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Saturday, July 13, 2024

CHINA AND THE FOREIGN MEDIA #517

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#1  CHANGES IN CHINA’S LAW

#2  CRITICISM OF UK MEDIA REPORTING ON CHINA

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#1   CHANGES IN CHINA’S LAWS

       SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

“For decades, a footnote on a police clearance has been enough to deny many Chinese a range of opportunities, from education and public service exams, to employment and career advancement.

The clearance is called a “certificate of no criminal conviction” and confirms that the holder has not been found guilty of a criminal act. It is needed for various administrative purposes but it can also contain a footnote of minor violations, such as traffic infringements, that can deal a fatal blow to any application.

Proposed changes to the Public Security Administration Punishment Law would clear that record for people under 18 years of age, expunging minor infractions, such as cheating on exams, disturbing bus drivers and releasing sky lanterns.

But experts say the changes now being considered by the national legislature, the National People’s Congress, need to go much further and clear the record of minor violations for all adults.

“Many people have been affected by the existence of these records, which can prevent them from obtaining jobs, getting married, or even starting a business,” Luo Xiang, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said in an interview with China News Weekly late last month.

Luo, one of China’s best-known criminal law academics, said there was a distinction between illegal and criminal acts. Criminal acts fell under the Criminal Law and were processed by the court system. Illegal acts encompassed a wide range of violations and were covered by the Public Security Administration Punishment Law. Offenders did not face a court but they could face fines and up to 15 days in detention, as well as a record on their personal record from the government.

An estimated 8 million people receive public security administration punishment in China every year, according to law professor Zhao Hong, also with China University of Political Science and Law.

The need for change was highlighted by the case of a 15-year-old boy who was struggling to transfer between schools because his record noted that he had violated traffic rules by not wearing a seat belt as a passenger.

The incident, which Zhao detailed in an opinion piece last year, was eventually resolved but not before highlighting a broader issue. Zhao said people across the country had written to him about similar cases and it was a topic that had not received enough attention from academics in either administrative or criminal law.

GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS;-

First, a general point. Little is written in the Western media about law and conviction in China. The prevailing narrative is quite negative. For instance – “the growing threat from a re-emerging China…China’s authoritarian government…forced labour and genocide in Xinjiang Autonomous Region”  and more of the same.

We are familiar with the context and the agenda. China, under the leadership of the Communist Party, is the bad boy of international affairs. It is, say its critics, motivated by revenge against the Imperialist powers who imposed their will on an enfeebled China during the “Century of Humiliation 1849-1949”. China is now “an assertive power”, it is alleged, threatening nearby nations and causing a major disruption to world peace. Against this background it is not surprising that little is written about China’s legal system.

The article in the South China Morning Post is interesting on a number of counts. First, the distinction between “illegal and criminal acts”. Second, the proposal to remove the “certificate of criminal conviction for citizens under 18 covering minor infractions such as  cheating on exams, disturbing bus drivers and releasing sky lanterns.

Third, the pressure to widen the removal to include people over 18.

The article also makes clear that there is active consideration by academics in administrative law and criminal law about moves to reduce the rigour with which infractions are handled. This will come as a surprise to Western readers on China who will view discussion among academics on law and order issues as inconsistent with the widely held assumption that the Party would bar any discussion amongst the people about such issues, and restrict such matters to a simple order from the Party to the People.

The truth is that there are much wider democratic exchanges between the Party and the People on a range of civic issues. People are encouraged to speak out on issues of public interest and there are many issues – rarely reported in the Western media but ever-present in daily life in China – be it the location of new roads, the maintenance of clean cities or the control of large numbers of people engaged in travel during public holidays.

Where China is harsh and intolerant is not in the expression of criticism of the administration of daily life or people demands for changes and improvements but in efforts by citizens that do amount to major breaches of public security. This has been the position that has been a characteristic of the relationship between the Party and the People ever since the foundation of the Party in 1921. China’s experience of Civil War against the Kuomintang, the Patriotic War against Japan from 1937 to 1945 and the Korean War which brought China into conflict with US and UK troops 1950-52 led to emphasis on security and discipline which Western critics of China have been quick to highlight as evidence of dictatorship.

