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Satya Pal Singh. January 23. 2014. DRAGONFLY OVER AMERICA

Editorial. Satya Pal Singh. January.XXIII. XIV

Dragonfly spells prosperity for Chinese








Satya Pal Singh-fnbworld-editorial  By Satya Pal Singh


NY Times-fnbworld




A country that remained closed to the world until 1970s and made an ignoble history in prolonged repression and mass persecutions, is today on the road to becoming a superpower with a lot to its credit that remains envy of the entire world, awe-inspiring, indeed! We have the fast-growing China, whose past events during the Maoist era and the #Cultural Revolution would today be rated as shame when any one identified as counter-revolutionary, Capitalist roader, 'imperialists running dog' was fated to have jail or face the firing squad. 

By the end of the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1980s, things turned around with China's massive reforms and engagement with the world, which focused on attaining "comprehensive and integrative power" with multiple dimensions of development, covering almost every area of human activity - from governance, economy, military, science, technology, education, culture, diplomacy, value system, personal development, to national honour. As a strange phenomenon, however, quest for hegemony stood supreme on its agenda.

Xi Jinping-fnbworld

When a large, powerful country like China asserts itself in the neighbourhood, where even a strong, competing India feels the pangs of its unrestrained expansionist ambitions and, when it sails its navy aggressively into virgin waters, expands overseas, builds up mega economy, soaks up investment and emerges a major player in global governance diplomacy, the world watches in dismay.


And this posture becomes more aggressive under China's strongman #Xi Jingping.


Having ably broadened its global media exposure and cultural presence, China has now drafted its Chinese tycoon #Chen Guangbiaq to buy "at least one large-circulated American newspaper", after his first attempt to acquire the#New York Times (NYT) boomeranged on scales. Chen told a New York-based Chinese TV channel, #Sinovision, that he was now going to the Wall Street journal to explore if he could buy that. Chen claimed that "I am very good at working with Jews..I am aware that Jews own American newspapers. I can comfortably run an American newspaper, because I have equally competent IQ and EQ, similar to those of Jews."

While Beijing is keen on controlling sections of the American press, Washington appears to be putting a spanner in such moves. Possibly, the former's NYT initiative flopped because the US deemed that patently as a hostile Chinese over-reach. But Chen has an explanation why he wants to buy NYT : “I find Americans know little about a civilized and open China that has been enjoying unprecedented development. The tradition and style of the New York Times make it very difficult to have objective coverage of China. If we could purchase it, its tone might turn around. If I succeed, I will conduct some necessary reforms, the ultimate goal of which is to make the paper’s reports more authentic and objective, thus rebuilding its credibility and influence. This will facilitate the world’s leading paper in future development and profit-making." 

China's hypocrisy, however, comes to the fore when govt-inspired Chen raps the American press, its standards and prejudices while ignoring the harsh media muzzle back home. Bejing has long held a tight rein against news media challenging its political authorities. This has entailed strict media controls through monitoring systems, closing publications, websites, sending defiant journalists, bloggers and activists to jail. Govt tussle with Google went internationally viral over official Internet censorship in China and the awarding of the 2010 #Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo. However, China now belatedly realizes that it can't afford to ignore media as it becomes a burgeoning economy and needs greater diversity in the country's media coverage. As such, authorities are trying to balance the need for more information with their goal of controlling content and maintaining power. 

But observers feel the govt is "worried about opening the door to the type of freedoms that could lead to the regime's downfall." While the Chinese statute allows its citizens "freedom of speech and press,"  the law includes media regulations with vague language that enables authorities to brand those reports as  "dangerous" that share state secrets. In April 2010, Beijing revised its existing Law on Guarding State Secrets to tighten its control over information flows. The amendment required the Internet companies and telecom operators to cooperate with the authorities in probes into leaks of state secrets. But the definition of "state secrets" itself remains vague and could be used to censor any bit of information China may consider detrimental to its interests. 

Then, why such a sharp China glare on the American press? World knows that US leaders have been taking swipes at China repeatedly in the past, but have exercised  caution in calculating that the political benefits outweigh the potential costs of irritating this major trade and diplomatic partner. They are concerned on how to bring manufacturing back to the country. Though US President Obama put unprecedented trade pressure on China, his opponents call for more aggressive steps, denouncing Beijing "cheater" and "currency manipulator." Chinese limit the movement of yuan, a policy constantly flayed by Americans, who accuse Beijing of keeping the currency artificially low to help its exports. It is precisely to combat such "American pressures and postures" that China is hellbent on buying a pie in the American press.

