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Op-Ed: Trump is right, fake news is the enemy, something China has known for years

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    13:49, May 31, 2017

On May 28, U.S. President Donald Trump called fake news the enemy of the people. This is not the first time he has taken aim at his nation’s media. He has done so many times before. In his book Great Again, for example, Trump accused virtually everyone in the mainstream media of being out to get him and said they are trying to manipulate people.

File Photo/Xinhua

Trump’s deeply ingrained belief that the U.S. media is the enemy of the people has some merit. According to a recent report by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, news coverage of Trump’s first 100 days was overwhelmingly negative. The tone of news coverage by CNN and NBC, for example, was 93 percent negative. Coverage by The New York Times and The Washington Post was 87 and 83 percent negative, respectively. Trump’s achievements were either downplayed or entirely ignored. As a result, Trump feels wronged by the media.

China also feels wronged by unfair reporting. Reading news on China in the Western media, one might get the impression that coverage of China is mostly negative too. For example, the U.S. media sometimes portrays China as a communist country where people are suppressed and have no freedoms or human rights, but one would be hard pressed to find positive stories about China’s tremendous human rights’ achievements. There is perhaps good reason for that. As the exceptional and indispensable nation, America’s national myth depends on putting others in the worst possible light. Demonizing China through the media helps prop up the national myth that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Demonizing China has a long tradition in the Western media. In June 2015, U.S. Congressman Steve Russell warned his country about constantly covering China inaccurately. “On the verge of a bright future, we now see today with timidity and fear where we should see opportunity and favor with regard to China. China needs us, we need China,” said the congressman. He warned about the barrage of negative press on China, everything from hedging them on trade, to condemning them in the South China Sea, to framing them up as the new military threat. “While China is not our enemy, we could certainly set the conditions to make them one in the future,” he said.

On the U.S.-China bilateral ties front, U.S. media outlets are obsessed with reporting discord and conflict rather than cooperation and exchanges which are the bedrock features of relations.

Many people have a biased view on China. If you search “Why does China want to” in Google, for instance, the top three predictions made by the popular search engine are: (1) go to war with America; (2) go to war with the U.S.; and (3) go to war. According to Google, search predictions are based on several factors, one of which is what other people are searching for. Yet China has never openly called for war against the U.S., despite challenges in the bilateral relationship. In fact, Chinese officials and the Chinese media frequently stress the benefits of bilateral cooperation and highlight stories of success between the two countries. This suggests people are not getting an accurate picture of China.

It’s not hard to see why China is sometimes wrongly vilified for its behavior. Reports that China stole an underwater drone, tortured a detained lawyer, shot dead a spy in a government courtyard, and unsafely intercepted a surveillance plane can bolster negative stereotypes about China. But did China rip a drone out of international waters? No, the drone was in China’s waters and after capturing it, China handed it over. Was the detained lawyer tortured? According to those involved, the story was fabricated to tarnish China’s image. Did China casually kill spies? Only according to a few unnamed U.S. officials. Did Chinese fighter jets unsafely intercept a spy plane in China’s airspace? Professional and safe, according to China’s Ministry of National Defense. So, let’s not jump to conclusions. People deserve to hear the real story of China.

Given U.S. President Trump’s frequent claims that his nation’s leading media outlets are mass producing fake news in order to advance their own political agendas, it’s rational to at least wonder if negative stories about China by the Western media are fabricated lies. And given their international influence, fake news by mainstream media outlets is not just a great danger to the U.S., but a great danger to all countries. At the very least, we should take the China side of the story more seriously and not be so quick to assume that the U.S. account is always right in its interpretation. Putting the U.S. interpretation of events on a pedestal is part of the fake news problem that China has been battling for years.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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