Friday, December 30, 2005

Little Trouble in Big China

[singing, to the tune of Mr. Rogers]
It’s an unusual day in the neighborhood,
The Chinese press got up and stood.
Would you believe?
Would you believe?

The BBC is reporting a story that hasn’t been picked up by CNN, the Post, the NYTimes (I broke down and checked the site, for the first time since “Times Select” started scamming people), the Boston Globe, or Reuters.

The story’s lead paragraph states,

“[a]bout 100 journalists from one of China's most progressive newspapers, the
Beijing News, have walked out to protest against their editor's sacking.”

I’m sure the reporters who walked off the job are very politically savvy people—journalists tend to be, and journalists in China have no choice but to be. Which makes the decision to walk out, and leave the paper so publicly in the lurch is remarkable.

It’s unlikely that many of these reporters are going to get jobs with other newspapers—since ‘news’ is largely government controlled, so other newspapers aren’t going to hire ‘rabble-rousing’ reporters to cover the vanilla Chinese news.

Apparently, the story wasn’t covered by any of the newspapers in China (likely because it wasn’t deemed newsworthy by the government censors). In spite of this (or because of it) I’m guessing that about 100 million Chinese will know about it by the end of the day. Why? Because China has the most efficient grapevine the world has ever seen. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but, as an example, a teacher can do or say something at the beginning of a class period and through the miracles of txt messaging, have students who weren’t in the class make reference to it as he walks into the hallway at the end of the period.

Compound that simple example with the idea that the people who walked out were reporters. People who, by nature of their profession must be, 1. excellent networkers and, 2. excellent communicators. It probably doesn’t hurt that most of them are also young and highly computer-literate.

Unfortunately for China, and for the CCP, this comes as another in a recent string of calamities and disasters that are undoubtedly casting doubt on the veneration and single-minded devotion the Party would like to see people hold it in.

As we get closer to 2008 it seems that the government and Party are, along with peasant and workers groups, moving towards the type of situation China suffered the last time China received the type of media attention that is slowly gravitating towards it now. Let’s hope for China’s sake (and our own… “made in where?”) that a means to avert confrontation is found.

No comments: