Saturday, 23 August 2008


Mainstream Western media stages new
virtual sport of
“Blemishing China
Marathon” outside the venues of

By James Shen


Ignoring outpouring hospitality of the Chinese people,
Mainstream Western media has waged a negative campaign
against China recently to punish the country’s failure to
comply with Western requests at the Beijing Olympics. This
article examines the roots of the mainstream Western
media’s anger towards China, exposes its hypocrisies and
double standards, and advocates the development of a
positive-spirited media system that is built on the basis
of upholding Chinese public welfare and interests.

Full text

If you google “China” or “Olympics” on any given day in
recent months, with the exception of the few weeks China
was stricken by deadly earthquakes, you will be overwhelmed
by the shower of negative coverage from the mainstream
Western media against China and its hosting of 2008 Beijing

For months leading up to the Beijing Games, China has been
put under the Western microscope with accusations and
complaints against the country and its government sweeping
across all terrains, from big political issues such as
Tibet, human rights, protest rights, press and religious
freedom; to social problems including air pollution,
government relocation of Beijing residents; to conspiracy
stories about special visual effects of the opening
ceremony and ultra performance of Chinese athletes; and to
more trivial displeasures about losing a pair of expensive
sunglasses, difficulties to access Olympic Green, English
standard of volunteers, and over-eagerness of residents to
help the foreigner visitors. The list goes on and on.

As if that is not enough, an NBC correspondent went on a
live TV hunt for Chinese foods in Beijing. Let’s take a
look at what she found: giant scorpions, lizards, silk
worms, seahorses, iguana tails and dung beetles. Other
Western reporters also cited rabbit head, pig brain and
animal penis. Being a native of Beijing with 20 plus years
of living there and a food lover myself, I have little
knowledge where to look for these exotic things, not to
mention ever eating them. Come on, China has a civilization
of 5,000 years – Western reporters can’t be seriously
thinking about portraying the Chinese as barbaric
aboriginals or man-eating cannibals, right?

In fact, Dave Barry of Miami Herald admitted to a blog
“” that “The Chinese people I saw all
seemed to be buying things like lamb kebabs and fruit. On
the other hand, the people gathered around the centipedes
and scorpions on a stick were, in almost every case,
tourists or American TV reporters doing fun features on
weird Chinese food…. The Chinese don’t eat scorpions. They
feed their scorpions to TV reporters. I would not be
surprised to learn that the Chinese word for scorpion is
“TV reporter food.”

Granted, China is not completely innocent from many of the
aforementioned allegations and criticisms, but it is
neither an evil host which deserves no credit at all. As
the world’s fastest growing economy and one of the world’s
most ancient civilizations, there has got to be something
positive to report on.

You can be easily frustrated, however, if you are looking
to read something more positive or, at the least,
constructive about the country and its hospitable people.
Sure, there is always the official Xinhua News or China
Daily one can read for a change, but any praise from
self-proclaimed independent and objective mainstream
Western media is surprisingly hard to come by.

Meanwhile, for average Westerners, it is hard not to be
misled by the drowning negative coverage on China. A
homemaker in the US told reporters that she does not want
to “legitimize the Chinese government” by supporting the
Beijing Olympics.” Didn’t President Bush just open a bigger
US Embassy there? What are we talking about here exactly? I
am as puzzled as an Atlanta man who demanded an online
answer for not seeing Russian tanks there .

As much as I disagree with President George W. Bush on many
things, I have to applaud his recent TV interview in
Beijing with NBC in which he stressed that the US and China
as two very different countries and cultures are bound to
have agreements and disagreements on a range of things, but
it is important to have a constructive relationship which
will help each other communicate disagreements.

Wow, how I wish that he had possessed this wisdom before
starting the Iraq war – lives of estimated 1.2 million
Iraqis and 5,000 US soldiers could have been saved.

Should the 2008 Olympics be awarded to Beijing in the first

Although the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games
is coming up in a matter of few days, the arguments
surrounding if IOC had made a mistake in letting China host
the 2008 Olympics and if China had fulfilled its relevant
promises seem to have just started.

Why pick a heavily-polluted country that is dictated by
“free market Stalinists” which suppresses human rights,
religion and press? China broke its promises to IOC for all
of these areas, charges the mainstream Western media.

