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I think we share some common points regarding the media. And I certainly understand why a Westerner would rather simplify my reasoning and call such an argumentation "one major mistake", when in reality this so-called “mistake” is more a difference of opinion & perspective. Imo you also over-simplified a complex issue too much in black and white. Also you clearly misinterpret my points, I never said "100% factual and unbiased reporting is impossible therefore I prefer to remain ignorant". It should be interpreted as “100% factual and unbiased reporting is impossible therefore the government has the responsibility to screen out information in order for the country’s development not to be disturbed, people are not misled and information not distorted and giving enough room for the nation to continue to move into the correct direction for the best of interests of the majority of the population.” It was never about “me me me”, like what in the West is more often the case…. To simply point out it as a major mistake illustrate more the background you come from, but somehow I feel you are sincere in trying to understand, thus I am willing to elaborate more my thoughts if you are interested in this “major mistake”: |
You have mentioned one of the keywords in your commentary: Stability. One probably needs to fully understand the “Why this obsession for stability" of the current China before he could understand why certain policies such as censorship are approved and maintained in this stage of our development and evolution, when the goal is actually to be as open as possible and to be as close to the truth as possible. It sounds like a big dilemma, it is too, and it requires a better understanding of the Chinese history and culture, especially the recent past 200 years.
If the responsibility of maintaining stability means sacrificing certain freedom, liberties and even sacrifices of lives or “certain ideas” at a certain period of timeframe, I would say "so be it". So, when in 1989 those demonstrations for more and faster openness came way too early and pre-maturely considered the phase of development, decisive and swift actions need to be made by the responsible and visionary long-term oriented leaders. And we are lucky the leaders did make these hard decisions, I’m sure Deng cried in his heart when he gave the final approval, but it was his responsibility at the time. The signs of external influences made this decision-making most likely much easier.
By the way, long-term oriented we are talking about not merely every 4-10 years like in the West’ rotating governments, we are talking about 50-100 years ahead planning, in which we need to continuously improve these planning by non-dogmatic learning from the world and at home what is useful and to improve and implement it into the Chinese cultural context.
Anyhow, the dilemma is in the wanting to give more rights, openness and coming closer to the truth, but yet the need for censorship in certain circumstances in certain periods. This contradiction is also caused and magnified because of the realization that the world is not perfect, same as that human nature is not perfect. In fact, although human beings are all born equal in rights, but in reality because of the imperfection of nature, not all people are born equally smart and capable. This is why in the education system from primary school to university in every country on Earth we are always screening out the smarter people from the lesser smart people, critical and uncritical people are developed. In an ideal education system we can screen out who fit best in what field taking into consideration the person’s individual interests and desire and allocate the most optimal resources to prepare this person in that particular field, either it be in a critical minded required profession or in a uncritical minded required profession.
The issue at point is that in each society with a variety of more smart and lesser smart people, there are more “uncritical” and lesser interested, lesser smart people. The younger the society the more of these “uncritical” people, and these are the people who need much more guidance. Without proper guidance a teenager will for example much more easily be convinced by that cool rich guy to try out drugs, not that all of them would, but too many of them would. Looking back in Chinese history, even uninformed misled adults would create China’s worst epidemic of opium-addiction, nearly destroying the whole country. In this example it is why the government has a responsibility that the correct “real information” is screened for the teenager and even adults. This counts the same for whole groups of people in a society.
Without constraining and screening the information flow, it will be very dangerous for the stability of a young society, we have seen too often too many examples how young societies had failed because it pre-maturely and too often blindly adapted to ideals which it does not fit in the cultural context and is not in the best interests of the majority. Regardless of how ideal certain ideologies, dogmas, and principles are, we have no place for blind unconstrained ideals over here (anymore).
Yes, we want that ALL 1.3 billion Chinese will fight for stability and upkeeping the Chinese pride, but reality is that people are way too easily being tempted and affected. This level of “easily” depends a lot of the level of development and the timeframe we live in and how strong and sincere the government is. When it was much easier to affect the Chinese people in the 80s, in the 21st century we can see through the lies and distortion in certain groups of media, in particular Western media. Therefore, in the 2010 we all can see that Party feels it is time to be even more open. After all, after 3 decades of reforms and opening up we are transforming into a different and more grown-up society. And it is working. If policies are set not for the interests of the majority of the people, you can count on that no matter how strong and “perfect” controlling systems are, that government will eventually fail. We are obviously not failing and the trend seems to be that with our continuous non-dogmatic approach to problems-solving that we are going on a succesful track for a long time to come. Does the people support this system? Well in the 2008 Pew Global Attitude Survey 86% of the Chinese citizens support the state of the Nation and the direction we are being lead to. People blinded by prejudices would say that all these Chinese citizens being interviewed are brainwashed, well, what do you think?
Now I share and agree with your key statement that it is important to know [and understand] the nature of the bias [of media] to fully appreciate an article. However, like I mentioned before, way too often these biased media with bad will has mastered in nicely dressing up and packaging the whole “nature”, which for the untrained uncritical minds it is extremely difficult to see through the very same question you raised. Whether or not it is deliberately and consciously misleading and distorting facts or is it a “sincere” bias due to political differences, ideological differences, information gaps etc. These “uncritical people”, which make up the majority of the nation, are also not capable of cross-checking and examining as you also stated that it requires a “critical mind”.
Ps. Before someone raises up that comment: I am against censorship for the benefits and interests of some corrupted individuals in the Party, but if it is in the best of interests of the majority of the nation to not disclose the details and/or delay the disclosure I am all for it. And those who willfully in bad will use censorship for their own personal gains and interests, these should be given the death penalty.