Today’s China Readings May 9, 2012

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China has expelled Melissa Chan, an excellent reporter who was the Beijing-based correspondent for Al Jazeera English. Instead of adding to the mass of commentary I will just quote from the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos:

China is moving backwards. In fifteen years of studying and writing about this place, I’ve rarely had reason to reach that conclusion without one qualifier or another dangling off the end of the sentence—qualifiers that leave room, for instance, for “halting progress” or “mixed signals.”

But this week the evidence is unambiguous: for the first time in thirteen years, China has kicked out a foreign correspondent. In doing so, it revives a Soviet-era strategy that will undermine its own efforts to project soft power and shows a spirit of self-delusion that does not bode well for China’s ability to address the problems that imperil its future.

The Foreign Ministry’s Q&A on the expulsion does not help.

The Washington Post coverage of Chan’s expulsion notes that:

Last fall, three Republican congressmen, complaining about constraints on U.S. media expansion in China, introduced the Chinese Media Reciprocity Act, which would limit the number of visas the State Department is permitted to issue to journalists working for Chinese state media. The bill is currently with the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement.

Chan, while an employee of a media outlet the US government does not usually support, is an American citizen and her expulsion may add momentum to this bill.

New York Times correspondent Ed Wong tweeted the fascinating story of then-New York Times China bureau chief John Burns’ arrest and expulsion in 1986-7. It is a great read, and one passage stood out, especially in the context of the recent “hardliners in security services” versus “softliners in Foreign Ministry” analysis about the Chen Guangcheng case. Remember, this was 25 years ago:

In Beijing, some weeks later, Foreign Ministry officials told colleagues of mine privately that they opposed my arrest and subsequent expulsion but had been overruled by the security apparatus. The officials hinted that the affair was linked in some way to other problems that have dogged the Ministry of State Security in the last year, including the spying conviction of one of its agents, Larry Wu-Tai Chin, in a United States court, and the defection of a senior official of the ministry, Yu Zhenshan, to the United States.

Among United States and British diplomats involved in securing my release, there was a feeling that internal politics had played at least some part in the affair. One theory was that the State Security Ministry, institutionally wary of foreigners, had seized an opportunity to show how dangerous the broadening contacts with outsiders can be – and in so doing, to strike a blow against the policy of the ”open door.”

Plus ca change?

Meanwhile, Chinese rhetoric about the Philippines is increasingly bellicose. As Li Ning would say, “anything is possible” right now.

Today’s suggested readings:

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  • http://twitter.com/leon_fan Leon

     Thanks for these links! 
     Problem with link 4 He Peirong story brings up Al-Jazeera/Melissa Chan story. 
     Might be issue w/SCMP site.

    • http://www.sinocism.com/ Bill Bishop

      thanks. not sure what is going on