A lot of discussion about Chinese media is focused on the comparison against the hypothetical ‘gold standard’ of journalism as practiced in the United States.
Historically, a significant part of the theoretical foundations of journalism in China (except the thoughts of Marx, Lenin and Mao) was imported from the United States. I have studied journalism in China for a year, and most textbooks the Chinese journalism students used are the translated textbooks used in colleges of journalism in the United States. However, there are still having some difference between Chinese journalism and western journalism. When we talk about the media in China, some words or phrases, such as “censorship” and “lack of free speech”, always come up into our mind; and this kind of media pattern is the government called “unique Chinese characteristic.”
The fact is the first element of journalism, no matter for the western journalism or Chinese journalism. Enough information is needed to determine the truth, and the news must be comprehensive, not artificially balanced or fair. Facts are the test of truths, not the other way around. “Unique Chinese characteristic” is not a good interpretation for Chinese authority to explain their media censorships. It’s like mathematic. Mathematical laws are universal. You can’t have “Chinese mathematic” (mathematic with only Chinese characteristics) and still call it a scientific discipline.
But today, this is accepted by western media as fact. The above point leads more generally to the asymmetry in Chinese and western media. The traditional model is that the ideal has been defined in the American model, wherein freedom of press and speech are enshrined in the Constitution. Meanwhile, China is playing catch-up and its progress is measured by how close it is getting to the American model.
Disputes of the openness of Chinese media have focused on the realm of political current affairs, where the hand of government control is highly visible. In the other realms such as entertainment, sports, society and culture, Chinese journalism has made great progress. Everything needs to have a development process, and Chinese journalism is no exception. As the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said in an exclusive interview of CNN: “I believe China’s media will continue to grow.”