Friday, June 27, 2008

The Other Side of the Story

It has been a few weeks since I came back from China where I witnessed the national mourning of the Sichuan earthquake victims. It feels difficult to discuss that topic or comment on my blog about it because what I have read, heard and watched in China is so different from what I read and hear in New York. I am puzzled and wonder which side I shall take and believe and why there are so many differences between the Chinese and US reports.

As you can see in my previous postings, I have only written a few stories from what I had witnessed about the earthquake tragedy while I was in China. These were only some examples out of thousands of moving stories, but I didn’t see any of those reported in the US. In the US news reports, most of the coverage deals with what went wrong during the earthquake rescue. These articles focused on the numbers of deaths that were only estimated by the local governments, and not by actual counts, the school collapses, with it the failure of the local governments and all the angry parents that protested against the local governments (which I totally understand and support them too). There was also focus on how Chinese scientists did not adequately warn the government that an accident like this could happen and the faultiness of building structures in potential earthquake zones.

I realize that the US media is just reporting the reality of the news, but I wonder why only the tragic and angry stories are being published. This is not new to anyone, China itself and every other country in the world publishes a “one sided” news report. However, this is awful to me, because it means that people in either country can only hear a one-sided view. This allows me to understand how so many Americans whom I have met who have been to China tell me how much they love China and how surprised they are to see that China is so different from what they read, watched, or heard in the US. If people in either country only see one-sided stories, they will only have a one-sided view of the other country’s people and its life. But luckily, over 200 million Chinese now have internet access and many of them can read English, so they can read more Western news. Even though some websites are blocked, CNN, NY Times, Time, and more are not, so you can imagine what Chinese can read about the Western media. Now how about Westerners? How many of them can read Chinese websites such as Sina, Sohu, or a fashion magazine like Bazaar China? Can you imagine what special coverage about the Sichuan earthquake that Bazaar China has covered? Bazaar China has run a poignant series about the earthquake tragedy ranging in topics from shelters for the elderly, how families rebuild after the incident , the sadness of the parents for their children and the general pulling together of the human spirit. There are touching pictures that show children’s backpacks without their owners and military personnel aiding the wounded and carrying them out of the rubble on stretchers, not to mention the solidarity of the Chinese people during the moment of silence in Tiananmen Square or the celebrities like Jackie Chan and Zhang Ziyi gathering to aid the survivors. This is not propaganda, but another side of the human spirit of China that few Westerners see reflected in their media. Can you imagine Bazaar or any other fashion magazine publish such series in the west? I know many people here say China’s media is government’s propaganda, which I agree, but how about Western media? Here is one article I would like to share with you.

Having puzzled on this topic for a few weeks, I finally got excited to see that a few reports about China are subjective and really can help Westerners understand China from different perspectives. First, I saw “Youth and Restless in China,” a documentary film about 9 young Chinese people who come from different background and have different dilemmas, dreams, and hopes.

And NPR’s On the Media Goes to China has a great series about the media in China, which I will discuss further in upcoming blogs. In this series, you can really have a better understanding on how media works in China and if all things you read, heard, watched in the West really represent about China. (You can either read it or download it to listen to it, four stories and a blog).

So here is to hoping that people in both China and the West will have more opportunities to read, listen to, or watch such subjective media reports so we all can have a better understanding of each other!



Anonymous said...

Xiaoning, I noticed the difference of views by the media also. When I am in China I see news reported from different angles depending on who is reporting. Maybe Chinese news network, BBC news, or CNN news. I get home and I hear the same story again but with different points of interest. I never realized how information can be so selectively relayed to the population. I should not be so surprised I guess. We all need to be cautious of what we see and read. I have discussed the earthquake news with my wife(she is in China still)she has different access to news as well. So we are not always talking on the same page. hehe It makes us aware of what we see. OK. Keep up the good work at China Sprout. Love your selection of products. I have just found your Blog, now I will be checking it more often.