It is almost as if there is a de facto trade-off between Party and People which requires the Party to bring progress and prosperity to the People in return for the People’s consent to the Party keeping China safe and secure. The Party is popular in China. It has governed in such a way as to bring one billion people out of poverty and such an achievement can only be realised if the People have shown zest, imagination and support for the Party.

On occasions this relationship has weakened – the Cultural Revolution is the biggest and best example of how the anger of the People can be turned on the Party when the Party fails to lead. The Tiananmin Incident is another example. But to turn the Sick Man of Asia of 1949 into the soon-to-be largest economy in the world can only happen if the leaders lead with a key awareness of their duty to the People and the People follow with confidence in the ability of the Party to lead. Within this context lies the essence of the democratic process in China. A long term deal has been struck between the Party and the People.

Reverting back to the changes to the Law, the first draft of the amendments to the Public Security Administration Punishment Law, released in September, proposed that authorities seal the records of underage offenders so their future employment prospects were not affected.

According to an added provision, Clause 136: “Records of persons under 18 years old who have violated public security administration shall be sealed and not be provided to any unit or individual, except for cases where the supervisory and judicial authorities, or relevant units need to conduct investigations or inquiries in accordance with national regulations. The unit conducting the lawful inquiry shall maintain the confidentiality of the sealed records.”

The focus is now on two issues – first the extension of the change to citizens over the age of eighteen  and, second, to limit the period of time that such infractions can  remain part of the individual’s record. The issue had come to light via a message from an internet user. The young man was looking for a job but had been denied a clean criminal record certificate. The document said he was detained for gambling and fighting – but not convicted. Despite having no criminal record, the footnote on his certificate significantly hindered his job prospects.

“The problem is not just about clearing one’s record, but about whether one’s entire life can be affected by a single mistake,” Prof Zhao was quoted as saying.

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#2  UK MEDIA REPORTING ON CHINA

      CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

The Lau China Institute together with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have launched a new joint report highlighting the implications of consistently negative coverage of China in British media.

The report, by Dr Tim Summers, Associate Professor at CUHK and Affiliate of the Lau China Institute, is based on an analysis of more than a thousand articles published in British media outlets – The Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC, Financial Times and The Economist – between 2020 and 2023.

While negative reporting of China in the last few years is not a new phenomenon, the analysis provides systematic evidence that negative framing and tone have strongly dominated coverage of China in recent years. Given the relationship between media coverage of China and public opinion, political views and government policy, this has important implications for Britain’s policies towards China.

Negative media coverage of China reinforces and contributes to widespread negative views about China in the UK. This makes a hawkish or more critical policy towards China more likely, in line with the interests of lobbyists and politicians inside and outside government who favour that approach – Dr Tim Summers.

The author found that between January and July 2021, of the 576 reports on China in The Telegraph,  62% were deemed ‘negative’ in tone, with just 2.5% positive, and the remainder classified as neutral in tone. For The Guardian, the research found that in the first quarter of 2023, the tone of articles on China was also predominately negative.  

It is fair to conclude from this data that a clear majority of the articles about China across different media outlets adopt a negative tone or frame China negatively for British readers. That majority is of the order of magnitude of two thirds probable higher rather than lower. Further, very few articles frame China positively – Dr Tim Summers

Dr Summers argues that this level of negative coverage has significant implications: “If media coverage is predominately negative, public opinion is bound to sway the same way.  This, in turn, makes it more likely that the UK will adopt a more critical policy toward China, and may lead to missed opportunities with the country. British policy makers should consider the entire picture when considering Britain’s policies towards China, not only media coverage and public opinion”.