The new law, activists say, doesn't comply with international human rights standards. The govt issued its first white paper on the Internet, in which it emphasized the concept of #"Internet sovereignty," requiring all Internet users to abide by Chinese laws and regulations. But analysts complain that the regime actually uses the Internet not only to "extend its control but also to enhance its legitimacy." One may ask here : What sort of freedom is this if Journalists face harassment, prison terms and are coerced into "self-censorship" ? 

And what about the #US media policy? A policy so intricate that China and its entrepreneurial enthusiast Chen are yet to understand and absorb, although they have eagerly set out to buy press ventures in the Obama land. Here is a foreign policy that operates in the shades and controls levers of the media nefariously by way of "journalists' self-censorship." America, as superpower and an international warlord, monitors happenings in the entire world and, the media persons posted in US mainland or outside, take precautions not to annoy the US military for, ugly consequences of its power would most certainly chase any minuscule of  "bold reporting."

Then, who will take the cudgel of exposing the complicity of American mass media that provides a grossly distorted view of US foreign policy? Why does this media present a foreign policy that looks  "benign and justifiable," implicitly far removed from reality? In a well-documented article, published by the North American Congress on Latin America, Keane Bhatt provides an excellent case study of how America nefariously uses the media. The author's expose, "This American Life," is an episode that won the Peabody Award for distinguished achievement in electronic journalism.

The 1982 #Guatemala massacre episode gives eyewitness accounts of the slaughter of 200 people living in #Dos Erres village. The women are raped and killed, the men are shot or bludgeoned to death and children, some of them alive, are dumped into a dry well. And finally, it provides a moving account of one survivor who was three years old then. Three decades later, while living in the US, he discovers his roots and his father as a result of the investigation. This bloodbath was one of many: In over 600 villages, tens of thousands of people were butchered. A truth commission found that the number of Guatemalans killed or displaced by their own government went past 180,000.

But, strangely, there has been no mention of a US role, in what the UN Truth Commission in 1999 later determined to be genocide. The UN specifically noted Washington's role and President Clinton publicly apologized for it. The US role in providing arms, training, ammunition, diplomatic cover, political and other support to the mass murderers is well-documented, and has received much attention as a result of the recent trial of former military dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled from 1982-83.

The #US embassy had received reports of massacres, but chose to ignore them. In fact, a soldier who participated in the Dos Erres massacre and was later sentenced to 6,060 years in prison, was airlifted the day after the mass murder to the School of the Americas, the US military facility known for training some of the region's worst dictators and human rights violators. Thus, the worst genocide of the post second world war era was allowed to reach its peak in the US neighbourhood, with almost no media reporting on it. A soldier describes how cruelly he and his comrades slaughtered villagers. And yet, the media ignored it, allowing President Reagan to promote Ríos Montt as "a man of great personal integrity and commitment". 

In another instance, #Scott Wilson, a foreign editor at the Washington Post, who covered Venezuela during the coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002, stated in an interview that "there was US involvement" in the coup. Yet, this never appeared in the Post, or any other section of the US media. This played a major role in poisoning relations between Washington and Caracas over the past decade and probably had a significant impact on relations with the whole continent of South America. The US had its role also in the coup that destroyed Honduran democracy in 2009 and, the Obama administration tried to legitimize it, but it did not merit the media's attention. 

The questions remain: What would American foreign policy look like if the media reported the facts of its basic components? How does this "superpower strength" satisfy the US, which has the world's most bloated military budget that even beats the record of spending during the Vietnam and Korean wars, after adjusting all inflationary aspects? Does not this money precipitate world hostilities at a time when the US struggles with its recession, inhumanly cutting props to the poor and the elderly? And, does it really make sense if govt-inspired Chinese barons want to utilize the American media for their advantage, when the American opinion remains noticeably inimical to Beijing? The Chinese, perhaps, don't know how difficult it would be for them to run a newspaper from the American soil, where media remains under severe pressure. It is bound to be quite a ‘media feast’ to watch the two heavy-weights in the run-up to a slanging match!


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