It’s lately become clear that reporting on China triggers the law of diminishing returns.
From Saturday’s New York Times front page:
Bloomberg News Is Said to Curb Articles That Might Anger China
BEIJING — The decision came in an early evening call to four journalists huddled in a Hong Kong conference room. On the line 12 time zones away in New York was their boss, Matthew Winkler, the longtime editor in chief of Bloomberg News. And they were frustrated by what he was telling them.
The investigative report they had been working on for the better part of a year, which detailed the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.
In the call late last month, Mr. Winkler defended his decision, comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.
“He said, ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ ” one of the employees said. Less than a week later, a second article, about the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks, was also declared dead, employees said.
Bloomberg’s not the only news organization being muscled. The Times has also “come under similar pressure,” according to yesterday’s report.
The websites of The New York Times, including a new Chinese-language edition, were blocked when it published an article in October 2012 on the family wealth of Wen Jiabao, then the prime minister. Like Bloomberg, The Times has also not received residency visas for new journalists.
Coincidentally, last week’s edition of The Weekly Standard addressed the Chinese Wall in Mark Hemingway’s cover story on “the kid-gloves treatment of China by the American punditry.”
Inside, news organizations from Yahoo to the Washington Post get whacked, but the Times opinion pages – especially Thomas Friedman – get especially blowtorched:
Thomas Friedman, the Times’s noted purveyor of mixed metaphors and Third World taxi-driver anecdotes, is generally acknowledged as the head cheerleader for the People’s Republic in the Western media . . .
In a column suggesting that the Chinese government views the American people as gullible and stupid, Friedman mocked U.S. citizens for complaining about the invasive fondling of the Transportation Security Administration. Never mind that China dragoons people into labor camps for making sarcastic jokes about the government on the Chinese version of Twitter. Friedman has claimed that China has better phone service than the United States (vast expanses of the country don’t have electricity or running water). And as sure as the sun rises through the smog in the Far East, Friedman has praised China’s clean energy efforts time and again. Meanwhile, only about 1 percent of China’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air that would be deemed safe according to EU pollution standards.
The Times news coverage, on the other hand, gets generally good reviews.
Indeed, once you venture away from the opinion pages, the Times’s reporting on China is pretty good.
Which brings us full-circle to yesterday’s Page One piece.