Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

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Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by AniThyng » 2018-04-18 09:31pm

Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

I've been on a bit of a search for English language sources trying to better understand the reality of the PRC. Aside from the biases of western MSM and the Chinese media ( xinhua, China daily, scmp etc), what other sources would you recommend that has a balanced view?
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-04-19 02:02pm

Balanced? In what way?

China is very multifaceted. Best is, of course, swimming along with the Chinese social media or reading some quality "immigrant press" from people who live there, then you get more nuanced opinions and greater depth to the stories.

Your view of China will become more balanced if you learn more about China and Chinese history.
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by AniThyng » 2018-04-19 11:58pm

It's become clearer to me that western media outlets present stories with a clear slant to tearing China down, while Chinese media has the clear slant in the opposite direction ( a very crude analogy would be what xinhua calls an anti corruption drive the BBC calls a political purge), so I'm looking for something more neutral.

Blogs or opinion sites would be welcome too. I've been mucking about r/sino and r/China on Reddit and it again seems that both go to either extreme - r/sino is full of people who have clearly bought the party line, and r/china full of people with a white superiority complex.

As for Chinese history, I suppose this would deserve it's own thread, but so far my only ideological issue is the assertion that China ( as in the thousand years old civilization state, not the ROC and PRC specifically) never had any Imperial ambitions and all its wars were defensive or to secure a frontier to buffer themselves, which tends to be used to explain why China will never need to be feared as a aggressive military power, which to me feels like a bit of a cop out, I've got not problem with China asserting it's regional power and influence over and across its borders... So long as it's upfront about it.
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by mr friendly guy » 2018-04-21 03:46am

If you want economic news or tech news, its best to get from sites which deal with economics eg Bloomberg, WSJ, Fortune and ones for tech and science eg world nuclear association if you want to know about China's civilian nukes. I would not bother with mainstream press or the Economist who have predicted China will collapse several times or at least slow ridiculously over the past decade and a half. Heck, some reports you have to go deeper than mainstream sites, for example if you want to know about how economically viable China's HSR is, get it from World Bank reports, because you won't get it from mainstream sites.

If you want pollution levels, get it from neutral sites, eg Greenpeace (neutral as in, they don't have a hard on of hate for China), or look at the journal articles. Another approximation is if China's geopolitical rivals also agree with something eg they both agree Beijing's PM 2.5 levels are dropping, then its most probably true. Unlike if say only China records their PM 2.5 levels are dropping.

Political news its a bit harder. Its best to get from a variety of sources, eg pro Chinese sources and anti Chinese sources. Be sceptical and ask yourself the relevant questions. For example if there is a territorial dispute, ask how each side justifies it (because BBC will never mention it). If they talk about opinions, ask for numbers.

Using a non Chinese example the Left always talks about how right wing outlets obfuscate climate change by having equal time and giving the impression that the science is split, rather than having 3 climate change sceptics to 97 scientist who says man made climate change is real. When BBC gives "equal time" to HK independence and pro China sides, ask yourself why they never put in the survey numbers and then find out can you get these numbers elsewhere (the answer is yes BTW, you can check Reuters). Even RT when they spruik Bavarian independence puts poll numbers in so we can see that the majority do not want independence from Germany.

Its really sad, but with news you have to ask the questions, what else do I need to know to make a decision and are they telling me this. This applies to both Xinhua and mainstream western news. Although Xinhua most of the time will reference the original site or report they are getting their story from, so you can chase that up instead.

Just between you and me, Chinese media is pretty dry compared to say Western media or RT. In other words, it can get boring. If you want strong arguments, its best (but time consuming) to trim through Chinese nationalists arguments. Of course you have to go through flamebait to get to the one or two good articles they link to, but damn they do use sources to back up their claims, which I naturally double checked from other sources or the original source.

