign policy repeated this declaration in May 2010. However, another senior U.S. official* has since asserted that the term “national priority” rather than “core interest” was used. Chinese researchers almost unanimously agree that the government has not made any conscious policy decision to rank the South China Sea as a core interest at the same level as an issue such as Taiwan.

What does something like this mean from the Global Times? First, it’s critical to note that this paper is not regarded as authoritative in the same way that observers take the People’s Daily as the vetted mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. It is not even as strong a source as the official Xinhua News Service, which is the source of dependably “correct” political news for the broader Chinese media sphere.

What does this mean? One way to discount this statement would be to speculate that there has been a mistranslation, but the Chinese version of the editorial also uses “core interest” (核心利益). It seems unlikely to me that the paper, in an unsigned piece, would use this term lightly. What it indicates is that the consensus view of more hawkish voices in China is that the government and national defense establishment should be more protective of the country’s claims than compromising.

The headline of the piece claims that China is “patient, not reckless, over [the] islands,” and this suggests that the threat of “strong countermeasures” is meant as an “or else.”

On the face of it, the argument that joint development should be pursued as a way out of this dispute might seem relatively fair, but various accounts from the region suggest that Vietnamese and Philippine analysts view Chinese proposals of “joint development” as giving them little autonomy. Moreover, recall that some of the islands in question unquestionably lie within a 200-nautical mile distance of Vietnam—an area generally regarded as one country’s exclusive economic zone.

This issue is not likely to be resolved any time soon, but watch carefully for other uses of the term “core interest” from the Chinese side. If they start emerging from more authoritative sources, this may signal a significantly harder line than the current mixture of patrols, protests, and accommodations.

See today’s China Update for more South China Sea links for the last few days, or see previous updates.

*This refers to Jeffrey Bader, in his new tick-tock book on U.S. Asia policy during his time in the National Security Council during the early Obama administration: Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy

Some notes on This American Life's retraction episode #Apple #China

The U.S. public radio show This American Life yesterday announced it would retract its adaption of Mike Daisey’s storytelling show about Apple’s manufacturing operations in China. I’m taking notes while listening on WNYC to a broadcast of the show Retraction.

The podcast is available Sunday now (yesterday it said it would be held; now the link is here). Notes will accumulate below:

  • My original review of the monologue as performed on stage in Seattle about a year ago.
  • “The most powerful and memorable moments in the story all seem to be fabricated.” –Ira Glass
  • Fact checking 101: If the best part of your story can’t be verified, and if there’s a lot of material there, and your “reporter” can’t help verify—kill the story.
  • Daisey admits that he misled TAL on the name of “Cathy” to prevent them from finding her, Glass says.
  • The Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz’s first clues were things I chalked up to storytelling exaggeration: the guns. But the question of laborers at Starbucks did bother me. Where was the money coming from?
  • From the transcript: “Cathy Lee: I think that if she said she was 13 or 12, then I would be surprised. I would be very surprised. And I would remember for sure. But there is no such thing.
”
  • Another falsehood/exaggeration I caught immediately: When Daisey said “There are no iPads in China.” This doesn’t really minimize the power of the scene in the full narrative (beyond the TAL excerpt). This mixed purpose seems to be the real trouble.
  • Nice that Schmitz notes Cathy’s memory wouldn’t necessarily be fully clear.
  • Daisey bears down on the girl who said she was 13; that exchange is pretty damning:

    Mike Daisey: I don’t know. I do know when doing interviews a lot of people were speaking in English. They enjoyed using English with me and I don’t know if she was paying attention at that particular point. I don’t know. There was a lot of wrangling that Cathy was doing, talking to people and sort of pre-interviewing.

    Rob Schmitz: So Mike, according to what you’re saying, these are migrant workers who are preteen, 13 or 14 years old, there English isn’t going to be very good. You’re telling me that they were speaking English to you, in a way that you could understand? [This resonates with me, especially for a worker so young. -gw]

    Mike Daisey: Well, I only know – only one of them was really talkative and that was the main girl I was talking to.

    Rob Schmitz: So you have a clear recollection of meeting somebody who was 13 years old?

    Mike Daisey: Yes.

    Rob Schmitz: And twelve years old?

    Mike Daisey: Yes of the girl who was thirteen and her friends who represented themselves as being around her age and so the spread there is just an effort to cover the ages that I suspect they are around that age.

  • “I really do believe that stories should be subordinate to the truth.” –Daisey. Definition of truth seems important.

Act II, in which Ira Glass speaks directly with Daisey:

  • Glass, citing n-hexane, asks why Daisey didn’t take the opportunity of their queries to acknowledge that some of the details were dramatized. “I think I was terified,” Daisey says. Glass: “Of what?” Daisey: “I think I was terrified that if I untied these things, that the work, that I know is really good, and tells a story, that does these really great things for making people care, that it would come apart in a way where, where it would ruin everything.”
  • Daisey acknowledges he did think about the fact that others—TAL—were vouching for him.

  • KEY QUOTE from Daisey: “My mistake, the mistake that I truly regret is that I had it on your show as journalism and it’s not journalism. It’s theater. I use the tools of theater and memoir to achieve its dramatic arc and of that arc and of that work I am very proud because I think it made you care, Ira, and I think it made you want to delve. And my hope is that it makes – has made- other people delve.”

