People’s Daily Online is openly soliciting feedback for China’s English-language newspapers, using language that doesn’t even try to conceal the fact that papers such as China Daily and Global Times might be affiliated with the government.
This is the shocking part, of course. Those of us familiar with China know how complicated the media environment here is, and put up with government editorials (i.e. ignore them), which are the suckerfish on the backs of quality journalism. But wasn’t the point of expanding to the US to at least give the illusion of a fresh start? One would think that China Daily USA (Europe, etc.) would wish to steer as clear as possible of the propaganda offices and mouthpieces in its home office. This survey does them — and every other English-language Chinese publication — absolutely no favors.
Here’s PD’s introductory message:
The Institute of People’s Daily Online of P.R.C is currently carrying out a survey on foreign users’ uses and attitudes of China’s English news websites. The main purpose of the research is to improve China’s English online news services.
Your participation in this survey would be highly appreciated. Please visit http://labs.people.com.cn/survey/2012/ to participate. Your response to this survey will be kept strictly confidential.
And the survey, which includes questions such as (click to enlarge):
The real fun part is when the survey compares two write-ups of the same news story, about forced late-term abortion. Compare the People’s Daily article with the BBC one, and then answer:
Go give them your feedback. I’m sure it’ll be appreciated.
POSTSCRIPT: Also see, from September: CRI and CIBN’s questionnaire on the CPC National Congress.
I certainly gave them my “feedback”.
Could this perhaps be a move by someone in the bureaucracy to prove that the papers need less intervention by propaganda authorities to gain acceptance abroad?
Either that, or we’ll see a Fox News-esque write-up soon claiming that “105% of respondents agree that China Daily is fair and balanced.”
They don’t care about that part of the survey. My wife was involved in an online survey for China Daily a few years back (it was run by a major foreign market research company that she worked for at the time). They asked all the right questions, but the only information they were really interested in was reader demographics to show to potential advertisers. The rest is just bait.
Vaguely relevant story about that survey: after the first few days, an overwhelming majority of the responses were Chinese university students, rather than the wealthy foreign executives they would have preferred. China Daily’s solution? Turn the first page of questions into a screening stage, discard anyone who is both Chinese and a student, and publish the final results without mentioning they did this. AC agreed and certified the results rather than lose the client.
Only foreign unpersons were allowed to participate, so they didn’t need to eliminate specifically students.
Can we drop the cynicism here? Sure, it’s China Daily, but this seems to be a huge step in the right direction. Even if people who work there are desperately aware of the paper’s shortcomings, they’d be hard-pressed to speak up because of the whole “face” thing. But an anonymous survey? Who is going to sugarcoat that? Anyway, I just think it’s fascinating that they are even asking these questions. Even comparing their article with a BBC one on such a controversial issue? I think that is deserving of some applause, even if it’s just the sound of one hand clapping.