Currently Reading …

“China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle”, Frankfurt 2012, by Li Qi (or Qi Li, if you put the family name second). Can’t tell yet if it’s a great book, but the first 100 pages (of more than 400) contain a chronology of the Zhang Danhong case which goes far beyond what I’ve seen anywhere else so far.

There’s bitterness in this book – that needs to be said. It’s not written by someone who can, or wants to, put himself above the story, because it’s his story. After the first 100 pages, it’s mostly his personal story.

But it seems to be the most exhaustive account of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department yet. And given that this is about Deutsche Welle – Germany’s foreign broadcaster -, the way this story goes should be a matter of public interest. It would take a press which would be willing to look at these stories from all sides, and which would be influential enough to get answers from Deutsche Welle itself.

That’s missing so far. Once the Zhang Danhong affair was over (if it ever really was “over”), there wasn’t much media interest anymore. But I’m getting the impression that Qi Li’s book – despite the shortcomings mentioned above, or maybe even because of them – could become a great document of German-Chinese relations, in the long run.

Might write a review later on, before the end of this month. But before that, there’s still a lot to read, and to reflect upon.



» Advocacy Journalism not the Problem, Jan 26, 2012


4 Responses to “Currently Reading …”

  1. JR, this is very very interesting indeed….Here is the info from the press release (which you kindly linked to), which indicates Li is, for the reader at least, supposed to serve a kind of proxy function, representing the conflicting streams and impulses in the German media from those fertile years 2008-11.

    “Am Beispiel der Deutschen Welle beschreibt der Autor Qi Li in diesem Buch die China-Berichterstattung der deutschen Medien in der Zeit von 2008 bis 2011, die geprägt war durch die Tibetkrise und die Olympischen Spiele in Peking. Dabei geht es dem Journalisten, der wie drei seiner Kollegen bei der Deutschen Welle entlassen wurde, um Meinungsfreiheit, wertorientierten Journalismus und umfassende, unabhängige, wahrheitsgetreue Berichte. Er sieht sich als spätes Opfer der China-Debatte, die 2008 im Vorfeld der Olympischen Spiele geführt wurde. Sein Anliegen ist zu verdeutlichen, dass verstärkt Themen in den westlichen Medien über China aufgegriffen werden müssen, die das Land von allen Seiten betrachten. Er ist überzeugt davon, dass man mehr miteinander sprechen muss, um Missverständnisse zu beseitigen und ein vollständiges China-Bild zu vermitteln, damit die Welt China wirklich kennen lernt.”


  2. I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s interested in the saga since 2008, Adam – it should be the most comprehensive account available on Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department to date.
    It also contains sort of a press review over the years – tons of Chinese articles, and two pretty watertight German articles – both by EPD (Evangelischer Pressedienst).

    The Chinese “public interest” – including that of the propaganda department there – is obvious. What is not so obvious is why the German press isn’t covering this. It’s certainly relevant, nationally and internationally.

    As far as reported by EPD – and confirmed by a member of the DW employees committee -, a number of German papers are definitely aware of the story, and EPD’s coverage, both on events inside the organisation and of Wang Fengbo’s pretty outrageous day at the Landesarbeitsgericht Köln early this year, should be easily accessible in the press database, for any paper or broadcaster who cares.

    One explanation for their silence may be that media don’t like to discuss their own issues – what good journalism needs to be about, for example. Maybe even more crucial: the affair is also about industrial relations. Deutsche Welle’s terms of employment – which seem to keep a number of employees in a rather vulnerable position – are probably not uniquely DW. In that regard, it could be Pandora’s box, or one of the industry’s “sensitive issues”.


  3. My personal impression: from the local press to regional radio and television to the public broadcasters and nation-wide papers (“Zeit”, “Spiegel”, and even “Süddeutsche Zeitung”), they turn away from real politics, locally, nation-wide, and from foreign politics. Locally, when the remains of a synagogue, burnt down during the “crystal night”, are flattened once again by another construction site, only makes it into the news when citizens dig deeper and might create political pressure, and regionally or nationwide, when media hardly cover issues with certain conflicts of interests.

    It’s a personal impression, and is probably amplified by an article I read in a privately-owned paper this week, which thought of public money for the preservation of the press and press plurality (similar to that of public broadcasters) – i. e. by the state, ultimately – as a real option.

    But a press that doesn’t address citizens’ perceptions can’t find it easy to survive in the market. It is important that at least the EPD made Fengbo Wang’s et al conflict with their public employer a topic, but it’s also obvious that the press avoids the topic like the plague.



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