Information, Misinformation and False Perception Creation in
Western Media about China
It is believed that the power of media to bring out justice, indiscipline and truth in light is unprecedented. But the nature of media has changed grossly with the nature of society and economic system. We no longer live in the Lutheran age where right information dissemination played the pioneering role of enlightening people by and their reason sealing the age of darkness rather information is now purposively being disseminated to circumvent the masses. Western media’s blatant target on China, especially on covering Xinjiang exposes its old gameplay in pushing political agenda by creating a humanitarian outcry.
The disturbing nature of the western media is not unknown to many people who carefully observe their representation styles and tactics. In fact giant news corporations have long history of inciting violence and chaos globally. Specially its critical role in propagating the doctrine of the war on terror in the recent times following multiple military invasions around the world. Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya have been totally shattered adding sufferings for millions of people with western occupations. Western media have supplied the energy and rationale by providing legitimizing arguments behind these unlawful actions. Facts have been reproduced and colored with different meanings to serve the interest of certain groups. Absence of strong alternative source of information has given an arbitrary nature of these media houses in producing whatever they wish to circulate. Interestingly former US president Donald Trump was partially able to unmask or address the hypocritical nature of big media houses including CNN, NBC, and New York Times.
However, target of western media has been shifting from the Muslim World with the declining appeal of Islamophobic propagation globally. Now China is becoming the new frontier for these media outlets to attack on its internal and external policies. Prejudicing the image of China has become a daily routine for them since USA is also very interested in demonizing the rise of China. Most notably the sensational portrayal of Xinjiang and Uyghur ethnic Muslim community has been the most remarkable area to carefully look into. Western media has been cultivating a grim image of Xinjian over the last few years to the world. We have been left in darkness without knowing what Xinjian is all about and what is happening there. Consequently, various myths and misconceptions have crystalized around Chinese activities in this region.
Fabrication of news events in Xinjian in western media is highly noticeable. Primarily they frame the whole region as an unknown area that has never been exposed to the world due to tightened measures taken by Chinese government. Besides, they define the residents as being oppressed and suppressed by government and they lack ‘freedom’, ‘peace’, ‘justice’, ‘democracy’. Media outlets including BBC and CNN try to create a depressive environment in filming news videos or documentaries. Backgrounds of the scene mostly depict objects like long walls, iron railings, and barbed wire. Additionally government officials are being portrayed as deeply impolite and always in hurry to hide themselves from cameras. Dusty and hazy filters are being used while editing to create a poor impression with color effects. In fact, different shooting angels are being used to show China in a dismal way. Frequent use of these techniques by western media has been successful in creating hype against China on Uyghur question.
Power of western media to create discourse is deeply rooted in its asymmetrically sophisticated capabilities in framing. Portraying individual testimonies to generalize the whole region has been widely used. It puts Chinese government in difficult situation to address these individual testimonies as they are highly diverse. But recent attempts by few independent news media have shown how contradictory these testimonies are. Big news corporations circulate such personal statements regarding Xinjiang without verification or further investigation. In fact, mass accusation has been held by the western media portraying the establishment of the concentration camps in Xinjiang. China has always disregarded such allegation rather expressed the necessity of such reeducation program to bring stability in this region. China claimed its educational and vocational training is voluntary and everyone is subject to equal rights. But western media have continued their attacks on Chinese by sensitizing this program. Interestingly, western countries run similar projects as Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP in UK and de-radicalization centers in France. But western media do not pose any question on them. In fact, USA has more than 2 million prisoners which is highest per capita.
It is also true that Chinse government has tightened its security measures very strictly in Xinjian region recently. Background behind this changing move dates back to the series of deadly terrorist attacks in this region since 1990 until recently making Xinjian the most unsafe place in the world. Abject poverty has been found widespread in this region as geographical position of Xinxiang is relatively remote and covered by dessert. The underdevelopment of this place led to various crimes and illegal activities. But recent educational and vocational training have been proven highly effective to counter terrorism as there have been not a single terrorist attack recently. Western media largely fails to notice the changing scenario in Xinjian where the living standard of the people has increased dramatically along with increasing economic opportunities. Independent sources show the normal lifestyle in Xinjian but western media have been portraying prejudicial ideas vehemently.
Propagation of cultural genocide in Xinjian has also been major source of contestation. Prominent media houses have been portraying that Mandarin has replaced the traditional ethnic languages but multiple sources have shown how both Mandarin and other indigenous languages are being practiced side by side. It is evident that learning Mandarin has resulted in increased job opportunities as language was a barrier for many people. So problematizing such soft issue by western media is the reflection of their ill motivation. Even spreading misinformation about the number of mosque in Xinjiang is also problematic. Statistics shows that Xinjiang is having the highest number of mosque by per capita in any non-Muslim majority city. News of demolishing mosque is also misleading as China has been investing huge amount of money to build new mosques. As a result the old ones have to be demolished to build the new ones. It is undeniable that western media are not deaf rather they are putting their ears and eyes off to serve their vicious interest through their conscious actions and inactions. In lieu of showing facts, they have been active in showing fabricated realities and drawing conclusion on their own instead letting the audience judge facts from their point of view. However, the absence of Chinese government’s counter actions to battle these misinformation is giving further space for western predatory media to implement their vicious objectives indeed.
The author of this article is a MSS student in International Relations at the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org