In last week's issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, I wrote "The Media Kowtow" a feature about how "a hugely influential portion of the American media has vacillated between openly admiring the Chinese government and providing a forum for its apologists." A large part of that story is how China has wooed American media figures and otherwise kept them from reporting on the horrific nature of the communist ruling party.
Despite the obeisance of prominent pundits, many courageous journalists are still trying to tell the truth about what's going on China. However, a report from yesterday'sNew York Times lends a great deal of credence to my concerns about the Chinese government's successful efforts to silence what critical elements of the American media remain:
The decision came in an early evening call to four journalists huddled in a Hong Kong conference room. On the line 12 time zones away in New York was their boss, Matthew Winkler, the longtime editor in chief of Bloomberg News. And they were frustrated by what he was telling them.
The investigative report they had been working on for the better part of a year, which detailed the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.
In the call late last month, Mr. Winkler defended his decision, comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.
“He said, ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ ” one of the employees said. Less than a week later, a second article, about the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks, was also declared dead, employees said.
Editors at Bloomberg maintain that these stories have not been killed and are still ongoing. But the Times also notes that Bloomberg upset the Chinese government with reports on the wealth of the country's communist leaders in 2012. Since then, "financial news terminal subscriptions, which cost more than $20,000 per year and are the main revenue generator for Bloomberg, slowed for a spell in China, after officials issued orders to some Chinese companies to avoid buying subscriptions." China has also denied Bloomberg and the New York Times residency visas for new journalists in apparent retaliation for unfavorable coverage. The Chinese government also has a history of blocking access to the New York Times and other websites whenever reports on the wealth and corruption of Chinese leaders appears.
Given the huge amount of financial leverage the Chinese government has over American media companies, this episode raises very troubling questions about the extent of self-censorship in the American media when it comes to China.