China also continued its campaign against foreign journalists and news organizations last week when Chris Buckley, an Australian-national and China correspondent for the New York Times, was forced to leave the country because Beijing wouldn’t renew his visa. Following Buckley’s departure the New York Times said its China bureau chief, Philip P. Pan—author of Out of Mao’s Shadow—has been waiting since March to receive his own credentials.
Beijing later claimed Buckley hadn’t submitted the proper paperwork, but his case follows on the heels of Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan’s expulsion from the country and the Washington Post’s Andrew Higgins finally ending his three-year quest to gain reentry into China, which failed even after the newspaper enlisted the help of Henry Kissinger. Thus, the more plausible explanation for Buckley’s inability to renew his visa is that Beijing is retaliating against foreign journalists because of the extraordinary reporting organizations like the New York Times have been doing on politically taboo subjects in China, such as stories on the enormous amount of wealth the families of senior leaders have accumulated. This reporting is also why the websites of the New York Times and Bloomberg News are no longer accessible in China, and why reporters from these organizations weren’t able to attend the unveiling of the Politburo Standing Committee at the 18th Party Congress in November.
Finally, the CCP’s soft power offensive is doomed to fail because of its ability to tolerate (much less cultivate) “cultural ambassadors.” In the realm of soft power, a county’s entertainers, artists, and intellectuals are some of its strongest assets. One needs only to look to South Korean rapper Psy, and the “flash mobs” he’s inspired in places as varied as Jakarta, Bangkok, Sydney, Dhaka, Mumbai, Dubai, American college campuses and shopping malls, Taipei, Hong Kong, and, yes, the Chinese mainland.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
A country as large and dynamic as China undoubtedly has many potential worldwide celebrities. And yet, as a China Daily op-ed points out, China “is still far from making a product like Gangnam Style. China does export a large amount of cultural products every year, but few of them become popular abroad.”
The major reason China fails to export its cultural products, as Peng Kan, the author of the op-ed rightly notes, is that “Government organizations and enterprises are the main force behind the exports….But these organizations and enterprises… cannot promote satires like Gangnam Style through official communication channel. But cultural products without entertainment value rarely become popular in overseas markets.”