What is wrong with a lot of Western media coverage of China?

First, let’s not make the sweeping generalization that American media is a proxy for Western media ok? The United States is a country that is considered by most Chinese to be a proxy for ALL Western countries, but its politics are actually quite different than the politics of Canada or Europe, and it tends to be a more right leaning conservative country that is run by corporations/military interests. Let’s get that out of the way, first ok? The question really should be rephrased to what is wrong with a lot of American media coverage of China?

American media titles often sensationalize – and this is not just talking about China but every topic in general – the media will often twist words around to make something seem more dramatic to get the viewers attention. Let’s not get the idea that American media is specifically out to get China – it’s out to get money. Money means you have to be sensationalist to get readers. PELOSI READY TO GET TRUMP IMPEACHED – might be a headline that you see amongst American media – even though that’s their own President!

China is not treated much differently than Russia, to America those are their geopolitical enemies so they have to report on the negatives there more than the positives – and it grabs headlines better.

Wow China is expanding its military presence in SE Asia!

Wow China has secret internment camps! how awful!

Look at that, China is taking over Hong Kong!

Wow look what happens to Chinese when they speak out! they disappear!

Look at that China is trying to take over the world with its trade plans!

See all these sensationalist videos? They’re meant to grab your attention about what China is doing and they are biased towards the negative. Are they totally fake? No, there are truths in the video, but they are presented in a very negatively biased way.

But in China, you would see the same negative videos about America as well, that they have a plan to take over the world, that they are infringing Chinese interests etc, since government knows that the narrative the media pushes is a way of controlling the people, that’s why they represent specific biases.

In China’s case, the state directly controls the media. In USA’s case, lobbyists and special interests control the media. Both have similar objectives which are to control the people into believing a certain narrative.

So back to the main question – is there anything wrong with American media coverage of China – and the answer is no, not really – the media is doing exactly its job. Which is to sway the people towards a certain narrative. There is no such thing as unbiased news. Every news outlet is biased towards some objective.

That said – this doesn’t mean that everyone is brainwashed by the media. Me for example, I rarely look at the media, I get most of my information from Wikipedia, a website that is one of the few thats accessible and editable by anyone in China or anywhere else.

A lot of Americans have shifted away from traditional cable and newspapers now and get their news from Facebook or Youtube. A lot of the most top voted pro-Chinese answers you’ll find on Quora for example, are actually written by Westerners.

People who have traveled more are generally more less likely to be ‘brainwashed’ as they have experienced the different countries and cultures firsthand themselves. This goes for both Americans and Chinese people, btw. Americans believe all Chinese things are poor quality or that they spy and kidnap their citizens – I’ve traveled to China so I know that’s not true. Chinese people believe all Koreans had plastic surgery or appropriate Chinese culture as theirs – again, I lived in Korea before so I know that it’s not true. Traveling is a good way to dispel ignorant notions.


Why are the Chinese so nationalistic?

  1. Chinese people are generally more optimistic about their country than others. 85% of Chinese are optimistic about their country – see this excellent answer already – Robin Daverman’s answer to Why is Chinese nationalism so popular on Quora? While obviously nationalism exists in all countries, it seems disproportionately popular when it comes to questions about China. if 85% of a country’s people are optimistic – yes they are going to be more nationalistic on average than your typical country.
  2. Chinese people generalize Westerners as brainwashed by Western media – and the reason is because a lot of Westerners generalize Chinese as being brainwashed by the CCP. This causes a back and forth finger-pointing exercise between the two factions, each accusing the other of being ‘brainwashed’. The truth is of course, not all Westerners are ‘brainwashed’ – How Popular Is Donald Trump? less than half of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing, We asked, you told us: Most believe Huawei did nothing wrong Most Westerners do not believe Huawei did anything wrong, and only 31% are optimistic about their own country. If Western media/Trump administration was really brainwashing Westerners, they’re doing a terrible job at it. Of course the other side of the coin is not all Chinese are brainwashed either – the truth is somewhere in the middle – but of course the neutral opinions like mine often get drowned by the pro-Chinese opinions so the answers that people see are often the pro-Chinese ones. Also note: a lot of those pro-Chinese answers are actually written by Westerners who lived in China or are sympathetic to China. Ironic right?
  3. Most Chinese people have never been outside their country and their impressions of other countries come mainly from the internet – The Number of Potential Chinese Outbound Tourists Could Double by 2020 to 240 Million | Jing Travel The number of Chinese people with a passport is less than 9 percent (Compared with USA at 42% and Canada at 66%). This is probably related to why so many Chinese people have the false impression that Westerners are all brainwashed to hate China – because they see Western media, they see Quora and some ignorant Chinese questions – and they believe that all Westerners are like that. This actually explains a lot of things. It explains why they think all Americans are nationalistic, that Koreans all do plastic surgery or that korean men look feminine etc because while the absolute number of Chinese tourists is still large (9% of 1.3b is still 120m people) the percentage of the total population who has traveled to another country is still very low, which is why these generalizing impressions have taken hold.
  4. Chinese tend to be very sensitive to any criticism of their country. I mentioned this in my other answer already Tong Zou’s answer to What is your opinion about China and Chinese people? and anyone who has Chinese friends, well we already know not to talk about politics/Tiananmen/Taiwan issues around them because those are very sensitive topics. I am not anti-Chinese nor am I advocating the CCP be replaced yet on a lot of my answers I am being attacked by Chinese people who misconstrue my criticism as attacks on China or Chinese people. Chinese people take these criticisms very personally and get very defensive about it. Again, this has only happened with Chinese people from my experience. I have answers criticizing America, Korea, Japan etc too but I have not received the same attacks from those people.
  5. Backlash for the century of humiliation that China endured against the West, and a result Chinese people feel the need to be even more nationalistic to compensate. Is it fair to lump all Westerners into the same bucket for events caused by British/French/Americans that happened 150 years ago? Probably not, but Chinese often see America/USA = a proxy for Western democracy, so basically whatever they see in America (high poverty rates, undeveloped infrastructure, rampant drug use, election of Trump etc) they equate to the failure of Western democracy. Believe me, its frustrating as a Canadian to be lumped into the same political bucket as the USA as our politics are very different, but to Chinese, USA = all Westerners = all brainwashed to hate China. But yes, this is the main reason why China will do everything it takes to win that trade war against the USA – they refuse to be humiliated anymore, they will be as nationalistic as they need to be.

Why is it easy to find Westerners obsessed with Japan and Korea, but not China?

  1. China lacks cultural exports because they focus on their domestic market. Korea has kpop, Japan has anime
  2. China is/was communist (even if its in name only) and USA is staunchly anti-communist
  3. Western media always focuses on lack of freedoms, censorships and human rights issues in China rather than the positive sides of China
  4. China is ‘taking away US jobs’ and an evolving superpower
  5. Chinese tourist’s bad reputation certainly doesn’t help