The following is an article published by April Media (四月网) in October this year, a review of Li Qi‘s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” (China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle). Anti-CNN was turned into April Media in 2009.
Links within blockquote added during translation; I added my remarks about the review underneath.
April Media’s Book Review
2008 was a memorable year. It was a year of a global uproar because of China, and it was a year where, for the first time, Chinese people became collectively excited. The uproar began with the Tibet incident in March that year, with the excitement going against Western media reporting and the way it had created an uproar for no reason. In the West, people took to the streets to protest against China’s “repression” of Tibetans, obstructing the torch ralleye to the Olympic Games which were for the first time held in Beijing. All over the world, Chinese people without an interest in politics also loudly expressed their anger at the West’s one-sided, distorted coverage.
“The Voice of Germany’s China Nightmare” was written by a Chinese with many years of work experience in Western media, and describes what happened at the “Voice of Germany” and other German media from the Tibet incident to the end of 2011. It is a mere description, fully reflecting the predicament of Western media coverage on China with detailed material.
The predicament, to say it clearly, is a kind of phobia against China’s rise. After hundreds of years of habitually reporting objectively, reflected in the law, they turned away from their own law and principles to a great degree. They can’t, for example, dare to mention the good aspects of China, even when the economy is the topic. They still have to involve politics, and within positive coverage, there still needs to be some criticism. Even in international disputes, there is a natural belief that China isn’t good. When it comes to the most recent Diaoyu Islands dispute, for example, Western media mostly use the Japanese name, clearly standing on Japan’s side, leading Western readers to a tendency which is just as clear.
Within this “China isn’t good” discourse, within this envelope of China “phobia”, also on German television, radio, internet and in- and outside an international broadcaster’s television station – “Voice of Germany” -, a series of scandals occurred. In August 2008, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, this station’s Chinese-department’s Zhang Danhong said on German television that China’s overcoming of poverty was a great achievement. It triggered attacks from overseas dissidents and German media. This grew into attacks on the comparatively objective and comprehensive coverage of the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department. Some overseas dissidents, quickly and at will, fabricated a deceptive representation of [Deutsche Welle] Chinese broadcasting and online departments that were “China-friendly” and “CCP-friendly”. Some German journalists and politicians blindly believed those fabrications without checking the accusations. The so-called “German Author Circle of the German Federal Republic” even suggested that the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department should be purged and be comprehensively supervised in its China coverage. A surge of open letters to Germany’s federal parliament emerged, and in a wave of at least ten open letters and several tens of German media reports, the German parliament also became involved. Chinese media surged, too.
The final examination report shows that the allegations against the Voice of Germany’s Chinese editorial department were completely slanderous. Originally, this matter should have been over by then. But the Voice of Germany’s leaders got trapped in fear, and went into disarray. From early in 2009, this international media unit implemented” the original demands which had been comprehensively repudiated [by the investigation]: it invited people “immune against the CCP” to examine the reporting – in violation of Germany’s constitution, and editors who adhered to the legal principles of objective coverage were put under pressure, up to the expulsion of four editors and reporters.
In October 2012, “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” was published by August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag [sic]. It describes, with detailed material, revealing many creepy scandals. Some examples as follows.
2012年10月出版的德语版《德国之声的中国梦魇》（China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle，出版社：August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag）一书以详实的资料，记述了整个过程，揭露了许多令人毛骨悚然的丑闻。在此举例如下。
I’m not going to translate April Media’s list line by line, but only mention them very roughly here -
- the way dissidents were believed and the inclination to believe them because of their suitable China-isn’t-good narrative;
- how the Deutsche Welle management abandoned “the fruits of victory” (胜利果实);
- how – in the eyes of many listeners and readers, April Media adds -, the station became a voice of dissidents and Falun Gong, etc., thus abandoning Deutsche Welle director’s assertion that they were neither CCP’s, nor of the dissidents’ mouthpiece;
- the “monitor” (Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph), with an emphasis on how he allegedly objected to the term “mainland”, and demanding the use of “China” and “Taiwan” instead;
- inviting a “Tibetan separatist” to comment on the Yushu earthquake, with politicized remarks not related to the earthquake, or referring to Xinjiang as East Turkestan;
- violating the principles of objective journalism, and the German constitution;
- “Lying in court”;
- Falun-Gong guidance on German media and Deutsche Welle, beginning with the Zhang-Danhong affair.
After describing several episodes from “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”, April Media returns to the issue of “sinophobia”. While the book can’t solve problems, it can describe otherwise rather hidden issues, the reviewer suggests. And it “can also help Chinese people to understand the West and Germany more comprehensively”.
First of all, April Media’s review should not be held against Li Qi, in my view – just as the way Chinese media presented Zhang Danhong – a German citizen, btw, according to Li – as a Chinese-motherland-superhero four years ago, should not be held against Zhang. Li Qi wrote the book, not April Media’s review of it.
The review leaves an important episode out – one that Li himself addresses in his book: Zhang Danhong’s “interview with herself”, i. e. an intern or – rather, according to Li – a newbie in the department asking the questions. Li would go along with the review in that the Deutsche Welle management “abandoned the fruits of victory” without need – but he does see Zhang’s “interview” as the turning point. The following is based on my understanding of Li Qi’s chapter on the issue. I’ll base the following paragraphs on my understanding of that chapter.
Zhang had a dispute with He Qinglian, a dissident living in America. He Qinglian had alleged that Zhang had asked her, in 2005, to write no
comments commentaries for the department anymore, but rather to report about China. He Qinglian considered that a request to terminate her assignment with Deutsche Welle, because reporting about China was difficult when living in the U.S.. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, He alleged that the Chinese propaganda department had been involved in the decision.
Li Qi felt that he could relate to the anger of the department managers. After all, they had been targeted by He Qinglian.
But I felt that such remarks weren’t worth a debate. What mattered was that the absurd accusations that we had been red infiltrators had been staved off.
The online department manager suggested to care about more important things when Zhang approached her, asking if an online colleague could do the interview with her. Zhang did it anyway. The release online then apparently followed a misunderstanding about “intranet” and “internet”.
Here is the crux – in my view: the Deutsche Welle management certainly felt that they had done their best to defend the integrity of the Chinese department. They had faced criticism, public uproars, inquiries from politics, and had seen it all through. And there came some small-minded editors with a “the-winner-takes-it-all” mentality who wouldn’t want to spare a single point, when it came to the “enemy”. To be clear – I’m speculating about the mindsets here.
“Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” leaves the impression that Li doesn’t want to criticize the incident – but that he doesn’t want to condone it either.
Probably, nobody would have had to hit the roof (but Deutsche Welle’s top managers did, according to Li’s book). And the “interview incident” did pose questions about the department’s state of the art – , if nothing else had done that previously.
But the irony is that all this apparently turned into a political purge after all, rather than into continuous improvement (there’s no place where improvement would be unwarranted, is there?). And Li Qi and his colleagues were hardly to blame for the “interview incident”. According to Li, neither of the four online editors sacked in 2010/2011 was really responsible for the “self-interview”.
But April Media’s information – much of it apparently accurate, some of it half-true, and some of it – apparently – a wilful omission – is relevant all the same. It is relevant because it is among the media that cover the issue at all.