Wednesday 17 October 2018

Communist spin leaves media dizzy

People watch a broadcast of Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering his speech during the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, on a giant outdoor screen in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China. Photo: Reuters
People watch a broadcast of Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering his speech during the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, on a giant outdoor screen in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China. Photo: Reuters

Gerry Shih

The TV cameras are rolling, the bright lights are on and the reporters are readying their notebooks.

It's the second day of the Chinese Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress held just off Tiananmen Square.

"The Communist Party knows how to play the PR game," said King-Wa Fu, associate professor at Hong Kong University's journalism and media studies centre. "Even if they are just speaking the party line, they need images and soundbites."

Pre-screened questions at official news conferences are nothing new in China, but compared to several years ago, they're much more prevalent. To give news conferences an open and international feel, hosts have been known to call on "foreign journalists" who turn out to be employees of Chinese state media.

Yesterday, Akhil Parashar, an Indian reporter for the Chinese state-run China Radio International, was called on to ask a question. He asked whether China built the world's fastest computer just for the sake of it. No, was the answer, but with plenty of young talent, China could guarantee scientific superiority well into the 21st century.

So why did he get to ask a question?

Parashar said he didn't know.

"I think this was pre-decided," he said. "By my boss. Or my boss's boss."

Irish Independent

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