However, according to the IOC, its mission is “to build a
peaceful and better world in the Olympic Spirit which
requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship,
solidarity and fair play - Olympic Spirit strives to
inspire and motivate the youth of the world to be the best
they can be through educational and entertaining
interactive challenges. Olympic Spirit seeks to instill and
develop the values and ideals of Olympism in those who
visit and to promote tolerance and understanding in these
increasingly troubled time in which we live, to make our
world a more peaceful place.”

Does China deserve to be awarded the hosting right of
Olympics? Apparently, the Chinese people said a loud “yes”.
The whole world witnessed how much grass-root support China
got from its people when it applied for and won the hosting
right of the event.

As a country with more than one fifth of the world’s
population – should it not be given a chance to host one of
the many games? With 1.3 billion people not represented,
can any Olympic Games truly promote its mission of
“building a peaceful and better world with mutual
understanding”? That is why the IOC made its decision and
it is undoubtedly a correct one.

By comparison, I have serious doubts if the mainstream
Western media truly understands and honors the spirit of
Olympics – questioning China’s legitimacy to host such an
international event only gives away its arrogance,
self-righteousness, entitlement and cultural supremacy in
international affairs.

If the mainstream Western media is still the true believer
of human rights and continues to uphold the universal
belief that “all men are created equal”, it should
acknowledge the birthright of any country including China,
for hosting the Olympic Games.

While China needs improvements in many areas as every other
country on this earth does, the changes and progresses made
by the country in the past 30 years are unmatched in the
its own history, which can not be hidden from view by the
mainstream Western media.

China should not be forced to make any concessions or
promises to any interest groups in order to be “bestowed”
the hosting right of Olympics, thanks to the downfall of
colonialism and imperialism! The country’s pursuit of
reform in all domestic political and social-economic
fronts, including but not limited to human rights and
freedoms of its people, can and should only be driven by
desires of its own people, rather than being imposed on by
external forces.

In addition to disputing China’s hosting rights, the
mainstream Western media also has aired many conspiracies
about China’s intention for hosting the 2008 Beijing
Olympics. Show of power? Self-interiority? Promoting
China’s development path to replace the US model? Bla, bla,

We all are humans and predictably we all want similar
things in life at the end of the day. Splendid displays,
inflated egos or decorated ideologies can not replace
people’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and

For hundreds of years, the Chinese people have craved for a
peaceful environment where they can focus on making a
better living for themselves rather than laboring for
self-serving emperors or greedy foreign opium traders. They
have been quite successful in the past three decades and
now they simply wanted to party and celebrate with the
world through Beijing Olympics. Is that so hard to
understand? Why is the mainstream Western media so angry
with China?

In his recent article “Are the Media Being too Mean to
China?” published on, Prof. Tim Wu of Columbia
University wrote that “China’s idea of what makes for a
better Olympics for foreign consumption—tightened security
and cleaning up marginal elements—is exactly what makes
Western reporters crazy.” While Prof. Wu’s observation only
touched on one of the surface symptoms that irritated the
mainstream Western media, it does shed some light on the
current tension. What he described is in fact a cultural
difference in how the Chinese and the Western people
receive and entertain their guests. But the root of problem
is the ethnocentric mindset of the Western reporters to the
cultural differences and their entitlement that things
should only be done in their ways.

Similar examples are abundant, whether it is about
different ways under which Chinese and Western athletes are
trained or about how they differ in keeping their personal
appearance or etiquettes. I am particularly disappointed
with Prof. Wu’s comments that “China doesn’t have the
manners and grace of the richer countries, even if it has
increasing economic and political clout.”

While making noises during eating is a taboo in many
Western cultures, being openly confrontational in social
interactions is a sin in many Asian cultures. These are
simply cultural differences that should not be judged as
superior or inferior, or we risk entering the boundaries of
cultural supremacy.

Unfortunately, it is this arrogant mindset that has led the
mainstream Western media to judge China by its own
culturally biased standards and self-centered expectations.
It is not a surprise they drew the conclusion that China
broke its promises for hosting Olympics, an allegation
China has denied.

What followed was an irrational unleash of anger by the
mainstream Western media towards China in an attempt to
force the country into the direction the Western media
desired to see. The collective media assault on China,
however, is more based on self-interests and ethnocentrism,
rather than fairness, objectivity and independence which
the mainstream Western media often preach.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

A recent issue of Newsweek carried an article, “Rise of the
Sea Turtles”, that found “Westernized Chinese people” tend
to be more resentful to the West. Although I wasn’t
particularly impressed with its analysis of the root
causes, the article does provide us with a good pointer to
an emerging trend. I can probably qualify as one of the
“Westernized Chinese people” the article was referring to,
although I prefer to identify myself as a Chinese American
after becoming a naturalized US citizen for many years.

