Ever since the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, tensions between the West and China, based on the larger ideological struggle between Capitalism and Communism, have been mounting. In the last decade, the Chinese economy’s rapid growth brought these long-standing tensions to the world stage. In recent years, diplomatic tusseles through the Sino-U.S. trade war and closing of consulates in both nations have evidenced the extent of this international animosity.
However, this tension isn’t only between the larger political structures of the West and China, but also the citizens of the respectives countries; hatred towards the other side has become increasingly more present at the population level. Among all the factors influencing this hatred, the media continues to play an important role in the build-up of tensions, as it often portrays one-sided stories to the public and casts untruthful accusations towards the opposing nation.
One prominent example is the controversy surrounding Uyghur workers in Xinjiang, China, where many authoritative Western media outlets and newspapers, such as the BBC and the New York Times showed satellite footages of Xinjiang and claimed that the Uyghur workers in Xinjing were repressed and forced into labor camps, condemning the incident as a “massive Genocide.”
However, Chinese-based British vloggers and influencers on social media have posted videos saying that the depiction of China, and specifically Xinjiang, in the Western media was untruthful and misleading. Jason Lightfoot, who runs a YouTube account called “Living in China,” says that the “alleged labor camps” were in fact reminiscent of the typical buildings that Chinese construction workers live in, and that the BBC had applied gray filters onto the original pictures taken in Xinjiang to create a sense of oppression.
“And just like many other foreigners, Chinese people throughout this country, they’re sick and tired of seeing the state-funded lies being spread of China, and so are hundreds of millions people around the world. And so together we’re speaking up, we’re showing you what it’s actually like here in China, showing you the truth,” said Lightfoot in a video responding to a BBC article accusing him of being one of the people who are “increasingly presenting themselves as China-lovers, spreading Communist Party disinformation.”
On the other hand, the Chinese media has deemed the Western democratic system, specifically the United States, as a destructive force, and that by granting its citizens more freedom, these nations have done more harm than good. Issues on which the Chinese media often attacks the U.S. include the freedom of speech, the rights to bear arms, and the lack of proper regulations during COVID-19, as well as the progressive views of the public towards the LGBTQ community.
Negative footage of the U.S., such as violent incidents, large gatherings during the pandemics, and riots often command the front page of Chinese social media while many other sources painting a positive picture of the U.S. were censored or deleted by the government.
While tensions heightened in the Middle East in October 2021, Chinese media outlets claimed that the U.S. was the biggest “terrorist country” in the world after the U.S. army carried out “anti-terrorism” operations in countries such as Syria, Iran, and Afganistan. In May 2019, Chines journalist Kaiyun Mao posted an article on the Chinese social media platform “Zhihu,” claiming that the U.S. army allegedly went into the Syrian Civil War to combat terrorism, but only ended up encouraging terrorist activities against the Syrian government. He further accused the U.S. of trying to seize political power all over the world with force, saying that the country is a force “more terroristic than terrorists.”
The media has played an increasingly prominent role in the growing conflict between China and the West; disinformation surrounding the opposing sides in news articles has only served to arouse more hatred from the citizens toward their perceived adversary. As diplomatic tensions heighten, tensions between the two sides will continue to build and the impact of media on politics will become even more pronounced and wide-ranging.
By: Jenny Jin