A round-up of this week’s China links:
China’s headlines continued to be dominated by the unexplained loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, along with the 239 people aboard. In addition to updates about the search, media outlets are showing their frustration with the way Malaysian authorities are handling things. An article in China Daily, titled “Malaysia air tragedy: Justice will come someday” explores the international frustration with Malaysia’s response. The article noted that Chinese public discussion has broadened the scope of its criticisms, moving from skewering Malaysia Airlines to criticizing the Malaysian government itself. “It is turning out to be a larger-scaled public relation crisis for the Malaysia government,” author Chen Jia wrote. The Global Times also took Malaysia to task for conflicting and “chaotic” information about when the plane disappeared and what its heading was.
There’s still no concrete information on the whereabouts of Flight 370. The latest news has been conflicting. Reports from the U.S. suggesting the plane flew west, possibly as far as the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, a Chinese university says a seismic event detected in the South China Sea, along the original flight path, might have been caused by Flight 370 crashing. Finally, Reuters dropped a bombshell today, citing unnamed (but presumably Malaysian sources) as saying that data indicates the plane was being deliberately flown towards the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. According to Reuters‘ sources, “inquiries were focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight.”
In other news, the National People’s Congress wrapped up in Beijing yesterday with Premier Li Keqiang’s annual press conference. Xinhua covered the conference, noting that “Li responded to a wide array of concerns, ranging from the ongoing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight and air pollution, to debt risks and the country’s relations with the United States.” Foreign journalists begged to differ, however. China Digital Times had a round-up of their reactions via Twitter, with most bemoaning the scripted nature of the questions. Gady Epstein of The Economist in particular tweeted there was “literally zero news” during the press conference.
So what questions were taboo at the conference? The South China Morning Post, among other news outlets, reported that journalists were specifically told not to ask any questions about former security czar Zhou Yongkang, who is presumed to be under investigation for corruption. Instead, reporters were told they would have a better chance of getting to ask a question if they stuck to topics about economic issues and reform. The New York Times Sinosphere blog also reported that no questions were allowed on the Kunming attack earlier this month or self-immolations in Tibet. The Sinosphere article also contains more behind-the-scenes information on how reporters interact with the Chinese government to stage the press conferences (or, increasingly, why they refuse to do so).
Speaking of reporters, there’s been a breakthrough in the investigation into the near-fatal stabbing of Kevin Lau, a Hong Kong journalist who was forced out of his position as editor of the Ming Pao newspaper. According to Reuters, nine suspects have been arrested, two of whom had fled to the Chinese mainland before being apprehended. Hong Kong’s police commissioner said police “suspect the assailants were hired and they have a triad background.” He also added that there was no reason to suspect the attack was related to Lau’s journalistic work, despite widespread speculation that the attack was supposed to be a warning to other journalists.
Finally, in lighter news, several media outlets (including the Washington Post) have reported recently on how popular the TV show “House of Cards” has become in China, especially as the second season has China playing a prominent role. Now it seems China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai is also a fan. South China Morning Post reports that Cui referenced the show during a panel discussion in Beijing. Of course, Cui was more concerned with the political truth of the show rather than its entertainment value. “I have seen both seasons of House of Cards, which I think embodies some of the characteristics and corruption that is present in American politics,” Cui said. But according to Tea Leaf Nation, which specializes in analyzing Chinese social media, most netizens are more concerned with the show’s reflection of China’s own political issues: “the show engages Communist Party corruption, elite infighting, and the often-outsized influence of the moneyed class with a directness that few domestic shows dare hazard.” Netizens are also intrigued by the existence of a U.S. television show that brutally criticizes Washington, DC—the Chinese equivalent would never have made it into production.