SOURCES;

Lau China Institute

School of Global Affairs

King’s Global Institutes

Faculty of Social Science & Public Polic

GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS;-

A free press is meant to be balanced, objective, and fair and to provide both sides of an argument allowing the reader to reach an informed conclusion. However a newspaper is owned by individuals – Murdoch/Northcliffe/Maxwell/Beaverbrook/Thomson – and has two main purposes;- first to be profitable and, second, to ensure the views of the Owner dominate . It is “free” in the sense that it is independent of Government control  but otherwise it is the property of the largest shareholder and has as its main goal the promotion of the views of the Owner/s on all issues on which it reports.

 

This explains why – when it comes to China – an independent report prepared by Dr Summers, Associate Professor at the China University of Hong Kong HK and Affiliate of the Lau China Institute, concludes that “the analysis provides systematic evidence that negative framing and tone have strongly dominated coverage of China in recent years.”

The UK newspaper industry, when it comes to China, is not balanced or fair or even reasonable. Quite simply it is negative. The industry has an agenda and it is not to show the strengths and weaknesses of China; the good and the bad; the positive and the negative. Rather it is a one way street. The industry is prejudiced against China and has as its goal to ensure UK public opinion is anti-China.

China is demonised as the Bad Boy of International Affairs. It is the looming giant on a path to becoming the #1 economic power and, the media asserts,  to overwhelm and destroy all who stand in her way. It is threatening Taiwan. It imposes itself on countries bordering the South China Sea. It is lending money to the developing South solely to extend its influence. It is rapacious, acquisitive, threatening. It is also oppresses its own people, relies on forced labour to promote its textile industry and is guilty of genocide in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. China, so the UK media informs, is dictatorial, brutal and ever determined to get its own way.

When it comes to China it always pays to see the context – examine the history – and view the present with the benefit of more than a mere glance back at history. For UK newspaper proprietors the story begins in 1917 and the Bolshevik Revolution. Alarm struck the capitals of the US and Europe. The possibility of revolution was real. The publication in 1848 of the Communist Manifesto had become a reality in Moscow with the fall of the Kerensky Government and the emergence of a Communist Party to rule a country that covered one-sixth of the world’s land surface.

China in 1917 was about to engage in a prolonged civil war against the Kuomintang, paused for a short number of years only, to defeat the Japanese. With the Japanese surrender and the flight of the Kuomintang to Taiwan, the Communist Party, under the leadership of Mao Tsetung became the government of the new People’s Republic of China. The alarm bells rang again.

Western leaders had done their homework. They had read the Communist Manifesto and they anticipated a long struggle to defeat Bolshevism in the USSR and Maoism in Beijing.

In due course the USSR did fail and there was rejoicing in Washington, London and other capitals of the world. Now for China. It was seamless logic for the West. The USSR had failed and in due course China would fail because it was Capitalism and not Communism that would prevail.

China was destitute, ravaged by Civil War against the Kuomintang and the Patriotic War against Japan. China was designated – the Sick Man of Asia. And it was very sick. But it was also very determined and here the West really got things very wrong. They saw what they wanted to see and missed, so fundamentally, the essence of the development about to be commenced in China.

Things have changed, The Sick Man of Asia is now about to become the largest economy in the world. One billion Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is making a significant contribution to the rapidly emerging Global South. And there is more to come. One statistic will suffice – China produces more STEM graduates than any other country – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It guarantees China’s leading role in commerce, trade, and space exploration.

The West is worried. The penny has dropped. The example of the rise and fall of the USSR was thought to be the model to be applied when dealing with China. But China has been shrewd, resourceful and successful. One can never be certain about the future but reading recent assessments of China by US academics the realisation is growing that China is not going to implode and is here for the long term.

The UK media follows the joint lead of the US and UK Intelligence Leaders (CIA/FBI, MI5/MI6) and continues to demonise China hence the conclusion of the Summers Report that “British policy makers should consider the entire picture when considering Britain’s policies towards China, and not only media coverage and public opinion”.

People enquire  – where can I access balanced views on China? I cover on a daily basis the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the South China Morning Post and Nikkei Asia. The last two are the best for views for and against China. There is little to be gained by following the UK media.

Extracts from the Summers Report will be covered in future issues of Good Morning from London.               

GRAHAM PERRY

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