Assignment: China - Contradictions
This segment of the Assignment:China series explores the nature of the China story during the wake of the 2008 Olympics, as correspondents clashed with an increasingly assertive Chinese government determined that it- not the foreign media- would shape the international narrative about China.
English | 中文
In the wake of the 2008 Olympics, China's domestic political climate and its external behavior began to change.
The financial crisis that rocked the West in 2008-09 convinced China's leaders that the U.S. was a declining power, and the time was right for Beijing to show a more assertive face to the rest of the world.
At the same time, the promise of greater relaxation that accompanied Beijing's Olympic bid gave way to a tightening of controls, fueled in part by outbreaks of unrest in Xinjiang, rising popular discontent over corruption, pollution, and abuse of power, and the growing impact of the Internet, especially Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
For foreign journalists, the increasing complexity of the China story posed a new kind of challenge- not only to figure out what was happening, but also how to explain key trends and developments in a way that captured both the richness and the internal contradictions in Chinese society.
The difficulties of doing so increased substantially in early 2011. As the "Arab Spring" rocked the Middle East, the Chinese authorities feared that calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" at home could challenge the Communist Party's authority. In response, the government dramatically increased surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of American and other foreign journalists. Reporters were followed, detained, and threatened with expulsion on a scale not seen in China since the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and covering China became a tense game of cat and mouse with the authorities.
"Contradictions" explores the nature of the China story during this complex and difficult period, as correspondents clashed with an increasingly assertive Chinese government determined that it- not the foreign media- would shape the international narrative about China.
This video is also available on the USCI YouTube Channel.
Interviewees featured in this segment:
Assignment: China is a signature project of the USC U.S.-China Institute. Most Americans continue to learn about China primarily through the media and we feel that it is vital to understand the process by which news about China is gathered and shared. Mike Chinoy, USCI senior fellow, reports the series which is filmed and edited by Craig Stubing. Clayton Dube conceived of the project and oversees it. Many students and volunteers assist with research, transcription, and translation.
Assignment: China is possible only because of the willingness of journalists and others to share their stories, documents, and images with us and through the generous financial support of individual and institutional donors. We are grateful to all those who have helped. Please click here to contact us or here if you would like to contribute.
Please join the USC U.S.-China Institute for a short reading and discussion with Jeff Wasserstrom on his new book on Hong Kong.