Last week, at a “regular news conference at the Foreign Ministry, Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman, suggested that some reporters were trying to stir up unrest, not report on it. ‘Law-abiding people will be protected by the law,’ she said. ‘But people who are trying to create trouble in China, I can tell them that they have made the wrong plans.’” (via NYT, read full text here)
Veiled threats from the “ministry” hint that harmony threatens the free world. This means that you too, white journalist, will have to abide by the rules. Or at least appear to abide by them. Covering the career-boosting “China in unrest” story has become even more valuable.
Evan Osnos asked recently on the New Yorker blog, “Is China giving up on Western Rule of Law?” (link here) And physical attacks on foreign journalists in China also hint that this ain’t, and never will be, the proverbial “Kansas.” But while “strolling protests” and other news are afforded major coverage outside the Great Firewall, various ministries quietly assert their point of view through other subtle messages. Here, that point of view is literally with the prominent Pacific-centered political map as a background.
The white lines on a blue field contrast starkly with the red and yellow of the Chinese flag, and the stylized rendering of this map, as well as the unfamiliar projection (most common is the Mercator projection) seems to state the Ministry’s position perfectly. The image above seems the quintessential inclusion of the three primary colors, and against the blue, the flag’s prominent color seems distinctly non-conservative. The red logo on the very center of the podium also looks striking, it seems to be in the cusp of the “bending” African and South American continents. China has rendered itself as a supporter of the developing nations since the 1950s, the theme can be found in both “fine” art and poster arts since 1949. The image the Foreign Ministry projects here is not too different from what we might see at a US, or UN press conference, it seems to suggest we are looking at a power equal, but alternative, to the current world order.
I’ve written briefly on the mathematical symmetry and stern aesthetic in news images from the DPRK (link here), and the stark image above bears a certain resemblance. But to be fair, its symmetric composition should be credited to David Gray for Reuters. Thus, this image is not the product of any “propaganda machine,” although its staged element are surely homegrown. This fact also adds a new, more interesting layer to its analysis––how much of this representation is based on the photographer’s preconceptions of authority as stiff and dictated from the center? But, never having consciously seen other images of this “regular new conference,” I can only make limited comments.
If we take these types of background images seriously (and we have every reason to believe that ALL nations do), it is clear who’s projecting a unique world view.
Read more on journalist restrictions in the IHT here.