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March 27, 2008

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Good point. The beauty of a free press is not the absence of bias; it's multiple sources.

Sam it's not just CNN, it's Die Spiegel and the rest. It's sloppy journalism at best and ideological at worse. And this is a widely held perception amongst not only just mainland chinese but overseas Chinese.
Most of the Chinese media is the propagandic arm of CCP and informed Chinese know and expected it. But they also expect the "free" media, as generally capable of producing unbiased journalism. And they are sadly disappointed.

Tian,
Yes, there is clearly a problem of misperception and bias. I suspect the root of it lies in commercial pressures: "if it bleeds, it leads." That is, media outlets tend to play up the most dramatic and sensational aspects of a story, and that can undermine clarity and accuracy. This, too, is endemic in US media. Thus "free" is never fully unbiased. The virtue of freedom is the possibility of contestation and correction.
The best thing to do is to document the problems and call for corrections, as has been done in some cases (didn't RTL apologize?). Take advantage of the freedom to criticize and present other views.
None of this, however, speaks to the larger issues of Tibet. The PRC government is happy for the distraction of "anti-CNN." It allows them to avoid discussing the social and economic and political conditions in Tibet and implicitly blame the "imperialists" for Tibetan violence. If we are talking about the difficulties inside Tibet, however, CNN is not the main problem.

I agree with many of the points in this article, because I can see that China's media control isn't helping them in this case because the whole world sees it and it only validates the view that China most likely used torture and treated the Tibetans horribly, and I agree that even with media bias you can see more sides of the story than with state controlled media.

But I agree with Tian too that even overseas Chinese who have access to views from both sides are scoffing at mainstream western media for a lot of it's reporting on Tibet. And in regards to anti-Chinese bias: it's real and it's strong esp here on the internet and in America where people rollup the recent lead, cat food debacles together as reasons against China and reasons for boycotting the 2008 Olympics. Most, if not all, give the connotation that this incident was in every bit as violent on the Chinese government's part as the 1989 Tiananmen incident. Back to the arresting of the monks (most likely the root cause of this incident as you pointed out): when there are protests even here in the US, lots of people are arrested. How about the handling of the rioters: they sent in riot police first, and only sent in the army when it was clear that the riot police wouldn't be able to handle it, again, pretty standard procedure. Most media readily point out the China locked out the media this time and it's impossible to verify any claims from either side whether or not there were human rights violations.

But then you have all these politicians coming out stating that undoubtedly that there were human rights violations by China. Now I'm not saying that China for sure didn't violate human rights this time, but I don't think we have enough info to verify if this is true. A lot of the info in defense of China is coming from the state-controlled media, so it's not very trustworthy. A lot of the info against China is coming from the Tibet exiles. A lot of the world would trust the exiles. But how to we know the exiles have completely reliable information? Esp given they aren't even in Tibet anymore and they also have their own inherent biases that are most likely much stronger than any western media's.

I suppose another point I want to touch on is that some of the long-standing connotations that anyone defending China is either brainwashed or part of the government. Yes there is the media bias story to rouse people up, and the media is state-controlled, but the people watch the stories with that in mind. Think about it this way: if the Russian KGB or a Chinese spy agency funded a separatist movement in the US, how would a lot of Americans feel about it? A lot of them would be up in arms about it (literally too since we have freedom of arms)! It is fact that the CIA funded the Tibet independence movement, and this is why there is such a strong disbelief of the Dalai Lama and the Tibet independence movement in China along with accusations that "imperialists" caused most of the problems in Tibet.
Again, I'm not trying to say that there is no legitamacy to the Tibetan movement for that reason, but I'm just trying to point out some of the views from the other side.

At this point, I would like to see some constructive discussion between the Chinese president and Dalai Lama. I think this time we might actually be able to make some progress in terms of Tibet because of the sensitivity of China to it's image for the 2008 Olympics. You see China make some gestures, like sending a few of the media into Tibet, that they would have never made in the past. It's not to far off to expect that a deal might be struck where Tibetans can get more control of their region without compeletely separating from China.

Jake,
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. A couple of ideas come to mind in response.
On the CIA, yes it is certainly true that the US did try to build up the Tibetans against Beijing in the 1950s. That support, from what I have seen, lasted until the early seventies, when the remnants of the old Tibetan resistance force was finally dispersed. So, it is not at all clear to me that the CIA claim tells us too much about what has happened from the 1980s to today. It has some historical importance, for sure, but is it a key factor in the current troubles?
Another problem is US funding for the Dalai Lama. I believe him when he says he opposes violence of the sort we have seen of late in Lhasa. But I can also imagine that some US money finds its way to groups, like the Tibetan Youth Congress, which seems to be at the forefront of encouraging the demonstrations we have seen in the past two weeks. There is an external aspect to the problem, and the US does play a role in that. And you are right to point out the political effects this has on overseas Chinese, and other Chinese people. But, again, if we are thinking about why Tibetans riot (as opposed to why Chinese feel the way they do about Tibet or the US media), I think the question remains: how much of the problem derives from external forces, and how much is caused by conditions internal to Tibet and China?
I hope you are right about the possibilities of some accommodation between the DL and Beijing. I do not, at this point, share that optimism. I am afraid that hardliners in Beijing will continue to attack the DL as a "splittist," worrying that any compromise with him might weaken their claims to Taiwan.

Tian:

What if there is no western media bias? What if that they are just doing a job that they are supposed to do?

Here is a piece from a Asia times that might shed some light on the Tibetian issue. ( Is the author brainwashed by the Chinese government controled media? or is he brought by the Chinese cash? )

Why They Hate China
Well, you have to hate someone…

http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=12585

My case closed...

I hope you can join us on Change.org in our community: "Support People with Disabilities"

http://www.change.org/changes/view/2154

Thanks,
Will H.

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