- China announced it will deport three Wall Street Journal reporters after a separate writer for the newspaper published what the Chinese government called a “racist statement.”
- The article the Chinese government is referring to is titled, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
- That article, which is largely about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, calls the Communist Party weak, but also invokes the use of a historical phrase many in China deem to be racist.
- This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since the era of Mao Zedong.
China Expels Three WSJ Reporters
The Chinese Government is revoking the visas for three Wall Street Journal reporters after the newspaper ran an opinion piece titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
Denouncing the headline and article as racist, an official with China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the three reporters now have five days to leave the country.
“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” he said.
“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with WSJ and made our solemn position clear,” that official continued. “China demands the WSJ recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable. Meanwhile, we reserve the right to take further actions.”
This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since Mao Zedong’s rule, though the Communist Party did ban a BuzzFeed reporter in 2018 and a different WSJ reporter in 2019.
However, none of those three reporters who are now being expelled from the country wrote that column. In fact, they didn’t have anything to do with it aside from working at the WSJ. The article was actually written by Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russel Mead.
Why Is the Communist Party Calling the Column Racist?
The article, which is about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, begins by challenging the might of the coronavirus against Beijing’s influence and power.
“The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus,” Mead says in the column. “While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.”
The article then continues by calling China’s initial response “less than impressive,” insulting Wuhan’s action by calling it “secretive and self-serving.” Mead also says while the national government reacted vigorously, its response has also been seemingly ineffective at stopping the virus.
He adds that “the performance to date has shaken confidence in the Chinese Communist Party at home and abroad.” Mead ends by saying “that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle.”
While the Chinese Government is no stranger to censoring those critical of it, the article’s headline seemed to strike a different cord.
The term “sick man of Asia” began as a different phrase: “sick man of Europe;” however, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “sick man of Asia” was to describe internal conflict within the Chinese government. That conflict then led to a weakened government. Because of that, China was then forced to sign a number of unequal treaties with imperial powers such as Japan, Russia, and Western powers.
To this day, the phrase is particularly hated in China. In fact, in the 1972 film Fist of Fury, a character portrayed by Bruce Lee smashes and rips up a sign carrying the words “sick man of Asia” while in front of a group of Japanese men.
Chinese Citizens Double Down on Racism Claims
Because of the phrase’s historical use, many Chinese people have also echoed criticisms of racism, saying that the term “sick man” stereotypes them as disease-ridden and unclean.
“…this article will further encourage racism and discriminatory [behavior] towards all Chinese, and possibly all east Asians in the US or outside the country,” one person said in the comments section under Mead’s article.
“Content is not necessarily all wrong but definitely a bit salty – but I get it,” another person said before adding: “However, I must say that the title is quite misleading, if not utterly offensive.”
The WSJ Stands By Its Opinion Department
In a statement, WSJ publisher William Lewis stressed the division between the News and Opinion departments at the newspaper while also criticizing China’s decision to remove the three reporters from its country.
“We are deeply disappointed with today’s announcement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel three Wall Street Journal news reporters,” Lewis said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it.”
In that statement, Lewis also noted the Opinion Department “regularly” publishes pieces that people both agree and disagree with.
“However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst Chinese people, which we regret,” he added.
Lewis then ended his statement by asking China’s Foreign Ministry to reinstate the visas for those three reporters.
Meanwhile, Mead also posting to Twitter, insinuated that he did not write the headline that was ascribed to his article.
“…a word to my new Chinese followers: at American newspapers, writers typically do NOT write or approve the headlines,” Mead said. “Argue with the writer about the article content, with the editors about the headlines.”
U.S. Labels Major Chinese Media Outlets as Government Operatives
The Chinese Government’s decision to expel the reporters comes one day after U.S. State Department labeled five major Chinese state-run media outlets as government operatives.
Those five outlets include Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily.
“There is no dispute that all five of these entities are part of the [Chinese] party-state propaganda news apparatus and they take their orders directly from the top,” an unnamed State Department official told reporters.
“We all know these guys have been state-controlled forever, but that control has gotten stronger over time, and it’s far more aggressive,” that reporter added.
Now, employees of those agencies will be required by the State Department to register as consular staff, though the U.S. has noted that it won’t impede their reporting activities.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (South China Morning Post) (NPR)
South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys
The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.
The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.
