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Media should help create a safer world

16:03, January 14, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

The Western Pacific is again churned up, as the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vincent, accompanied by two destroyers and a cruiser, arrived recently joining the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force for a 2-day military drill and, after that, proceeding to the Yellow Sea, to join South Korean Navy for joint exercises.

Some analysts believe the move could exacerbate the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula. And likewise, the media follow the trend, but in different voices---Some lash out at the U.S. and its allies for adding fuel to the flame; some bash North Korea as defiant and trouble-making, and there are also quite a few Western media singling out China, criticizing it not to side with the West and turn against N Korea, or "China's close ally" as they defined, and also finger pointing Russia for not mounting enough pressure upon China and N Korea. The audience, however, is left bewildered---not knowing who to believe.

The question popping up here is what role the mass media should play when, in particular, the security crisis is looming and escalating? To hype up a story to please the target audience by satisfying their speculations, or to cover up the truth or slant coverage to fool the audience into believing what they are buzzing is all right?

Also, there are two extremes in the media coverage in terms of the world's security situation: One might describe the world as a paradise on the earth, and war or crisis seems so outlandish that even if in existence, it must be a thousand and one years away from now. Or perhaps, war and war-induced catastrophes will always fall within others' courtyard, and my home will always remain well-protected. The other side of the picture is just opposite, war involving the weapons of mass destruction is just at the doorsteps; and the world is approaching to its doomsday, as it will soon be burned to ground by nuclear or bio-chemical weaponries. The huge nuclear stockpiles in the 44 nuclear-armed nations are enough to turn the globe upside down and knock humans off, without any trace.

It all seems that the media would go into raptures at the mere mention of arms races between powers, and muscle-flexing war games and the debut of any form of arms, including the conventional and small ones, will probably make headlines. The newly-detected nuclear site and any remote water where an aircraft carrier is suspected to be born will never fail to appeal to the media staff for Big Stories. No wonder WikiLeaks is so much sought after by the media.

The news about, say, the US Senate votes in favor of a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals at the end of December, or Pentagon's cuts of 78 billion dollars in its military programs, always looks subdued in the media coverage than, for instance, India's missile tests, US carrier deployed in the Western Pacific to boost American presence, China's anti-ship missile program, or the likelihood of war in the Korean Peninsula.

Some media have apparently formed the conditioning that the most practical defensive measure is to strike the incoming weapon with another more deadly one, as goes the proverb----"hitting a bullet with another bullet." Perhaps, the United States has just proven it can do this, albeit in controlled tests and with inconsistent results.

Since a year ago, China ended military relations with Washington in protest against a multi-billion-dollar US arms package for Taiwan, the subtle Sino-US military ties have become another media hit, till recently the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his visit to Beijing. The media are now shifting its focus from the resumed China-U.S. military contacts to who could limit who in the Western Pacific between a once unrivalled military might and a growing and modernizing emerging power, creating a scenario of power tussles for the regional dominance, and China challenging the U.S. preeminence over the high waters.

This could be quite misleading to the ordinary audience, who are at the time wary of the possibly exasperating situation in their surroundings.

As far as I can see, even if media can hardly play a substantive role in reversing a cascade of events, but, it can help cultivate a constructive opinion environment throughout which peace should act as the basic formula, and fear and crisis non-mainstream, and arms race less encouraging.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."