I think it is unfair and simplistic to conclude that the
“Westernized Chinese people” are more resentful to the
West, because the situation is far more complicated than
portrayed. The resentments, in fact, are not the towards
the West in its entirety but more targeted at the double
standard and intolerant attitudes often adopted by the
mainstream Western media and Western governments towards
China and other non-Western countries. “Westernized Chinese
people” tend to be elites who are educated in the West and
their advanced training and intellect make them independent
thinkers. They are sensitive towards the hypocrisies of the
mainstream Western media which scrutinizes China with one
set standards while closing its eyes to the same problems
at home. No one person or one country is perfect and the
Bible tells us that everyone is a sinner. If we (Americans)
can allow ourselves make mistakes and accept skeletons in
our own closets, why should we dissect other countries
under our tinted lenses and punish them for not satisfying
the standards that even ourselves often can not meet? We
should pursue “constructive dialogues” rather than endless
“regime changes” by using force - ironically both
strategies were supported by President George W. Bush. I
salute his newly-found wisdom which helped him reach a
peaceful resolution with the North Koreans and hopefully
the same can be done with the Iranians. If we desire
international solidarity against terrorism, why is the
mainstream Western media always so reluctant to condemn
those who terrorize China? Read its coverage of recent
terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and you know what I am
talking about.

If the mainstream Western media wants to be the role model
for its Chinese peers, why does it conveniently distort
facts, use phony pictures and brush away people who have
different opinions and deny their right to have their
voices heard? A Chinese American confronted a CNN
journalist a few months ago in LA when she and many other
pro-China protestors were denied chances to be interviewed,
the journalist responded harshly - “don’t tell me how to do
my business!”

We teach every citizen in the West to respect laws and
regulations, yet the mainstream Western media participated
in cheering the illegal protests and vandalism in Beijing.

Personally I had a painful experience demonstrating on
London streets in 1989. It was cold in that morning and I
stepped out of the picketing line for a few minutes to get
some desperately-needed sunshine. I was subsequently
handcuffed by force and arrested by the London police. When
my petite wife disputed their action, she was also
handcuffed and arrested. We were locked into separate cells
for hours with no food and water, not to mention access to
a phone and legal advice. We were only released after the
demonstration organizer intervened and after being forced
to sign the British equivalent of confession statements.

If being out of the picket line for some sun is a crime
that deserves to be handcuffed and thrown into jail in
London, why should the Chinese be criticized for expelling
illegal protestors in Beijing who purposely climb
lamp-posts, buildings and advertising billboards to display
unauthorized banners? Why should an American “pastor”, who
proudly vandalized the two Beijing hotel rooms and then
cowardly sneaked away, be cheered as a “righteous
protestor” by the mainstream Western media?

If a Chinese protestor goes to the 2012 London Olympics to
protest against the British suppression of Northern Ireland
and hang banners on the Big Ben – can he or she count on
the mainstream Western media for the same “heroic”
coverage? Should we also question the right of London for
hosting Olympics and its commitment for press freedom if
its police arrests the protestor?

Food for thought - “Do unto others what you wish to do unto
yourself” (Confucius) and “let he who is without sin cast
the first stone!” (Jesus)

Is Western-styled press freedom what China needs?

A highly-respected US scholar once told me that the Western
media is founded on the spirit of challenging authorities
and it is the media’s job to be cynical, vigilant,
critical, defiant and negative. I am a strong believer of
the fundamental principles on which the US political system
is founded. Besides many merits of the system, media stands
out as an indispensable component designed to supervise, on
behalf of the public, the three branches of the federal
government. This is almost a perfect setup except three
potential flaws – firstly, there is no mechanism in place
for the supervision of the media itself; secondly, there
are serious conflicts of interests between the two
contradictory roles of media both as a representative of
public interests and, at the same time, as self-serving
profit-making enterprises; and thirdly founding media on
the basis of cynicism and negativity has its own social

For media to fulfill its role to supervise the government,
it needs to serve public interests, rather than its own
interests. It needs to be unbiased, objective and

Nonetheless, it is well-known that the mainstream Western
media has long blended its role for public welfare with
relentless pursuit of ego, power and profits. As the world
enters the information age, the mainstream Western media
has become a new rising superpower with ever-increasing
influence on domestic and international politics, economy,
social structure, value systems and people’s everyday life.

