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China rebuked over communication

October 20, 2008

By Shirong Chen
October 17, 2008

A veteran Chinese diplomat has openly criticised officials for their
lack of awareness and inability to communicate with the outside world.

The official, former ambassador to France Wu Jianmin, says this has
contributed to a distortion of China's image abroad.

Reporting rules for foreign journalists were loosened ahead of the Olympics.

But the rules will not be extended after coverage of unrest in Tibet
was perceived as critical of China.

Empty claims

China is very image conscious. The more relaxed rules for foreign
media in China were introduced at the beginning of last year with the
hope of generating more coverage of the country's achievements during
the Olympic period.

The rules have enabled media organisations like the BBC to expand
coverage, allowing people outside China to come to know more about
the country than ever before.

But the government has indicated the rules will not be extended beyond Friday.

Commentators say this is because of what China perceived to be a
flood of negative reporting by the foreign media during the Tibetan
troubles in March and the Olympic torch relays in April.

Wu Jianmin says China's image problem is caused at least in part by
its own officials because they do not know how to communicate with
the outside world.

He says they waste time using political cliches, talking nonsense,
and making empty or outrageous claims.

For example, many Chinese officials like to tell their foreign
counterparts that China makes one out of every four ties people wear
all over the world.

Would that not invite foreigners to impose anti-dumping duties on
you? Mr Wu asks.

He also suggests that the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda
department should be called the department of communications.

So long as the system continues to control the media, efforts to
bolster the country's image will backfire, as the ongoing scandal
over tainted milk shows only too well.
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