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Understanding the South China Sea standoff through the Filipino Media

By Wei Ling Chua - posted Monday, 28 May 2012

China is now Australia's largest trading partner. Western Australia's Premier is right to point out that: "… of the 60,000 new jobs created in Australia over the past 12 months, 50,000 were in WA, which now accounted for 70 per cent of the nation's exports to China … To some extent, the strength of the WA economy is concealing the true weakness of the national economy." Therefore, it is in Australia national interest that our policy makers are able to understand China in an objective manner. I hope that the following article will contribute to such an objective.

The recent standoff between China and the Philippines in South China Sea has against provided an opportunity for China bashers to assert their personal opinion as news. The terrifying sound of China's threat and aggression has once again filled the news media with creative headlines: 'China stirs up trouble with Philippines' (The Guardian) and 'China maintains tough line on the Philippines' (Wall Street Journal), just to name a couple.

There are also voices that portray China as a bully: 'How to outsmart China' (Foreign Policy) and 'David against Goliath on the South China Sea' (Fox News), etc..


The standoff also provides the opportunity for the Americans to justify their re-entry into the Asia Pacific Region with news headlines such as: 'China tensions spur deeper ties between U.S., Philippines' (Washington Times); Beijing makes Manila miss its U.S. Bases (Wall Street Journal), and U.S. reaffirms defense of Philippines in standoff with China (New York Times).

The voices of the Taiwanese have often been ignored by the mainstream Western media: 'Taiwan should cooperate with China on South China Sea: experts' (Focus Taiwan); 'Mutual defence of the sea is not cross-strait military cooperation' (The Korean Herald); and earlier reports by the Philippines Media (ABS-CBN) before the stand-off: 'Taiwan Protests over Philippines plan for Spratly' and 'Philippines unfazed by Taiwan Spratlys missile plan'. This is perhaps due to the fact that if Taiwan – a territory that shares a common history and culture with mainland China - was apparently co-operating with China over the disputes with the Philippines, it may be harder to promote the inter-media agenda of an aggressive China.

When China issued a warning to the Philippines that: 'China is fully prepared to respond to anything Philippines does' (Xin Hua Net), the Western media creatively turned the story to 'China bangs the war drum over South China Sea' (BBC).

While rallies by the Filipinos against China have been widely reported in the West such as: 'Filipinos Rally Against China's Claim to Shoal' (New York Times) and 'Demonstrators in Manila protest China's stance over disputed lagoon' (CNN) - with one sided story; the rally against the Philippines by Chinese living in America has gone unnoticed.

The news that China de-escalates the situation by withdrawing two law enforcement vessels on 24 April 2012, while the Philippines has increased its presence by adding additional vessel (Hong Kong Chinese language news) were again ignored by the mainstream media.

The reality is, the Chinese side of the story has often either been totally ignored, or if reported, the credibility of their claims will be deeply discounted through the frequent use of such phrases: "Communist party controlled media" or "government mouth piece".


On May 14, The Globe And Mail, the Canadian National Newspaper, published an editorial titled "Overreach on Reefs", which took sides and made untenable argument over the dispute on behalf of The Philippines. The People Daily Ottawa-based chief correspondent, Xuejiang Li sent a rebuttal commentary to the editor of the Globe and Mail offering another side of the story. But to his regret, the newspaper declined to published his comment. This is the full text of Mr. Li's article.

It is therefore, very difficult to present China's side of the story with a sense of credibility. Thanks to our so-called Western soft-power - many western readers have been subjected to decades of brain washing by their media against China and it is not easy to change people's perception of China overnight.

To overcome such prejudicial effect against China, I decided to seek help from the Filipinos and their media.

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About the Author

Wei Ling Chua is a freelance journalist who blogs at Outcast Journalist.

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All articles by Wei Ling Chua

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