28 September 2014

Does Global Times/环球时报 Provide Reliable Coverage of Hong Kong Protest Issues?

On 29 September, Global Times published an article (pasted partially below here, and in full still further below) citing subject matter expert(s) as stating that, should the Hong Kong Police prove unable to control the protests, there would be no legal obstacles to People’s Armed Police crossing the border from the Mainland to stabilize the situation. What was the significance of this?


mil.huanqiu.com › 军事 › 军事评论

1 hour ago – 近日,香港地区连续发生了罢课学生在“学联”和“学民思潮”操控下暴力冲击特区首长、政府总部和立法会的违法事件。据媒体称,现场“情况一度极其 …

Not surprisingly, given the sensitive subject of the article, the link on the Global Times website no longer works. But the text is still available here on Sohu.

In any case, in this tragic and difficult time, it behooves China watchers around the world to redouble their efforts to understand the PRC and related issues as accurately as possible from a wide range of available open sources. To that end, the below English-language post in Sinostand on the Global Times and the nature and accuracy (or lack thereof) of its various types of coverage bears careful consideration. It’s worth reading in full for the nuances, which are all too often lost.

Personally, I believe that it’s generally better to share articles, but they must be contextualized and analyzed rigorously to avoid misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Do we have a sad, but teachable, moment here?


2014-09-29 08:11:00环球时报王强分享









Why We Need to Stop Sharing Global Times Editorials,” Sinostand, 19 September 2014.

Most of us China watchers have done it at some point. We see a bellicose, inflammatory or otherwise head-scratchingly strange editorial in the nationalistic Global Times newspaper, and we re-tweet it out of mockery or disbelief. Today we all had a good laugh when GT declared that the Scotland independence referendum is “a tremor shaking the whole Western system” and shows that “the tide of secessionism is rising in the West.” Sometimes we go even further than just sharing these stories. When GT called the U.S. a “mincing rascal” for its computer hacking claims against China, it was a gift for the many media outlets that were able to draw up entire articles about it. But we really need to stop, and here’s why:

Global Times gives incentives to troll

A few weeks ago on Twitter, a Global Times employee revealed that the company gives traffic-based bonuses and also “bonuses for mentions in foreign media, good or bad, and for comment volume, positive or negative.” This was later confirmed to me by other GT employees (Global Times itself responded to my email for comment, but never replied after I asked about its incentive schemes). By a long shot, the articles in Global Times that get re-shared and covered most frequently by foreign media are the ones that say the most absurd things.

It would appear this is something the paper has taken note of, as we seem to be seeing these editorials becoming crazier and more frequent. So in effect, whenever we share or write an article about one of these pieces, we’re playing right into Global Times’  hands. We’re encouraging trolls and taking opinions at face value that likely have financial incentives driving them.

Another thing people usually fail to account for is that the English editorials go through foreign editors. So when you see highly quotable and alliterative terms like “rampant rascality” or “prancing provocateurs” used, they may have come from a mischievous foreign editor rather than a Chinese ideologue. As a separate GT employee said, articles drawn up to flag these crazy statements are “essentially click bait feeding off click bait.”

The only way to kill a troll is to ignore it

These editorials routinely defame dissidents, report outright false information and rile up nationalism and racism. In most situations, it’s just not worth putting a megaphone in front of these messages. …