December 4, 2022

Why Peng Shuai is cheating China’s propaganda machine

The Chinese government has changed a lot Useful Inside Controlling What 1.4 billion people in the country think and speak.

But as Peng Shuai has aptly demonstrated, influencing other parts of the world is a different matter.

Chinese state media and its journalists have provided one source after another Star Chinese tennis player Despite the general population, it was safe and healthy Indictment Sexual harassment against a powerful former deputy prime minister.

One Beijing-controlled sales outlet claimed to have received it An email He denied the allegations and wrote in it. Another a Video Mrs. At Peng’s dinner, he and his comrades openly discussed last weekend to prove the date of the registration.

The international outcry intensified. A textbook example of China’s ham-hand response to the inability to communicate with an uncontrollable audience through censorship and coercion, rather than forcing the world.

The ruling Communist Party communicates in a one-way, top-down message. It is difficult to understand that credible stories should be supported by facts and verified by credible, independent sources.

In its official comments, China’s Foreign Ministry has largely avoided questions about Ms. Peng, saying she was unaware of the matter at first and that the topic was beyond its scope. On Tuesday, Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman, leaned into a familiar tactic: Mrs. “I hope some people will stop malicious advertising, not to mention politicize it,” he told reporters.

China in recent years has grown more sophisticated in using the power of the internet to present a more positive, less critical story – which seems to work. Time To do Time. But at its heart, China’s propaganda machine still believes the best way to cover up the problems is to shout the other side. It could close access to its vast market and threaten the economy to grow, calming companies and governments that do not buy their taxes.

“News like this is a testament to the power: ‘We tell you she’s fine, otherwise who do you say she’s?'” Wrote On Twitter. “This is not to convince the people, but to intimidate the state.”

China has a history of less credible evidence. Prominent lawyer imprisoned Condemned His son on state television for fleeing the country. Hong Kong bookstore manager arrested for selling books on the personal lives of Chinese leaders Said After his release he had to earn a dozen Recorded confessions Before his captives were satisfied.

At the moment, the women’s tennis world is not playing together, and Ms Peng has suggested stopping events in China until it is confirmed that she is truly out of government control. The biggest names in tennis – Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic and others – do not seem to be afraid to lose access to the potential market of 1.4 billion tennis fans. With just a few weeks to go before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the pushback is complicated.

The country’s huge campaigners have failed to live up to the expectations of its top leader Xi Jinping to control the global story about China. But it should not take all the blame: the failure is rooted in the control of China’s dictatorial system.

“Thus Peng Shuai can play any role, including showing independence,” said Bin Ho, a New York-based media entrepreneur. Wrote On Twitter.

To the Chinese authorities in charge of crisis management, he continued, such control is routine. “But for the free world, it’s more frightening than forced confessions,” he said.

One of the great gifts that Ms. Peng has is the freedom to speak her mind, her name has been censored on the Chinese Internet.

“As long as the coverage of her inside and outside China is different, she does not speak freely,” said Rose Luqiu, an assistant professor of journalism at Baptist University in Hong Kong.

Despite concerns about Ms Peng’s well-being on Twitter and other online sites banned in China, the Chinese public does not know much about the debate.

On Friday night, as the hashtag #whereispengshuai was gaining momentum on Twitter, I could not find any discussion of the question on Chinese social media. Still, Ms. Peng clearly attracted the attention of politically observant Chinese. I texted a friend in Beijing, who was usually on hot topics, and usually asked in code words if she had ever heard of a big campaign to find someone. “PS?” The friend guessed using Mrs. Peng’s initials.

It is difficult to estimate how many Chinese have learned about Ms. Peng’s accusation, she described in a post on Chinese social media earlier this month. His post, which allegedly attacked former Communist Party leader Zhang Gouli, was deleted within minutes. A Weibo social media user asked if it was a crime to save a screenshot of Ms. Peng’s post. Another Weibo user, in one opinion, described being too scared to share a post.

They have good reason to be afraid. Beijing has made it easier to detain people or charge for anything They say online. Many people delete their social media accounts to share content that auditors find inappropriate, including content related to #MeToo.

China has been bitter about its bad image in the major Western media and has been talking for years about taking control of the story. The top leader said he hoped the country would have the capacity to shape a global story that would be in tune with the rising status of the world. Shi said. “Tell the story of China well,” he said Advised. “Create a trustworthy, loving and respectful image of China.”

Official media have speculated that Covid-19 may have originated from a laboratory in the United States, and this has led to an unproven allegation spreading on Facebook and Twitter. China liberated thousands Videos On YouTube and other Western sites, Uighurs claim that they are “very free” and “very happy,” while the Communist Party pursues repressive policies against itself and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

Nine years ago Mr. In fact, China has been less respected since Shi came to power, and its stories are less credible. He Overridden Relatively independent media and Deleted Important online voices within the country. He has unleashed diplomats and nationalist youth who will roar at any hint of criticism or insult.

“There are three things that are inevitable in life: life, death and humiliating China,” a reader commented in my recent column.

Despite China’s relatively rapid economic growth and relatively effective response to the epidemic, the country’s deteriorating human rights record and its uncompromising international stance have not helped its image. China’s negative views on most of the world’s advanced economies reached historic highs last year. Pew Research Center.

Questions about Ms. Peng cannot be answered effectively by China because it cannot even directly solve the problem.

Ms. Peng is accused of sexual harassment, Mr. Zhang was one of the most powerful figures in the Communist Party before he retired. The party sees criticizing a top leader as a direct attack on the entire organization, so it will not repeat his accusation. Thus, the state media trying to argue that Ms. Peng is well could not even be mentioned directly.

To Hu Xijin, editor of the Nationalist Global Times tabloid, Mr. The charge against Zhang has become a “thing”. “I do not believe Peng Shuai received the retaliation and repression speculated by the foreign media for what people said,” he said. Wrote On Twitter.

In China, Mr. Jong can not even be discussed online. People call him “Kimchi” because his maiden name is of ancient Korean descent.

China’s spin bowler, Mr. If Hu were to speak more clearly, if the Chinese people were free to discuss Ms. Peng and her accusation, the official media would understand how to make up a story. On the contrary, Mr. Hu alternates between trying to change the conversation and closing it completely.

“For those who truly care about Peng Shuai’s safety, his appearance these days is enough to free them or remove most of their worries,” he wrote. “But for those who aim to attack China’s organization and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, the facts, no matter what, will not work for them.”