Media Coverage: How It Played Back Home


Jiang Zemin's seven-city U.S. tour was covered extensively, if much differently, in America, Hong Kong, and China. His arrival in Hawaii illustrates the differences perfectly. The American media devoted much of their attention to a few hundred protesters who, among other things, chanted slogans through bullhorns in an effort to disrupt Jiang's dinner with Hawaii Governor Benjamin Cayetano. Large photographs of protesters and quotations from organizers dotted the papers the next day. Hong Kong's media focused more on Jiang's efforts to charm the journalistic hordes and improve his image. Pictures of Jiang's swim at Waikiki Beach were beamed back to Hong Kong, inviting comparisons with Mao's 1966 swim in the Yangtze as a demonstration of vigor and health. Pictures of the Governorís wife, Vicky Cayetano, singing along as Jiang plucked out the tune to "Aloha Oe" on the lap guitar headlined articles of how Jiang impressed journalists with his frankness and amiability when talking off the record.

Mainland news accounts were much more subdued, with all of the major publications carrying the same headline: "Honolulu Warmly Welcomes Jiang Zemin." The protests were not mentioned, and neither were his swimming, his singing, or even his joking with guests at lunch. Only a bare-bones factual listing of Jiang's activities was printed without commentary.

Jiangís arrival in Washington was another case of divergent reporting. China Central Television broadcast extensive coverage of the summit's live proceedings, panning slowly over the military honor guard in the South Lawn welcoming ceremony and lingering over the opulent settings at the state dinner. On the other hand, American newspapers featured full-page spreads of the demonstrations alongside coverage of the summit. Moreover, as many Chinese and Chinese-American commentators have noted, American newspapers gave the impression that Clinton and Jiang practically came to blows during the news conference. On the other hand, the Chinese media implied that U.S.-China relations were trouble-free and Jiang and Clinton were the best of friends, while, predictably, not covering the human rights demonstrations. Additionally, news of a spurt of dam construction on the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers may have crowded out more extensive summit coverage.

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