What is the new relationship between the press in China and international politicians? How does this relationship operate in the context of contemporary Sino-U.S. relations?
December saw two major Chinese media interactions with global leaders: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as well as Joe Biden’s visit. China’s Global Times used Cameron’s genial praise to the PRC to show that the U.K. has become a diminishing empire. At the same time, during his visit to China in early December, Vice President Joe Biden pressed China on its restriction of foreign journalists’ visas. The role of journalism in China as an institution with global policy impact is a growing phenomenon. The convergence of the journalist’s critique of Cameron’s diplomatic efforts with Biden’s decision to use his limited face time in the PRC to discuss delayed foreign journalist visas highlights both the growing importance of Chinese media in the global political stage as well as the ways in which press activity in China is increasingly becoming its own entity, rather than an extension of the government. Moreover, the antagonism between press coverage in China and foreign leaders like Biden and Cameron underscores China’s increasingly powerful role in the global stage.
Notably, the increasing global influence of the press in China also has grown in parallel with the robust growth of the Chinese media industries in the realms of film and digital media. While Biden’s 2013 visit to China was characterized by his work pressing for visas for foreign journalists, the vice president’s 2012 meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping resulted in an increase in the quota for foreign films released each year in China. Both Biden’s Chinese media policy focus and the disparaging comments that Cameron received from the Chinese press highlight ways in which the growth of global Chinese media is ultimately permeating the highest levels of international relations. In the field of Sino-U.S. international relations, the news and media industries are no longer conduits, but have instead become the story.
For more information about the changing relationship between the Chinese media industry and Western leaders, see Aynne Kokas’ forthcoming Baker Institute policy report, “Building a Transparent Web: Transnational Social Media, Cybersecurity, and Sino-U.S. Trade.”
Aynne Kokas is the Baker Institute’s fellow in Chinese media and a sustainability postdoctoral fellow at the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University. Kokas’ current research focuses on the circulation of U.S. environmental media on Chinese social networks.