Op-Ed Commentary by Chris Devonshire-Ellis – December 20th, 2021
Amongst all the China and Asia noise that can be found online, it has become apparent from our own research that much is either repetitive or just plain wrong. Conducting an internal study of the 2,000 plus international media articles we covered in 2021 through our weekly China’s Belt And Road & Beyond update, we found that of those written by Western journalists, 87% were negative, and of them, 78% were factually incorrect. That is an astonishing inditement of contemporary journalism. Far gone, it seems are the days when “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it’’ was the creed that balanced reporting adhered to. Today, much of the media is made up of total bias, to an extent that it can be hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff or distinguish the truth from blatant lies. In my opinion, this is extremely dangerous. I believe we have already seen the effects of this resulting in mass deaths – the sheer nonsense that has been given credibility and airtime concerning Covid across all sections of media – and not just the social part – has directly resulted in the loss of millions of people. The impressionable and naïve have at times been deliberately targeted with distorted views and this has led to their deaths. Society, and media at large has not done enough to protect those more easily lead astray in our society.
The right to defend ‘free speech’ has given rise to allow anything in the media to be acceptable. Yet this has gone too far – it has become a platform to allow the dishonest a platform, and the wickedly manipulative a veneer of credibility. There has been talk of dismantling Facebook in response to this, but the breakup of just one company will not result in the sudden change of society. That can only be achieved through pressures placed on mankind by the honest, the compassionate and the straight, all the while being aware that there are two sides to every coin. It is a far from easy job to balance this. However, Governments do try, although they are often castigated for it. China’s recent laws concerning sedition and the jailing of prominent Hong Kong media figures has caused outrage in the West, seeing this as an erosion of civil liberties and free speech. Yet free speech can be dangerous when it calls for the overthrow of a Government, as China knows well to its cost. Estimates run to 20 million deaths during China’s revolution, and about 8 million during Russia’s.
I first landed in Hong Kong well over 30 years ago, never did I expect to experience tear gas on the streets of Kowloon and riots at its Universities. What is China supposed to do? With a country with a population of some 1.4 billion, the notion of civil rights in China is understandably a little different – and needs to be – from that in the West. The answer lies not in analyzing China’s laws on sedition, the answer lies in what motives individuals have in promoting revolution, chaos, and disorder. What purpose does it serve? And if a revolution succeeded, what then?
The media always appear to concentrate on the differences between East and West and seek to exploit them as irreconcilable and politically incompatible, even to the extent of suggesting a fight between good versus evil. International media has become politicized to the extent that impartiality is drowned out in all the noise. Yet what I – and we at Asia Briefing – have found is that it is the similarities between people that are the most striking, more interesting, and more likely to create human bonds, understandings, and comraderies. Yet today, this element of basic human nature is being eroded, and in some cases, despised.
At Asia Briefing we feel we have a responsibility to present a balanced view. Naturally, that is based on what we know, and as most of that is law and tax based, its relatively straightforward to present this in a way in which we can explain the consequences of new regulations to our readers. It can become a little trickier when we deal with geopolitical issues, which we tend to discuss more in our coverage of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, however a difference here is that our opinion-based pieces in covering this are based on both statistical research and through our having first-hand experience on the region concerned. Asia Briefing content is drawn from internal editorial and research personnel, based throughout Asia. Staff are in situ in China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Russia. In non-Asian countries, we have staff in the UK, United States, Germany, and France. Sometimes we also bring in expertise to assist – we will be looking for editorial assistance in Africa and Latin America during 2022 to better understand how these regions are interacting with Asia. Then of course we have numerous Dezan Shira & Associates legal and tax professionals to help clarify laws and their implications. It means we have a balance of both systematically researched regulatory work, combined with what hopefully amount to nuggets of occasional wisdom from our own experiences that we can pass on.
What we cannot tolerate is excessive opinionated or dishonest pieces, and when appropriate we will sometimes make comment against them, especially if we judge them to be harmful or disingenuous. We are here to provide a service – one that is underwritten by Dezan Shira & Associates to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year – and has been since 1999. It is important for us to maintain that credibility and our commitment to producing the facts, backed up by research, hard data, and experience. It is something we will continue to produce and provide during 2022. We will not be asking for money to do so in dubious ways. We see reporting as an honest service, not as an investment to make money for pandering to political views.
The early indications for the year as concerns global health are starting to show signs of optimism. Viral pandemics weaken over time and the Omicron variant, although more easily transmissible, does appear to be less effective in provoking serious illness than previous strains, and especially among the global population who have developed Covid antibodies. While much needs to be done in the poorer countries in terms of vaccination coverage, it does appear that things may ease up a little in 2022 with a brighter dawn approaching in 2023. I understand that China, for example, is considering travel relaxations in Autumn this year. Let’s hope this comes to pass. In the meantime, stay safe, secure, and tolerant during the new year and look for where the truth, rather than overwhelming political noise can be found.
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Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal commentary, belong solely to the contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Asia Briefing Limited or Dezan Shira & Associates.