Deutsche Welle: the Pendulum Swings back (and strikes again)

While a comparatively early report by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) came across as sort of neutral, a report by Huanqiu Shibao (the Chinese-language sister of the “Global Times”) on Monday used the Su Yutong vs Deutsche Welle story for a bit of domestic nation-building. Using purported netizen comments, Huanqiu criticizes Su for being “naive”:

“You are reporting negative news about China all day long and think Germans will like you for that? Naive! You are planning to sue Deutsche Welle for violating local labor laws? What a joke. You don’t understand Germany and German law. When you leak a company’s internal information, the company has every reason to discharge you”, some netizens said.

“你整天报道中国的负面新闻,德国人就喜欢你?幼稚! 还准备起诉德国之声违反当地劳动法?笑话。太不了解德国和德国的法律。光泄漏企业内部的信息,企业就完全有理由开除你。”有网友说。

The paper leaves much of the criticism to “netizens”, but adds some message of its own, too. According to a BBC survey [probably Globescan], China’s image in Germany had been deteriorating for a decade, and 76 percent of Germans currently held a negative view of China, writes Huanqiu. That journalists like Su Yutong, from important positions, were blackening China’s name had something to do with the country’s negative image. When Chinese people badmouthed other Chinese people, ordinary people abroad tended to believe them.

We, too, hate some dark phenomena in our country, but we also hope and believe our motherland will improve. Reasonable overseas Chinese people will be happy and proud about China’s economic construction and development during the past thirty years. China has its shortcomings and you can criticize them, but not with a maximum zoom, and opposition against everything.


The article also describes the development of Sino-German trade and adds that during the sanctions on and from Russia, Germany’s economy had shrunk by 0.2 percent during the second quarter this year. And using comments on overseas-Chinese social media, Huanqiu suggests that “constant negative headlines at Deutsche Welle about China wouldn’t help bilateral cooperation”.

The Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA) would probably agree. When German chancellor Angela Merkel visited China during summer, the APA had recommendations for the two heads of government, Merkel and Li Keqiang, concerning a better climate for Chinese investment in Germany. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported:

It was “the common task of governments and companies on both sides to promote a good reputation of Chinese companies in Germany”, the recommendations, on hand at dpa newsagency in Beijing on Tuesday [July 8], say. This was about a “fair and accurate” presentation. Background [of these recommendations?] is Chinese criticism of German media which “irresponsibly and inaccurately report about Chinese human rights and political issues”, a position paper still in progress says.

APA chairman Hubert Lienhard, talking to journalists, resolutely denied the existence of this paragraph in the raft. However, only a week ago, a draft of the paper containing this criticism circulated in the German embassy in Beijing. Accusations like these were, however, not adopted in the recommendations to the two heads of government, recommendations the APA commission does not want to publish. […]

The APA doesn’t need to be “behind” the most recent events at Deutsche Welle, and if the links are as crude as suggested both by Huanqiu Shibao and some of Su Yutong’s supporters remains an open question. But there seems to be a trend towards cozying up to Beijing – and the pendulum that hit Zhang Danhong in 2008, and four more of her colleagues at the DW Chinese department in 2010 on its way to more “China-unfriendly” coverage, now seems to have hit Su Yutong, on its way back to more “China-friendly” coverage.

12 Responses to “Deutsche Welle: the Pendulum Swings back (and strikes again)”

  1. You quote a SZ report on dFC that Su will sue:

    Your guess? How will the courts decide? How well does Su “understand German law”?


  2. Unpredictable for me. But my guess is that the final decision will be based on the non-permanent nature of Su’s contract.


  3. Here’s another one from the New York Times: A Debate Over Tiananmen Finds Echoes in Germany’s Fascist Past.
    How did Pispers put it? Everything needs to be weighed in units of Hitler. There’s no smaller unit.

    Btw, this is exactly the technique the pro-Zhang-Danhong side also applied in 2008.


  4. JR, this pendulum, swinging back and forth, looks like a symbol of an unwillingness or inability at the helm of DW to assume responsibility and to lead. Obviously, there can’t be continuity. You won’t even getdecent journalism anymore, as soon as something is deemed “controversial”. Some see the “opportunity ” in the mess and leap to activism, and others are scared, depending on where the pendulum is. That’s not journalism, that’s no public diplomacy, that’s bullshit at the taxpayers’ expense.


  5. It’s a fairly natural disaster. The heart of those directors et al isn’t in what they are doing. David Ensor, director at Voice of America for example. Look at this interview.

    Activists among the ranks don’t make things better. Information isn’t a value in itself for them, either. So what you get in the end is heaps of crap. Sorry to say that – but the output depends on the input. 😉


  6. “the output depends on the input”

    The decline of BBC world service in a nutshell. It’s at about the level of local radio station nowadays.


  7. The input, in the BBC’s case, seems to be fear. When you keep reducing a workforce, the outcome is predictable. (Obviously I don’t know if the next generation of journalist is simply not as good as the elders, but from here, I’d blame the budget cuts for much of the misery. When “Outlook” and “World have your Say” become flagships, it’s all fucked up.

    The BBC WS was “Britain’s gift to the world”, according to Khofi Annan. Maybe that’s why Whitehall felt that something had to be wrong with it.


  8. While I always try to find positive things in Africa, if Khofi Annan gave my fly speck site his seal of approval, I would shut it down immediately.

    Could be best described as a bureaucratic scumbag of the first order, and not just on his lying, trimming Rwandan record.

    And while we are the subject of eminent Africans, its about time Nelson Mandela was partially deprived of his halo. As president he did exactly nothing to seriously redistribute wealth, education and health care, and as elder statesman he idly sat back while Jacob Xuma and his upper echelon ANC pals quietly plundered the state.

    World Have Tour Say is positively embarrassing.

    Its now possible that the idea of a single authoritive news source has had its day.


  9. Nothing is as good or bad as first reported. Today, I’ve learned that Mandela wasn’t quite as great as first believed. Tomorrow, I’ll learn that Annan wasn’t quite as bad as KT has said.

    Its now possible that the idea of a single authoritive news source has had its day.
    Ça dépend. The BBC will cease to be the world’s reference point (they awarded themselves this proud title about fifteen years ago). But Germany’s Tagesschau – as rotten as it may become – will always be considered a national reference point here, even if no foreigner would agree.

    Most of my Chinese friends make fun of Xinwen Lianbo. But I’m sure most Chinese people take that news show very seriously, too.

    Btw, the BBC’s Free Alan Johnson campaign was terrible, too. Maybe that, rather than the Gilligan affair, was the beginning of the end.


  10. Right on cue and exactly 12 hours after my post, it appears that Xuma is to reinvestigated for multiple fraud cases.



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