How much trust and credibility can we invest in reports arising from collaborations between western academic institutions and Chinese universities, especially if the subject under examination is an issue of immense political sensitivity to China’s regime?
Contemplating that question it’s important to remind yourself that under the totalitarian control of the Communist Party of China universities do not have the liberal freedoms or operational independence enjoyed by institutions in the USA, Canada, Europe, and countries in Asia such as India.
The presence of the state and its political interests imposes a suffocating pressure across China’s academic community, and this is felt most acutely within those areas deemed as critical to the national or party interest.
One such topic, that attracts international concern is China’s notorious coercive birth control policies, its associated human rights atrocities and demographic and social impacts. Western media is awash with reports on China’s gender imbalance, or claims from the Chinese regime that the ‘one-child’ policy has been ended. Sadly less attention is given by the same champions of free speech to the harrowing range of violations suffered by women across China who face forced sterilizations, forced abortions, arbitrary arrests, loss of employment and denial of housing. The coercion has not gone away, although you may be forgiven for thinking so when viewing the reportage from mainstream media.
But then we have to remind ourselves that such articles are being composed from within China, derived in the most part from official Chinese ministries, who exert a tight control over foreign correspondents. In addition over recent years at a senior executive level media agencies such as Associated Press, Reuters, the BBC have developed a close association with China’s authorities. We must consider also the political influences which operate within such agencies, no doubt they conform to the policy of their respective governments towards China.
An accommodation would seem to have been reached, at the center of which is an active willingness to comply with Chinese demands on reporting of issues seen as sensitive. These include Tibet of course, but also the whole subject of population control policies and their consequences, is it any wonder then that journalists based in China, sourcing their reports from Chinese officials, aware that any violation of their contract with the Ministry Of Information or Foreign Affairs could result in their visa being withdrawn produce articles that echo the official line?
This appeasement, for that is what it is, is illustrated most tellingly in the manner in which China’s population issues are reported, indeed so slanted is such coverage that it’s authorship may as well be credited to National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China!
Take for example a report today which is across the media ‘China’s Missing Girls Actually Exist’ a claim deriving from recent statistical analysis by a collaboration between University of Kansas and Shangxi Normal University that Chinese women; thought once to have not existed due to the demands of the population control program and cultural preference for having male birth, now apparently exist.
The tone and content of this report characterizes the issues mentioned above, diluted and compliant journalism, combined with a source that relies upon Chinese statistics, which are often used for political and propaganda purposes. One also evaluated by a Chinese University controlled, monitored and authorized by China’s regime, in partnership with a foreign academic institution; that in order to operate within China most probably has to comply with and be sensitive towards the China’s authorities.
These important considerations of course have been ignored by mainstream media who are channeling the report with a credulity that must be bringing a warm glow of satisfaction to China’s regime. The story which is being ignored is that a docile media is at best being manipulated to promote China’s politically engineered propaganda, at worst it is a willing partner in spreading disinformation. What would be the object of such a deception and as Sherlock Holmes may inquire, who would most benefit?
Well we already have some indication provided by the political realities that apply to the issue itself within China, that the findings are drawn from China’s census, which as already mentioned is politicized data. Further explanations can be extracted from comments offered by a joint-author of the report:
“People think 30 million girls are missing from the population. That’s the population of California, and they think they’re just gone…..Most people are using a demographic explanation to say that abortion or infanticide are the reasons they don’t show up in the census and that they don’t exist. But we find there is a political explanation.” Source John Kennedy, Associate Professor of Political Science. University of Kansas (emphasis added)
Now it might be, although don’t hold your breath, that deep inside the report Professor Kennedy and his co-author Shi Yaojiang, of Shaanxi Normal University have included a disclaimer to the effect that their ‘findings’ are not stating that countless numbers of female fetuses weren’t forcibly aborted, or female babies abandoned as a result of the brutalizing pressures of China’s coercive population control policies and/or the influence of cultural preferences for a male child.
So far we have not noticed such an assertion, and shall happily welcome such an inclusion, meantime what we are left with is an impression that looks to be trying to exonerate China’s regime by deflecting criticism and attention away from its vicious population control policies (as a determining factor of the gender-imbalance) to some administrative oversight or expediency at we are invited to believe, local level.
Unlike mainstream media we exercise a critical eye of any information associated with the Chinese authorities and so evaluate this report with particular scrutiny. China has a long record of using academics to peddle its propaganda, it concludes that in doing so its purposes are concealed and given a more credible and authoritative gravitas. This latest effort while consumed and reported as fact by CNN, AP, Reuters, BBC et al when examined carefully raises serious questions, not least of all its accuracy, motivation and purpose.