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Watching CCTV and reading between the lines

By Brian Hennessy - posted Monday, 27 July 2009

A couple of days ago on CCTV9 China’s only English language TV station that is beamed to the West, there was a short story on China’s diplomats who have returned to Beijing for a conference.

No doubt, the bad press that China has been receiving around the world lately was one reason for their recall. As we know, China has not been on top of its game recently and the political fall-out from the arrest of Rio Tinto’s senior negotiator in China, Mr Stern Hu, has had unintended consequences for China’s commercial reputation in general, and for the Chinese government in particular.

Namely: the galvanising of world opinion against China’s crude intimidation today; and, international expressions of concern about China’s willingness to behave as a responsible world power in the future. This has been a serious miscalculation by the Beijing leadership group.


Predictably, the response of the government to this unexpected reaction has been to flood the media with its own version of the truth; and to tell porkies about how nasty foreign imperialists want to carve-up China again (not a word mind you, about how corrupt mandarins of the ineffectual Qing Dynasty sold out their own country for personal gain).

Let me give you one example of this propaganda: hidden among the usual untruths is a giant whopper: "the state-secrets which Stern Hu has allegedly stolen could be used by the armed forces of foreign powers should they wish to invade China."

The more desperate the liar, the bigger the lie.

Anyway, nobody here seems to be taking the government and its propaganda too seriously: “It is just more of the same” seems to be the general attitude; “Who knows what the truth is” is a comment I regularly hear from the middle class; and “You westerners hate China” is the usual thoughtful contribution from the 50 “centers” (Chinese student bloggers who are paid 50 yuan for every online comment that supports the Party line).

It is all so tiresome. I just wish that these guys would stop crying about the past and get on with it. Every country has its own sob-story of exploitation, injustice, and betrayal. It’s time to move on fellers.

Anyway, back to reading between the lines on CCTV. When I watched President Hu Jin Tau on CCTV9 as he was addressing the assembled diplomats I noticed something. He looked different. Closer inspection revealed a pasty, bloated face, and bloodshot eyes.


Now I know that we can all look like this after a long night on the turps. However, this man is not known for abusing alcohol. His image is a carefully constructed apparition of self-control and grace under pressure. He really is China’s Mr cool.

Yet there he was, on CCTV, addressing China’s diplomats, and looking like he had just got out of bed.


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About the Author

Brian is an Australian author, educator, and psychologist who lived in China for thirteen years. These days he divides his time between both countries.

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