The ongoing debate about the negative image of China in the Western media has escalated over the past week. Last weekend, thousands of Chinese immigrants demonstrated in Europe against what they perceived as biased reporting, and in China hundreds demonstrated against Western businesses. Officially, demonstrations are banned in China but in the name of patriotism they are being tolerated.
Hundreds of protesters holding Chinese flags outside French supermarket Carrefour in Hubei province
About 3,000 Chinese immigrants gathered in the centre of Berlin at the weekend to defend the image of their home country. They shouted slogans in support of China’s Tibet policy. Huang Qiushi, the demonstration’s organiser, said the main issue was the way the Western media recently depicted the unrest in Tibet and their general bias.
“There are many media outlets in Germany,” Huang explained. “However, they always hunt out the negative aspects of China. But they manage to miss all the positive sides.“
Huang thinks that the reporting is unfair and he is not too bothered that scores of foreign journalists were deported from Tibet after the unrest. He points out that there are pictures circulating on the Internet, which show Nepalese policemen hitting demonstrators and yet come under the headline ‘Violence in Tibet’.
Too black and white
Dr Gudrun Wacker, a China expert at the German Institute for Security and International Affairs in Berlin, agrees that the Western media have not shown due diligence.
“Basically, there is misunderstanding of the other side on both sides,” she explained. “One problem we currently have is that the media -- both in the West and in China -- are portraying everything in black and white. But the Western media were never really characterised by their differentiating qualities.“
And the Chinese media even less so. They are the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, whose political messages they constantly transmit.
Demonstrations are becoming more commonplace in China -- especially those against evil foreigners and in favour of Beijing.
Liu Xiaobo, a dissident writer thinks this is an interesting phenomenon. He points out, however, that not everyone is allowed to exercise their right to demonstrate -- especially those who are critical of the Olympic Games.
“In China, demonstrations are usually banned,” he says, “but those which are patriotic are tolerated and even stage-managed.”
However, there is a growing danger that socially-weak and angry groups might make use of these tolerated demonstrations to voice their demands and this could lead to uprisings.
There is a lot of dissatisfaction in China. Not everyone has benefitted from the economic boom -- millions have indeed become its victims. The situation is explosive.
The Olympic Games provide an ideal platform for all those with a complaint. Not surprisingly then, the government and the state media are calling on the demonstrators, patriotic or not, to show restraint and reason.