Why has Chinese media’s coverage of the “Occupy Movement” turned cold?

Why has Chinese media’s coverage of the “Occupy Movement” turned cold?
By He Qinglian on Oct 17, 2011

Those who keep a close eye on information from Chinese media would find that after October 15, Chinese media’s coverage of “Occupy Wall Street” became much less enthusiastic all of a sudden. While before that date every media outlet had special reports of the movement that were placed at prominent spots of their websites; the massive global “Occupy Movement” received almost no attention.

On Oct 16, I did a search at 9 AM EDT, and found that there was only one report about the movement across big or small websites inside China: “Protests and demonstrations spread to 71 countries, British people surrounded the London Stock Exchange”. While Sina (Beijing) positioned this story at an inconspicuous spot, Sina (North America) made a headline report that read: “Occupy Wall Street movement escalated and spread to London and Tokyo”. At that time no related stories could be found on Tencent’s homepage, and the headline of NetEase was “China and Thailand carried out autopsies on dead crew and investigation”, no report on the “Occupy movement” could be found on its homepage.

I asked on twitter if there was any coverage of the movement inside China, a twitterer told me that NetEase did report it a while earlier and stirred up heated argument in its forum.

And I found out it wasn't just media outlets inside China that played down the movement, Phoenix, a propaganda vehicle operating outside China, had but one report on the movement: “’Occupy Wall Street’ spread to Asia-Pacific and Europe; People in Asia-Pacific region are in solidarity with the ‘Occupy Wall Street movement’”

Meanwhile, my Weibo account on a website inside China was frozen, I could not send out anything with it. This freeze has already become routine, whenever Beijing believes something is going to happen, my Weibo account gets frozen.

It appeared that Beijing thought the following story was real: Boxun, the website that reported extensively on China’s Jasmine revolution, published a report that read “’Jasmine movement’ is over; ‘Occupy Beijing’ is rolling out slowly and quietly”. Apart from this report which truthfulness is hard to determine, what really has been on going is the “Head for Linyi” movement. Rights activists disseminated information online, and set off from across the country to Linyi, where activist Chen Guangcheng is being held.

In other words, after the “Occupy Movement” turned global, Beijing has stopped its propaganda and got occupied with firefighting in its own backyard. Chances are that ‘imaginary fire’, so long as it is not put out, would become a real one.

Looking back at Chinese state media reports made under instructions from Beijing this half a month, one cannot help but laugh. For years U.S. government and the media having been criticizing persistently China for it human rights, politics and media control. Since these are facts, Beijing’s counter argument could only be “the United States is fearful of a powerful China, and intends to stop China from rising.” Not much else could be said to retaliate the United States.

In mid-September when the “Occupy Wall Street” movement broke out in the United States, Beijing felt this was at last the chance to get even. Headed by China Daily, Global Times and Guangming Daily, China’s Media made the following interpretation of the movement:

First, what the occupiers oppose is the American capitalist system.
This view is presented by the article “Say ‘No’ to American capitalism”, published in Guangming Daily on Oct 15, 2011. Right at the beginning that article said, “It has come to the attention of the International [community] that, on the face of it, the American people who took part in the “Occupy movement” are accusing the “Wall Street fat cats”, but in reality, they are revealing the unfair, unreasonable, sinful and ugly American capitalist system. Say ‘No’ to American capitalism.”

Second, there is no genuine freedom of the press in United States.
The first to raise this topic was China’s largest external propaganda publication, China Daily. Its correspondent in New York, deputy editor of the China Daily USA, Chen Weihua published an article, “US media blackout of protest is shameful”, saying that since the Occupy Wall Street movement began in mid-September, mainstream US media have not reported on the mass rally, a sign that there is no genuine freedom of the press in the United States.

After that, China’s media started their propaganda in full swing: “no genuine freedom of the press in the United States”. One such example is a commentary from Guangming Daily, which said “U.S. media are highly consistent with the Wall Street bosses”, “the collective muteness of U.S. media on “Occupy Wall Street” made it crystal clear that the U.S. media lack precisely the so-called freedom of the press, something that they have advertised all along. There is no way they could break free from the destiny of serving the bosses, business interests and a handful of social elites. They should never be hailed as social conscience, they don’t deserve to be called that way.”

They are making these accusations based on their imagination. Regarding the collective muteness of U.S. media, those who could read freely would realize these attacks are sheer nonsense: New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Atlantic Monthly have all run reports on the movement. The current proposition of those taking part in the movement is to oppose the “1% fat cats” of the Wall Street, they do not target the American capitalist system.

The underlying reason for the protesters not to target the American capitalist system is that the U.S. government, especially when the Democrats ran it, has for years been supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, credit expansion, and rescuing financial and automotive giants. Almost all of these policies, from supporting the low-income to buy their flat, to securing the financial system, and to providing the workers with job opportunities, are rolled out with the interests of the public in mind. The origin of the so-called subprime mortgage crisis was the financial support the Clinton administration provided with the poor to encourage them to buy flat. It should be said that this is the reason the “Occupy Wall Street” protest has no way to become bigger in the United States.

The proposition of the “Occupy Movement" taking place in countries around the globe on October 15 is to protest against economic and social problems like unfair financial order, and the wealth gap, protesters in many countries also called on their government to cut expenditure.

Issues the protesters raised exist in most countries; it’s only the degree and the causes that are different. But when the slogan “occupy Beijing” appeared on the Internet, it dawned on Beijing that this fire could spread to its own backyard, therefore a u-turn in its attitude toward the movement immediately ensued, and media’s coverage of it has had to be stopped hastily.

That's the true reason Chinese media's coverage of the "Occupy Movement" turned from hot to cold.