Ira says out loud what any editor should have said before running this story as journalism:

Ira Glass: I guess I thought that you were going to come in and say that more if it wasn’t true because, um, there are parts of it I just don’t buy based on what you’ve said. I don’t believe you when it comes to the underage worker. Like, it seems credible that your translator if she saw an underage worker, it seems credible that she says that she would remember that kind of thing because it’d be so unusual. That seems credible. And I don’t believe you when it comes to the guy with the twisted hand because your translator who was there doesn’t remember that he said he worked for Foxconn and doesn’t remember the incident with the iPad. And I might be more inclined to believe you but you admit to lying about so many little things – the number of people who you spoke to, the number of factories that you visited – you admit to making up an entire group of characters who didn’t exist, who were poisoned by hexane and the only person who was with you said these things didn’t happen. So when it comes to underage workers and the man with the claw-hand it’s like – I don’t believe that that happened.

Mike Daisey: Yes. And I stand by it as a theatrical work. I stand by how it makes people see and care about the situation that’s happening there. I stand by it in the theater. And I regret, deeply, that it was put into this context on your show.

My comment here, after Glass says he thought it was literally true on stage, is that Glass is not as clever as I thought he was.

More to come from another outlet.

Xi Jinping in Washington: A roundup/liveblog

This post will be was continually updated today as I find found good or interesting material on Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon.

4:00 p.m.

Last update today. Off to CFR and then offline for the evening.

The White House has posted a transcript of Obama’s remarks, as well as the “Joint Fact Sheet on Strengthening U.S.-China Economic Relations.”

Neither document is especially surprising. I noted earlier that Obama said he welcomes China’s “peaceful rise,” a reference to an earlier rhetoric associated with Zheng Bijian. A quick look reveals that “we welcome the peaceful rise of China” has been something of a talking point. See this from November.

The economic relations document is what it sounds like, focusing exclusively on economic issues. It will take some comparison to other statements in the past to assess the significance of this document. And remember, Xi isn’t president yet.

3:00 p.m.

MSNBC has posted video of Obama’s appearance with Xi Jinping:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also, former Obama East Asia adviser Jeffrey Bader is rooting for Xi Jinping’s success.
Continue reading

China–Japan maritime arrests: to care or not to care?

After China’s stern reaction last year to the arrest of a Chinese sailor who rammed Japanese ships near islands disputed by the two countries, the world media has braced itself for another round of “tensions” following a new arrest.

The fact that both Japanese and Chinese authorities are calling the incident a “regular fisheries case” is reassuring. This arrest, however, was different.

The arrest last year took place near the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China that have been a long-standing point of contention between the two countries. Activists in both countries have mobilized to claim sovereignty. To make things more complicated, Taiwanese protesters have also staked claims.

This year’s incident took place in a far less sensitive area, near the Gotō Islands (or 五島). No one disputes these islands to my knowledge, and they are far closer to Japan’s larger islands, off the coast near Nagasaki.

The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, on the other hand, are closer to Taiwan than to the major Japanese islands, and they have been disputed for decades.

In the map below, Senkaku/Diaoyu is indicated with a red marker:


View Larger Map

This map Gotō is indicated:


View Larger Map

We’re left with media reports that generally don’t bother with the fact that the newer arrest took place in an undisputed territory very near Japan’s core area whereas the first took place near a hotly disputed territory far closer to the Chinese mainland or Taiwan than to most of Japan’s population.

It would seem to signify stability (or signify nothing) that both governments agree to follow ordinary law about this particular encounter. As far as I can tell, there is nothing odd here; this should be a routine case. It would be a story if and only if there was a hot-headed reaction.

This comes down to expectations. The people who think this non-event is a story are working with the assumption that either China would react “irrationally” or that enough people would expect a disproportionate response that covering the lack of it would be news.

That expectation of hotheadedness despite the material difference of circumstances strikes me as fairly well irrational on its own. Notice that the sources of the strange speculative stories are places like AFP and BBC, not Xinhua or Yomiuri. That both governments are settled with this, and no noticeable public outcry has resulted, should be signs that the foreign press is trolling the waters of conflict instead of covering life as it actually is.

Foreign media depending on Chinese microblogs [graph]

Readers of English-language news on China have likely noticed a surge in references to netizens, microblogs, and a specific microblogging service called Sina Weibo. Angel Hsu noted this was increasing, and I thought I’d check to see how much.

For a really rough measure of how much foreign reporters are depending on Chinese microblogs to cover public sentiment, I searched LexisNexis’s “Major World Publications” database for mentions of China along with any one of the words “weibo,” “microblog,” or “micro-blog.” (Weibo, in addition to being Sina’s brand, literally means “micro blog.”)

This measure is horribly imperfect. To begin with, some stories are double-counted, and there’s no reason to assume Nexis is representative of foreign media. Moreover, some of these mentions are stories about Sina Weibo itself, not quoting its users. I wrote one such article for Talking Points Memo.

The trend, however, seems clear. After the first mentions in mid-2009, when Sina Weibo launched, Nexis shows few mentions until a surge beginning in late 2010. In the last few months, the trend is upward.*

See for yourself:

*Note: I counted 76 stories so far in August 2011, which leads to an estimate of 262.

If you want the data yourself, for what it’s worth, you can find a CSV file here. Please respect the Creative Commons license under which this site is published.

Update: Chinese translation / 译言网翻译