Japanese media paints a distorted picture of China, according to Michael Anti, a prominent Chinese journalist, blogger and campaigner for press freedom in China.
Speaking at an international media event on Japanese and Chinese nationalism in Tokyo yesterday, the Nanjing native outlined what he sees as the ‘structural fallacy’ of Japanese reporting on China, slamming its failure to tap into Twitter and other Web 2.0 forums to reflect the reality of events in China for a Japanese audience.
Anti came to prominence in 2005, when Microsoft hauled down his blog in 2005 over an article he wrote about the Beijing government firing senior editors at the Beijing News. Currently ranked as one of China’s most popular Tweeters, Anti is a columnist for the Southern Metropolis Daily (a Guangdong-based newspaper known for its often provocative stance). He’s coming towards the end of a two-month stint as a visiting scholar at the Tokyo University.
In terms of specifics, Anti cited Japan’s misrepresentation of anti-Japanese protests in the Middle Kingdom following the now infamous collision between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters in September.
September 18 is remembered in China as the day that the Japanese invaded (it’s the anniversary of the 1931 Manchurian Incident). While protests on this day received blanket media coverage in Japan, Anti saw these reports as exaggerated.
‘There were only about 20 protesters outside the Japanese Embassy (in Beijing),’ he said, adding wryly: ‘There were about 100 reporters present.’
Anti went on to complain about Japanese media coverage of the aftermath of the huge blaze in a block of flats in Shanghai on November 15 that claimed 58 lives.
‘Following the fire, 100,000 Shanghainese demonstrated against the government’s handling of the case,’ Anti said. ‘This was the first demonstration of this scale since Tiananmen Square. It was the top story for many Western media, but received virtually no coverage on Japanese TV—only on TBS.’
Anti said there are five types of media in China: official media; market-orientated media; international media; media such as twitter and blogs; and domestically censored BBS (bulletin board systems). He griped that Japanese coverage only focuses on official and international media, saying: ‘No one picks up on what is being written on Twitter and blogs, and so they miss the whole picture…If you ignore (the) intent (of the people) in China, you ignore the whole China.’
Anti also offered a potential way of narrowing misconceptions between the two nations, saying that Japanese media should offer Chinese language coverage.
Anti also offered reassurance to those worried about China’s growing clout. Although noting that Chinese nationalism stems from a sense of victimhood—something he says is still instilled through the education system—he suggested that the dawning reality of China’s changing status among Chinese could help put a brake on this.
‘How can China now feel like a victim when it’s No. 2 in the world…(So) you shouldn't be too scared of China.'