BTW - if anyone quotes the Global Times (western media loves using the GT as a whipping boy), its actually the Chinese equivalent of tabloid. Before someone says, the government has ownership in it, yeah this is China, the government has their hands in almost all media, but only Xinhua and the People's Daily are the government mouthpiece (for newspapers anyway).
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by AniThyng » 2018-04-21 07:58am

Thanks for the detailed write up. Those are certainly good points to bear in mind.

What's your view on the objectivity of sites like hongkongfp and supchina on thier reporting of mainland issues?
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by mr friendly guy » 2018-04-21 09:45am

I am not well versed in those sites. I don't even read people's Daily that much aside to click on the business and science section. Its just that some Western reporting on politics is so egregiously bad that I have to post and mock them.

But in this day and age we talk about people and minorities having agency and intersectionality, then I click on hongkongfp and see most of their writers are not Mainlanders, you got to wonder. Have they bothered to ask a Mainlander for their opinion?

Personally I get information from Foreign Policy or the Diplomat which are largely anti China, but at least they do teach me things I didn't know or at least try to make a coherent argument, unlike BBC's ranting. The do also allow some pro Chinese view airtime as well. The other source if you can afford it, is the magazine Foreign Affairs. I usually buy one at the airport when I am flying out, its quite informative and a lot of the authors seem to subscribe to real politik view of things, rather than the idealised bullshit leftists hypocrites do, that is, they admit America would have done similar things in the same circumstance because that's just how countries behave. Unfortunately it isn't just focussed on China.


However I get a lot of info from messageboards where pro and anti chinese posters post articles including some from journals. You can backtrack the original source to check its reliability. They do also post articles from sites not normally friendly to China, if the site does admit things like, yeah this Chinese nuke reactor is good and yes their HSR did turn out to be a success despite the naysayers.

Keep in mind, my interests in China lies in business, economics and science, and less politics, but you can still get plenty there if politics is your thing.

BTW - if you look at Forbes, avoid Gordon Chang, except to laugh at him. His predictions about China's collapses have been so wrong that its now become a running joke on the internet that he is a secret CCP agent telling the West that China is going to collapse very soon, so the West will leave China alone, as what's the point of wasting resources to constrain China if its going to collapse by itself.
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by AniThyng » 2018-04-22 08:45am

Point taken. Thanks for taking the time to write that up. I'm currently interested in politics and to a certain extent, the nebulous question of culture - especially in the current world environment what it means to be overseas Chinese and how we relate to the rising cultural soft power of the PRC Vis a Vis TW and HK, and on the other hand, the rhetoric coming out of the West
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by mr friendly guy » 2018-04-22 10:45am

If you're interested in cultural soft power, there are some topics that might interest you, although you find surprisingly that they merge in with the hard power aspect. As a warning, I find where hard power ends and soft power begins, somewhat nebulous. Its a spectrum. I would also argue, soft power is directly related to hard power. For example, with the K-pop wave, will a South Korean show be popular with a North Korean budget? The money part is clearly hard power.

With that out the way I will focus on soft power which is less to do with what we traditionally think of as soft power first. Rather than talk about sources, I will focus about topics. If you have further questions, you can ask and if I have time I will answer

1. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

One forgotten cornerstone of US soft power, is when they marry it with their hard economic power in the form of the IMF and the World Bank. This is particularly effective in the aftermath of WWII. Is considered soft power by definition because these institutions are associated with the US. Soft power definition includes a country's institutions. I know most people would most probably think of television shows or pop culture as soft power, but this strictly speaking is also soft power.

I will just quote from wiki the relevant section on soft power and institutions
The Soft Power 30, which includes a foreword by Joseph Nye, is a ranking of countries' soft power produced and published by the media company Portland in 2015. The ranking is based on "the quality of a country’s political institutions, the extent of their cultural appeal, the strength of their diplomatic network, the global reputation of their higher education system, the attractiveness of their economic model, and a country’s digital engagement with the world.
Well China's got its own bank and is lending money as well. Part of it is to help its Belt and Road initiative. Since the AIIB is relatively new, there isn't much news (good or bad) on it just yet. Rather just watch this space.


2. Chinese Prime directive (that's a joke BTW, and a play on the UFP's directive on non interference) and loans

This of course relates to similar to point one, although the loans aren't necessarily by the AIIB. Basically China loans to countries with less conditions than Western ones. If they can't pay back, China can extend the loan in return for something else, which may be political concessions.

This again is where soft power meets hard power. Basically both China and other countries offer loans (hard power), but the strings they attach are the soft power bit. The west wants people to become more like them, China doesn't care as long as its economic interests and important political interests (eg no recognition of the ROC) are respected. Its a simplistic summary and there are nuances, but you get the general gist.

This of course has led to accusations shamelessly by Western media about Chinese colonialism, totally oblivious to the genocides of the native population by Western colonisers and the great power games where European powers blatantly met to discuss how Africa should be divided up without consent from Africans naturally. :D

If you want objective, ie backed up by evidence, go to Deborah Brautigam. You can find some youtube videos on China's lending to Africa and her analysis of what is exactly done. She actually has done studies on Chinese loans rather than anecdotal evidence. There is a debate with her on IQ squared on this, again on youtube.

Dambisa Moyo is also someone who talks about how China's aid is changing things, but she again focusses on the economic side of things, so its more hard power stuff.

3. Lets talk cultural products

Before I go on, I am going to say the above two institutions are most probably going to do more to shape Chinese influence than cultural products. If you think about it, American films are big cultural products, but when the US starts a trade war with China, is the average Chinese going to side with the US because they love the Bayformers films? :D I am not saying soft power is useless, but IMO it pales in comparison with hard power most of the time. The only exception is possibly religious conversion, but that's a separate topic.

The main things I am familiar with are

a. Wuxia and Xianxia.
Wuxiaworld is doing reasonably well on the number of visits on the site based on Alexa rankings ( https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/wuxiaworld.com)

It deals predominantly with Xianxia type novels, and a few wuxia ones which are translated into English. The majority of them are translated from Chinese webnovels. There are a few Korean webnovels translated and a few English originals aping the tropes of Xianxia (so you can already see it having an effect, and Xianxia definitely have their own tropes which you won't find in Western fantasy novels, such as the obsession with "levelling up.").

https://www.wuxiaworld.com

Their rival of course is Qidan (who apparently is owned by Tencent), who runs the original site in Chinese, but have recently branched out into English translations. They have a dispute with wuxiaworld over who owes what translations. Their English language website is

https://www.webnovel.com

Both sites seem to make money from a combination of advertising and subscriptions. Certainly I think a lot of people are being bit more immersed into Chinese fantasy scenes, which have a lot of references to traditional Chinese culture, in regards to Taoism.

This rising popularity of Xianxia as a genre among non Chinese audiences is relevant to your interest, because even the Chinese government in their official mouthpieces have noticed the popularity and they ran interviews with the Chinese owner of Wuxiaworld, a Mr Ren Woxing (not his real name obviously, since its the name of the villain of the Chinese wuxia novel "Smiling Proud Wanderer," 笑傲江湖 ).

b. Chinese "anime"

Apparently Japanese companies started outsourcing some of the animation work to Korean and Chinese companies, allowing the distinct anime style of spread elsewhere until these countries felt confident enough to make their own. The big company Tencent (which I can almost guarantee most critics of China have never heard of) is running a subscription site for some of these works.

They seem popular among the anime niche crowd.

The one that springs to mind is the King's Avatar. There are others, even some being exported to Japan, such as Fox spirit matchmaker, which just goes to show, how far they have come.

c. Films

This will be divided into two sections
1. Influencing Hollywood films
2. Their own films

In regards to the first one it again relates to economic hard power. I am sure you're familiar with the Yellow Red Dawn remake. How instead of the Soviets they used the Chinese, then realised, oh shit, China might not buy our future films and spent money digitally changing them to North Koreans. The film was still a flop by the way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Dawn_(2012_film)

It still has some soft power applications, because instead of churning out anti Chinese propaganda, er I mean entertainment, one company stopped it. That's a type of power the Soviets never had over the US. I mean can you imagine the US not churning out the anti Soviet movies of the 80s like Rocky 4, Red Dawn etc. Its basically Chinese hard power causing someone else to use their soft power in a more beneficial way for China.