Does Americans really have as much freedom as the
mainstream media would like us to believe? As the
mainstream Western media pursue freedoms in other
countries, Americans are losing so many freedoms that once
made them so proud.

In the past few decades, America has experienced a string
of serious challenges and setbacks including the breakdown
of family/social structure and value systems, falling
religious influence and freedom, popular abuse and
dependence of narcotics and prescription drugs, rising
violence across the country, escalating racial tension and
police brutality, widening gap between the rich and the
poor, dropping standard of literacy and basic education,
failing healthcare system that denies coverage of 23
million Americans, and a tendency of resolving
international disputes with “regime change” by military
force rather than diplomacy, violations of on
constitutional civil and human rights under the cover of
anti-terrorism, to name just a few.

Our children can no longer walk to the school bus by
themselves for fear of drug pushers and child snatchers on
the way. By the time they arrive in their schools, metal
detectors await for them in some inner city schools. They
have to leave their bags in lockers and no colored drinks
are allowed for fear of bombs. Their teachers are not
allowed to mention any religion or teach morals in schools.
Even “Christmas trees” must not be called “Christmas trees”
but “family trees”. They have to go through evacuation
drills often to remain vigilant because school shootings
are spreading. Now people are even more scared because a
school district in Texas took the lead to allow teachers
carrying guns to the classroom. But can we trust the
teachers? Do we have to outsource our teachers from India
or China one day?

As an American citizen, nothing is more valuable than my
voting right. But even that has depreciated. Why? Because
the mainstream media is not doing its job of dissemination
of objective information. Instead it confuses me with a
constant stream of selectively edited, distorted and
manipulated information in order to advance its own
preferences, agendas and commercial interests.

Let’s take a look at the tainted media pictures of
presidential candidates. John Edwards is a wife cheater,
but that has been kept from the public until now; Hillary
is a liar who believes she is entitled to be the President
and her husband Bill is hostile to the mainstream press;
John McCain is a patriot but a war monger who knows nothing
about economy; and finally Obama, alas, is actually a
celebrity, radical of racial politics, Muslim (not that
there is anything wrong with it) and “Anti-Christ”! For
God’s sake, stop harassing me with all this sensational
talk designed to boost ratings and I want to vote for Paris
Hilton, but unfortunately she is not on the ballot. So my
pathetic one vote looks quite useless, well, at least for

Moving back to topic of Beijing Olympics. A Western
journalist was quick to point out his disagreement with the
slogan, “One World One Dream”, which is meant by the host
nation to stress the commonalities all peoples share.
Nevertheless, this reporter chose to emphasize the
different values he has from the Chinese host.

Fine, let’s talk about the differences. If the mainstream
Western media can acknowledge that peoples on this earth
are different and that there are vast differences between
them in the geographic landscapes, population structures,
social-economic hierarchy, cultural values, beliefs,
religions and ideologies, it should not be difficult to
appreciate that their political, legal and media systems
also need to differ from each other to accommodate for the
specific needs of each country. It is dangerous to assume
the systems of the West are somehow superior which can be
transplanted to other countries.

Does China need a Western-style media system? I doubt it.
While fundamental Western media principles of cynicism,
defiance, negativity and confrontation may or may not work
well in the Western cultures, they most-definitely will not
be successful in the Chinese cultural environment which
values hierarchy, harmony, benevolence and tolerance among

However, it is the Chinese people who should decide
eventually what political, economic and media systems are
the ones they need. I have faith that with five thousand
years of civilization, China has the wisdom to draw from
the strengths of the West, avoid its fundamental flaws and
ultimately develop a positive-spirited media system with
Chinese characteristics that is built on the basis of
upholding public welfare and interests.

Final conclusion

By blemishing a hospitable nation, which worked hard and
sacrificed dearly to be a good host, mainstream Western
media only exposed the self-interest and ethnocentric
facets of itself to the whole world. Such irrational and
frantic behaviors will only serve to bolster more media
scrutiny by the Chinese government, further alienate the
Chinese people and erase any remaining credibility and
relevance of the mainstream Western media in the
post-Olympic China.

I love the motto of Beijing Olympics - “One World One
Dream” - the dream of the Olympic Spirit under which all
peoples of the world will be united with mutual
understanding, friendship, solidarity, fair play and
tolerance to build a peaceful and better world together.

The author is an US-based independent business analyst
supporting multinational companies that seek cohesive
growth in China. He is a native of Beijing and a
naturalized U.S. citizen. He studied in the UK in the 1980s
and has lived in the US in the past 19 years.

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