Archive for November 20th, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

South Africa: an Epoch-Changing Story, and no Details

No stranded whales have been reported from South Africa this week. Anyway, it’s not the season.

Whale Watching

Things to do in South Africa: Whale Watching

Nor has Gulliver been found sleeping on the beach. You could have  watched the arrival of Xi Jinping (习近平), China’s vice state chairman, the Central Party School’s (中共中央党校) principal, and the man whose hand visitors to the Great Hall of the People should strive to shake, according to a certain Jonathan Fenby (or the editor who wrote the lead). Xi has also become vice chairman of the Central Military Commissions last month  (there are two – one for the country, and one for the party, but membership of the state organ’s CMC and the […] CMC of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is [usually, I believe – JR] identical). That appointment, combined with his vice-chairmanship of the state, suggests that Xi  will replace the incumbent party and state chairman Hu Jintao in 2012 / 2013.

Anyway, no stranded whales, and no Gulliver. But Xi Jinping, not quite on the beach, but almost, at Cape Town International Airport.

And the South African press doesn’t smell the tea, notes Jeremy Goldkorn, himself a South African journalist, mostly living in China, and disapprovingly lists some sinners of omission: The Independent Online, TimesLive, News24.

That, plus a bit from the African Business Review, I might add, from Mine Web (understandably interested in the visit, but only reprinting stuff from Reuters), the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, and the South African government’s website.

CCTV Coverage, Cape Town, CCTV Xinwen Lianbo, November 18, 2010

They cared, too: CCTV Xinwen Lianbo, November 18, 2010

As if to underscore how little the editors know or care about China, there is no contextualisation of this story with Xi Jinping’s visit to South Africa, or Zuma’s visit with a business delegation in August,

while a major, epoch-changing story develops, writes Goldkorn.

Some of the comments underneath his article seem to suggest that the media in South Africa are not as free to report about the visit as critical coverage would require – but a more convincing answer seems to lie in a more sarcastic comment:

A senior South African editor argued that the story of Mrs Grace Mugabe’s sex life was very insightful and in the public interest […] – Xhanti Payi on Fri, 19 Nov 2010 at 08:56.

Maybe not really in the public interest, but something much of the general public may still be  interested in, just as in tons of other grisly topics, too.

And after all, the state- or publically-run media did cover the visit – Channel Africa, for example, South Africa’s international radio service. Its article may also provide us with a clue as to why the general interest is low. As for a number of agreements, including an energy deal, signed by the 4th China-South Africa bilateral commission which was chaired by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Xi, no monetary details were released.

If this is then still worth extensive coverage, please call me Bob Woodward in the future. And it isn’t the South African media’s fault. Channel Africa’s article hails from Reuters. Reuters doesn’t seem to know the details either.

“There are things to be learned but that can only come if one is willing to listen. Around labour policy, there is no translatability of a China or U.S. approach to labour and labour flexibility,”

Channel Africa quotes Martyn Davies, CEO of Frontier Advisory.

Business and government are more likely to be interested in epoch-changing stories of this kind than most other readers or listeners, on the internet or else. And commercial media need to sell their news.

That’s not to say that there should be no coverage on Xi’s visit.

But if the mass media want to maintain or regain relevance, they will have to investigate the footnotes of the agreements their governments and CEOs enter with Beijing, rather than cover the red-carpet events.

And for Chinese endusers, South African media attention doesn’t leave much to be desired, anyway:

South African media actively evaluate the results of Xi Jinping’s visit (南非媒体积极评价习近平访南成果),

Xinhua Net reported on November 19, one day after Goldkorn had chastized his fellow news people.

They believe that this visit will further expand trade relations and strengthen the two countries’ cooperation on trade, investment, mineral products, energy, finance, and other fields.

The Mail & Guardian is quoted, too, with a November 19 article:

[…] The paper also believes that South Africa and China share many interests. This is the foundation for the two countries’ broadening their areas of cooperation. […] (该报还认为,南非和中国有许多共同利益,这是两国在更广阔领域开展合作的基础.)

If the M&G article referred to is this one, its climate change issues still aren’t mentioned in Xinhua’s review of it.



Xi visits Angola, AFP/Bangkok Post, Nov. 20, 2010
… Against even Bigger Threats, December 6, 2009
Dalai Lama “more than free” to visit, May 15, 2009

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