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Misinformation and Story Fabrication Caught in the Chinese State Media

October 09, 2008

It is known that Chinese media has been a key component in the State apparatus to direct and control the public, particularly in times of crisis. The Xinhua News Agency is recently caught again to spread misinformation and fabricate stories.

On September 19, 2008, Xinhua reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), along with the Chinese authorities, had conducted scientific evaluations on the safety margin for melamine. This was at the time when reports on melamine-contaminated milk powder were mounting daily, and tens of thousand infants in China were treated, hospitalized or dead. In its report, Xinhua stated, “According to the strictest testing standards, it is safe for an adult with an average weight of 60 kg [132 pounds] to drink less than two liters of milk with the above amount of melamine per day. To date there are no diagnosed cases of stones in urinary system due to drinking these milk products.” [1] However, in response to an Epoch Times’ inquirty, July Leon, FDA spokeswoman, said they have never published information on the safety margin of melamine. [2] Instead, FDA released information warning U.S. consumers not to purchase any infant formula milk powder from China. Clearly, Xinhua’s tactic was to spread misinformation to fool the Chinese publics. Because the Chinese authorities have no credibility on food safety, Xinhua had to bringing in FDA and EFSA into its story.

Another tactic of the authorities in China is to launch a media campaign to fan up nationalism and neutralize negative public opinion and potential social unrests. But this time, they were caught fabricating stories. While the public is urging investigation of the cover-up of milk powder ramifications, Xinhua, the State news agency, published on September 25 a detailed news report but dated September 27 about the success of its spacecraft orbiting in the space, hours before the actual launch of the spacecraft. On September 27,, Xinhua issued a brief apology stating it was an operational mistake. [3] The news report titled, “An Exciting Night on the Pacific: Shenzhou VII Orbits 30 Times” was written by reporters, Wu Denfeng, Mei Shixiong and Wang Yushan. It vividly described how the astronauts received signals when the spacecraft was making its 30th circular orbit. [4] All were so perfectly written prior to the actual happenings. Given the state monopoly in media re reporting of events of national impact in China, one cannot but wonder how much truth in the State media reports after all.

When reports of different views prop up, they are quickly smothered. State control appears to be intense when it comes to damage control of its own image. On September 25, 2008, the government shut down China Business Post (Cai Jing Shi Bao) because it published an investigative report on government’s corruption and abuses at Changde branch of the State’s Agriculture Bank. China Business Post announced the government ban stating it was found to have had three violations: one, it reported non-local news; two the reporter did not follow the formal protocal for interviews; and three it failed to “further confirm and conduct exchanges with the reported organization” before releasing “major and sensitive” reports to the public. [5]

[1] The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, September 19, 2008.
[2] Epoch Times, September 24, 2008.
[3] Xinhua, September 26, 2008.
[4] Epoch Times, September 27, 2008.
[5] China Business Post (Cai Jing Shi Bao), September 25, 2008.

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