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Home >> China
UPDATED: 09:33, March 16, 2007
Getting a quote takes legwork
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Wu Jinglian is to China what Milton Friedman is to the United States.

The revered economics guru has been constantly hounded by a pack of reporters throughout the "two sessions", a scenario that reminds me of the way the paparazzi pursue pop stars.

I covered the "two sessions" six or seven years ago, and the hounding that went on back then was just as intense. I guess some things never change.

Ironically, Wu is not always interested in answering questions, no matter how ardent the reporters' desire for a quote. He even seems upset by irrelevant ones, especially those he seems to think are nonsensical, like: "Did your comment on the stock market (in 2001) have an impact on the recent sell-off (late last month)?"

The "Wu phenomenon" helps illustrate the tense relationship between Chinese economists and journalists, even though they often seem to be in perfect harmony.

Some argue that the relationship between economists and journalists in Western countries has become symbiotic.

Western journalists turn to economists for interpretations. Some economists are interested in influencing policy and have to rely in part on the press to distribute their ideas to the public and policymakers.

However, this close relationship does not necessarily mean that economists have no complaints about the press. Reporters are often accused of ignorance, creating distortions and incorrectly emphasizing the most sensational parts of an economic event.

Similar things happen in China. While some of economists do hope to influence policymaking through the press, they sometimes find the way journalists report unacceptable.

Many seem to believe that economic journalists in Western countries are more professional than ours. If this were true, it would be no surprise to see the economist-journalist tension arise here.

To ease the tension, economists need to understand that the public has little patience for the economic jargon that often finds its way in the economics journals. They need to explain economic events through reporters in a way that is more comprehensible to the layman.

Economic journalists, meanwhile, need to become more economically literate so that they can convey the most valuable information economists provide.

Admittedly, Wu's case is pretty unique. Many of the reporters who have been hounding him do not even cover economics, and so would not even be on the beat if their employers were not short of reporters to cover the two sessions.

Source: China Daily

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