Without the “why” in parenthesis, this article would be remarkably short. One word, to be more precise: yes. However, by limiting ourselves to merely stating the (blatantly) obvious, we would be missing out on vital layers of nuance which add much-needed context to this entire debate. In the absence of said context, we would end up doing nothing more than reinforcing the “superficial understanding of China” paradigm which best describes most Western pseudo-experts.
Instead, here are a few logical reasons why Western media outlets are let’s say incentivized to develop a bias against China:
- Humans are pack animals at the end of the day and as such, an “us vs. them” approach to news tends to be quite a bit more effective at generating exposure/interest than let’s say a bland article which simply states a few facts and even more (worse?) so, tries to see positivity with respect to international relations. Throughout the Cold War, the USSR has been the obvious choice in terms of let’s say enemy of the West but at this point in time, Russia is less able to represent just that due to its unconvincing economic might (some would even go so far as to say lack thereof). China, naturally, represents the obvious choice
- Reciprocation, with Chinese outlets not exactly being shy either when it comes to demonizing the proverbial West. As such, we end up in today’s fairly toxic geopolitical climate, where each party is more than eager to exploit and popularize the weaknesses/failures of its opponent. Game theory 101
- More or less hidden funding-related agendas. We do want to make it clear right off the bat that Western media is nowhere need as prone to influence as Chinese media (for more details, we would recommend reading an article we have dedicated to just that, which can be accessed by clicking HERE) but this doesn’t mean that when the (geo)political context dictates it, Western interest groups aren’t more than willing to ask their friendly neighborhood for a proverbial favor
- Balancing the public perception scale in favor of the West by pointing out (oftentimes true) disturbing facts pertaining to China, such as human rights-related issues or other sensitive topics. The fact that China’s economy has greatly outperformed the West in terms of growth rate represents a significant public perception challenge, countering that on the informational front is the logical (albeit cynical) thing to do
- The fact that China represents, let’s face it, an easy target. While it does indeed outperform from an economic perspective, many of its less than democratic to the point of anti-democratic values make it an easy and at the same time legitimate target. When those in charge of a nation choose to limit basic human rights such as freedom of speech, they should not be surprised if or should we say when they are called out on it
- Cultural differences, aspects pertaining to China which aren’t necessarily bad such as examples which could be included in item #5 but are simply… well, so different that they tend to make the average Westerner uncomfortable. Despite the Western world touting its preference for diversity, let’s just say many Western citizens still have difficulties accepting cultural worldviews which are miles apart from their own
- Many Western media outlets believe acid criticism is what journalism is supposed to be all about and… frankly, it is hard to argue against that. While this may seem hard to digest for Chinese officials who have been accustomed to the reality that they can control everything including the dissemination of information and let’s say public perception in general, it has become a quasi-axiom in the West that if anything, journalists are here not to make officials feel comfortable but rather to do the opposite, dig for uncomfortable truths. There is a reason why the press is called the watchdog of democracy in the West, as opposed to China where… well, there’s no democracy
- Simply put, because they can. Or in other words, because China holds no jurisdiction over them. Just like item #7, this tends to be hard to digest for those in power over in China, for the simple reason that it goes dramatically against the domestic status quo
Needless to say, examples abound.
Before putting an end to this article, it is worth pointing out that on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is also occasional collusion between Chinese interest groups and (certain) Western media outlets, just as (more infamously) there is collusion between Western media outlets and Russian interest groups. To put it differently, it would be short-sighted at best and naïve at worst to assume that China is not trying to influence as many Western media outlets as possible and even more so, that it isn’t succeeding at least occasionally. That, however, exceeds the scope of this article.
Suffice it to say that (to answer the question which constitutes the title of this article), yes, there is a clear bias against China when it comes to Western media outlets. As explained previously, however, it would be a stretch to assume that criticism is completely undeserved, just like it would be childish to assume that the West is a saint in this entire equation. Better in terms of dimensions such as respecting human rights? Most definitely. But saints are let’s say hard to find in the oftentimes murky world of geopolitics, a fair conclusion to this article in our view. As explained rather frequently, the ChinaFund.com team is more than excited about the various opportunities that abound in China but to be on the receiving end of them, a dose of sometimes brutal realism doesn’t hurt and we therefore refuse to become let’s say “China cheerleaders” for the same reason(s) why we refuse to fall in love with asset classes in general: seeing the world or an individual country through rose-colored glasses would affect our bottom line and that is unacceptable.