Press freedom Chinese style

Press freedom, a “critical issue,” in China is not a matter of black and white.  There are both hard and soft forms of control exercised by the central government, which aren’t always made explicit.  (In that respect, there are similarities to the U.S. context).  The Time reports that China recently warned news organizations against criticizing their unsuccessful Olympic soccer team.  Two interesting things to note:  Why should the government care about a sports team?  Because criticism can easily spill over into other forms of social corruption and lead to demands for reform that may be difficult to manage.  Secondly, the global interconnectedness of news is illustrated in a Times article about the Chinese press derision of the team being translated and shared widely on Chinese websites.

2 Responses to “Press freedom Chinese style”

  1. Marc Says:

    What’s interesting is the perspective of the Chinese populace towards China’s national sports. The Chinese Men’s Basketball Team, which has emerged as a global sensation and as a great source of talent exportation to different countries, can get drilled by thirty to the USA Basketball Team or post a dismal 2-4 record -another losing record in the Olympics, mind you – and they have not received the criticism that the Men’s Soccer Team has received. The Soccer Team, though, has been mired in a self-loathing, highly-touted, highly-criticized environment set by the Chinese populace – no matter how well they do, they are not able to generate enough popular support to overshadow their lack of success in modern times. The Chinese basketball team, however, a squad that has generally fared worse in international play than soccer, does not garner as much negative press as the soccer team.
    It’s interesting to note that the failure of the soccer team is as a result to the treatment of the fans towards the athletes. As bad as they perform, they are often heralded as rock stars, showered with overly-lucrative contracts, and essentially treated with so much laud that – for the most part, of course – their fame and fortune get into their egos and severely hampers their growth as athletes. The Chinese soccer players have had their share of shadowed histories littered with questionable off-the-field decisions, with allegations and convictions ranging from partaking in prostitution to rampant drug use, and their revelry in the spotlight of both the Chinese media and the over-enthusiasm of the government to provide incentives for increased performance (grossly lucrative contracts, benefits, tax-free investments, etc.) has negatively affected their performance on and off the field.
    It’s no wonder the government is trying to suppress criticism of the team. After so much suspicion surrounding the record gold-medal count, the legitimacy of the Chinese gymnasts, and the questionable judgmental calls concerning subjective Olympic events, any reprieve from media skepticism is most-welcome to the Chinese government at this point.
    I still don’t think that this was the best way to approach the situation, but that could just be a Western perspective of freedom of the press.

  2. Brian Says:

    I’m curious about that last sentence about the “Pro-Beijing” candidates, as that seems like the biggest connection within the article between government and sports – if the government agreed with, say, the team captain of the soccer team’s political views, they wouldn’t want him being looked at like an idiot and therefore disagreed with on his political policies. I’d be interested to hear exactly what “Pro-Beijing” ideas the government is interested in protecting.

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