This isn't just an isolated example. In a bid to get the Chinese market, some films have the Chinese as the good guys along with the Americans. Think Independence Day resurgence or the latest pacific rim movie. Can you imagine how Americans would view the films of the 80s had the Soviets as the good guys (along with the Americans of course).

Now point two. This is something that interests the Chinese government in regards to soft power, although I don't really see why. Well actually I do, but I just don't hold the same significance as the Chinese government does. But that's just my bias towards "hard power," showing. Obviously the film the Great Wall was an attempt to see if a Chinese funded film could get non Chinese audiences, and lets just say, it didn't make a profit. We will no doubt expect to see more, but I think if they want something that can appeal to a wider audience, I would suggest futuristic sci fi. Just saying.

BTW - what sells to Chinese audiences these days seem to be films saying "China fuck yeah." Ok I exaggerate. Its more like China goes in for limited military operations with the permission from the government of that country of course. Films of this genre include Wolf Warriors 2 (box office of $874 million USD for a $30 million budget, that's more than what Wonder Woman made worldwide) and Operation Red Sea (box office of $581 USD million for $70 million budget). Obviously this won't sell to US audiences who are used to Americans being the good guy (with some exceptions like Black Panther).
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by mr friendly guy » 2018-04-23 05:30am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-04-19 02:02pm
Balanced? In what way?

China is very multifaceted. Best is, of course, swimming along with the Chinese social media or reading some quality "immigrant press" from people who live there, then you get more nuanced opinions and greater depth to the stories.

Your view of China will become more balanced if you learn more about China and Chinese history.
What's on weibo is a nice site talking about what's trending on Chinese social media. Its run by IIRC a Dutch women has lived in China for some time and its her way of helping the world understand a bit more about China. Certainly does a better job than Broadcasting Bullshit Corporation.

Their youtube channel is here
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnAdYT ... u1A/videos
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by Vendetta » 2018-04-23 07:04am

mr friendly guy wrote:
2018-04-22 10:45am
The big company Tencent (which I can almost guarantee most critics of China have never heard of) is running a subscription site for some of these works.
I wouldn't underestimate how many people have heard of Tencent, given they own Supercell Riot and Epic and thereby a very large proportion of the free to play gaming market through League of Legends, Clash of Clans, and Fortnite.

(Free to play is popular in SE Asia because the predominant model for PC gaming is in internet cafes and so MMOs and Free to Play games where progress and value are based on a transferrable account not an individual machine are more popular, and PC gaming in general is more popular due to the general restriction of imports from Japan through a lot of the '80s and '90s.)
This isn't just an isolated example. In a bid to get the Chinese market, some films have the Chinese as the good guys along with the Americans. Think Independence Day resurgence or the latest pacific rim movie. Can you imagine how Americans would view the films of the 80s had the Soviets as the good guys (along with the Americans of course).
Lots of films now are coproduced with Chinese companies because that sidesteps the quota on foreign movies being released in China.

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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by AniThyng » 2018-04-23 11:17am

Huh, didn't know tencent owned riot and epic.
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Re: Good sources for balanced reporting and opinions on China?

Post by Vendetta » 2018-04-23 01:02pm

Tencent own approximately everything.

They're technically only the largest single shareholder in Epic (40%), Riot are wholly owned. They also have something like a 5% stake in Ubisoft and 25% stake in Activision.

They are the largest games media company bar none. (They are also the local operator in China of a lot of other comapnies' games as well).

That's aside from all the other things they run in social media in China.

Tencent is the fifth largest corporation in the world.

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