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Are Perceptions of China Wrong?

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Say what you want... er, well maybe not

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Kevin,

You know that the U.S. government does not allow foreigners to own /
operate TV or radio stations in the U.S. Rupert Murdock changed his citizenship in order to set up his network in the U.S.

The question is whether leasing channels and setting up joint venture broadcasting operations is equivalent to owning / operating a broadcasting operation. I do not know. But it seems to me that the Chinese government feels that is the case. From their point of view they are doing nothing that the U.S. government would not do.

It is true that the Chinese government is concerned about what is broadcast in China, and they do indeed exercise censorship far beyond what the U.S. government does. But the Chinese government can control the content of broadcasting in any number ways that do not involve banning the leasing of channels or joint venture broadcasting, including the outright ban of any offending programs. Why do they need to ban these types of ventures / operations to carry out their censorship?

Your lament about press freedom in China as it applies to this particular story is a bit off. I think the real reason has to do with money. The Chinese government is probably concerned that channel leasing and joint venture broadcasting operations allow foreign companies to make too much money and make Chinese broadcasters lazy in not wanting to develop their own programming.

Please be sure I am no apologist for the Chinese government when it comes to press freedom or any other democratic values. But sometimes, the perceptions of what is going in China are really quite wrong.

Regards,

Bill Wang

I admit I have not read the WSJ article because I do not have a subscription. But if you are simply paraphrasing the WSJ reporter, I will have to say that the reporter probably does not have it right either.

MB-

First, thank you for the added insight and let me say that I agree with you: the Chinese government can (and does) control news and media content in countless ways, and limiting foreign joint media ventures is almost certainly related more to sheer economics than it is an overt attempt to contain a western influence over content.

But there were two other issues, which are intertwined I believe, that I wanted to highlight by commenting on the WSJ story. Unfortunately, those issues may have been obscured by the brevity of my "Buzz style," a style which a "friend" of mine recently characterized as "blindingly oblique; Kafka-esque in a comic book kind of way; somber and salty yet soggy; weird." Those two points are:

1) Foreign corporations entering into Chinese ventures, joint or otherwise, and media-based or otherwise, face risks above and beyond global economic and "market" risks. They face regulatory risks that far exceed the risks we are accustomed to elsewhere in the West. China has frequently been referred to as a "stealth Democracy" but the "stealth" aspect of that reference remains very much operative, and still widely misunderstood. (The Financial Times this past weekend ran a nice introductory type of piece looking at the contradictory forces at work within China, very much worth a read).

And,

2) The somewhat incongruous working model of media freedom, particularly freedom of the press, we use here in the United States, which within the past two weeks has resulted in the jailing of one journalist, the handing over of confidential source notes to a court, and the decision not to publish two investigative news stories on the part of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer for fear of the same.

Lastly, below is a chart of the China Fund (CHN), a closed-ended management investment company launched in April 1992, whose stated objective is to achieve long-term capital appreciation through investment in companies and other entities with significant assets, investments, production activities, trading or other business interests in China, or which derive a significant part of their revenue from China.

China Fund (CHN) Chart courtesy Dorsey, Wright

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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