Mon, May 07, 2012
China > Mainland

Chinese media takes nuanced view of Chen case

2012-05-07 02:12:58 GMT2012-05-07 10:12:58(Beijing Time)  Global Times

A car from the US embassy in Beijing arrives at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital Wednesday, where activist Chen Guangcheng was believed to get a checkup. (AFP)

The news surrounding Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist, has dominated headlines in the Western media recently.

This is not surprising. Dissidents and activists, when they cause public disturbances, often excite the media thirsty for explosive news. What should be noticed this time is the coverage of Chen in the Chinese media.

The Western media always reproaches Chinese authorities' censorship of the press. Human rights and dissidents are deemed to be taboo topics. Admittedly, Chinese media faces more restrictions than its Western peers, but efforts by Chinese media to push the envelope should not be ignored.

State media, news portals and many metropolitan dailies have all detailed the Chen incident. Some ran editorials along with news reports. If one reads carefully enough, nuances can be discerned as different media tried to interpret the issue from different perspectives.

Such topics used to be absent from Chinese media. Western media concludes that this is a result of media censorship. This is an over-simplified interpretation. Dissidents, despite the interest they may draw among certain Western audiences, don't generate the same degree of enthusiasm among Chinese readers.

This might disappoint China watchers. According to people who have visited Chen, even among locals who live nearby, many are unfamiliar with Chen and what he has done.

This time, Chen made headlines worldwide by entering the US embassy in Beijing at the end of April at a delicate moment when the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue was about to start.

The whole China-US relationship suddenly hinged on a single person with US President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton involved, making the news appealing to local audiences.

A clearer picture emerged as various dimensions have been woven into the coverage, such as how a grass-roots dispute unknown to most Chinese became a prominent diplomatic issue. It is more difficult for explanations with strong ideological motivations to hold water.

Indeed, there are sensitive topics in Chinese media, but such topics are no longer sensitive with more domestic media breaking the news.

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