March 4, 2007
Written by C.N.
One consistent theme in this blog is the clash of tradition and modernity in Asian countries such as China. As another example of this increasingly common and intense phenomenon, Salon.com/The Associated Press reports that a recent murder of a journalist in China has prompted the Chinese to critically reexamine the nature of corruption within the media and journalism profession:
President Hu Jintao has ordered a probe into the killing of China Trade News reporter Lan Chengzhang, who Chinese media say may have been trying to collect money from the owner of an illegal coal mine in return for not writing about the business. Hu’s call for an investigation was extraordinary because the government usually doesn’t publicly discuss problems with media, still officially hailed as the “throat and tongue” of the ruling Communist Party.
Talking about bad press behavior could tarnish the party’s image, while officials themselves often have their own reasons for covering up disasters and corruption. Hu appears to have been prodded into action by Chinese media reports on the killing and a public outcry on the Internet chastising both greed within the news profession and the government’s restrictions on media. . . .
Media extortion is relatively common in China’s mining industry, which is rife with illegal practices, but elsewhere press corruption is more subtle. Reporters at news conferences are routinely offered envelopes of cash, ostensibly to cover travel costs but with the unspoken assumption they will write what the sponsor wishes to see.
Businesses also buy advertising to ensure positive coverage, often at the behest of reporters who are required by their employers to meet revenue quotas. Commissions on such contracts can more than double a reporter’s pay, which is often as low as $150 a month.
As we can see, corruption exists not just among government officials — it seems to be rife among many sectors of Chinese society, even one that is normally seen as critical and impartial such as the media. As with other clashes of tradition vs. modernity in China, this tension between “how things have always been done” and the new openness prompted by advancing technology and capitalism will probably get worse before it gets better.
Will this sector of Chinese society eventually retreat into social obsolescence or will it transform itself into a vanguard for social change and public democracy (within the confines of communist society)? Stay tuned to find out . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Journalism Corruption in China" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/03/journalism-corruption-in-china/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=371