Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A Lost Opportunity

The newspaper says it all, really

Well what do you know -- China Daily celebrates its 30th anniversary tomorrow.

Having lived in Beijing for three years it was my staple to find out the Chinese version of events and then go to the New York Times or other news agencies for the other side, or a bigger picture of the story.

However I have to say China Daily's features section was quite good, sometimes tackling interesting social issues, but other than that it was the usual cultural education it thought laowai should have about China.

Nevertheless it was considered for most foreigners to be the authoritative voice of the government and it still is.

I have a local Chinese friend who works there and she told me this morning the staff were invited to go to the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.

When I asked her if it was as "great" as it describes itself, she replied they only got to be in a small meeting hall.

"So did you get to meet Wen Jiabao?" I asked, hoping for her to say something interesting.

"Only Liu Yunshan," she replied. He is the director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. They also met Yang Jiechi, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.

"What about Li Changchun?" I asked, as although Liu is the director, Li has party seniority as the Propaganda chief of the CPC.

She said he just sat there and gave a speech congratulating the China Daily staff.

I was very surprised to hear this as I thought this would have been a great opportunity for him to shake everyone's hand and thank them for their hard work of spreading China's "soft power".

My friend said something like this is "no big deal to them".

"But see that's the problem," I pointed out. "They should be celebrating what the grassroots are doing. They have forgotten where the CPC comes from! How are they going to keep motivating the people?"

In terms of China's long history, 30 years is not much. But when compared to how old New China is at 62, surely being around for three decades in the business of disseminating propaganda is worth something?

And as people, particularly young people are jaded and less trusting of the government, how difficult is it to give a group of young reporters and editors the VIP treatment and invite them into the room where they meet foreign leaders within the Great Hall of the People and thank them personally for their hard work?

A lost public relations opportunity to impress young minds.

And the CPC wonders why people have grievances against it...

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