The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.
At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.
The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.
Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.
Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.
BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.
Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.
The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.
Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.
See what others are saying: (Yonhap News) (The Korea Times) (All Kpop)
Over 1 Million Chinese Displaced After Record Rainfall
The rain has created waist-high waters throughout the capital of China’s Henan province, drastically affecting the lives of its over 10 million inhabitants.
Trapped in a Flood
The Henan province of central China experienced severe rainfall over the last week that has left at least 25 dead and displaced more than 1.2 million people due to severe flooding, according to figures released by Chinese authorities Wednesday.
Meteorologists claim that the sudden, severe rainfall is caused by Typhoon In-Fa colliding with a high-pressure system over Henan province.
The floods have forced people to wade through waist-high water throughout Zhengzhou, the region’s capital. In one tragic incident Monday, 12 people died after they were trapped in the subway amid rising waters. A similar situation occurred Tuesday, causing multiple lines to be trapped in chest-high water for up to three hours before rescue workers managed to save them. Since then, metro authorities have shut down many of Zhengzhou’s rail lines.
Between Monday and Tuesday alone, Zhengzhou was hit with an estimated 25 inches of rain, equating to about 87% of its average annual rainfall. At one point, seven inches of rain occurred in less than an hour.
In an effort to alleviate rising waters, authorities breached a nearby dam to release floodwaters on Tuesday, although it’s unclear how much that helped as many dams and rivers in the region have overflowed for days.
Elsewhere in Henan, villages have been cut off by landslides and flooding, killing at least four others and leaving some areas without power for more than 24 hours.
Long Recovery Ahead
The region was finally able to begin recovery efforts Wednesday as conditions have begun to die down.
Despite reduced rainfall, the situation has still proven to be dire, leading President Xi Jinping to issue a statement through state media ordering authorities to give top priority to people’s safety and property.
In total, more than 17,000 firefighters have been mobilized for rescue efforts, as well as local volunteers and other rescue crews from other provinces.
Chinese companies have rushed to donate money to help the affected communities, and so far over $300 million has been donated.
It’s likely that for some time, hundreds of thousands in the region will be left without homes as authorities begin the work of ensuring that buildings are safe to return to.
See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (BBC) (The New York Times)
Toyota Largely Pulls Olympic Sponsorship Ads Amid Calls for Games To Be Canceled
Locals in Japan are particularly worried about the spread of COVID-19 among athletes at the densely packed Olympic village, something that has already happened despite assurances that it wouldn’t.
Tainted View on Olympics
The Olympic Games continued to face controversy Monday after Toyota, one of the event’s largest sponsors, announced that it would not air any commercials featuring the Olympics in Japan.
The news may come as a surprise since companies often view their ties to one of the world’s largest sporting events as a major selling point and public relations win. However, Toyota’s decision to distance itself instead highlights a growing trend among brands and locals who view the Games as a semi-toxic subject, especially in Japan where most of the population would like the Games canceled or postponed.
The controversy around the Olympic Games largely revolves around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to host the Games despite rising cases in Japan, concerns about new variants of the virus, and low vaccination rates due to a slow rollout.
Despite Toyota’s recent decision, the company has provided invaluable support to organizers of the Games, including over 3,000 vehicles to transport athletes, crews, and staff. Additionally, the company continues to showcase individual Olympic athletes that it directly sponsors in competitions on its website.
Cardboard “Anti-Sex” Beds
Growing COVID concerns have many on edge, often causing jokes to be taken seriously and spread as misinformation. One such case involved the decision by organizers to use cardboard beds for athletes. Paul Chelimo, from the United States’ track and field team, joked on Twitter, “Beds to be installed in Tokyo Olympic Village will be made of cardboard, this is aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes.”
“Beds will be able to withstand the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sports. I see no problem for distance runners, even 4 of us can do.”
While many understood the statement to be a joke, outlets quickly ran with the sentiment that the beds were actually designed to prevent sex between athletes. Headlines from publications like the New York Post, for instance, read, “Athletes to sleep on ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds at Olympic Games amid COVID.”
The situation was largely put to rest after Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan posted a video jumping on the beds to prove they were perfectly suited for any activity. Officials at the Games went on to clarify that the decision to use cardboard was because it was a cheap, sustainable option that was easy to dispose of after the games without creating much waste.
The fact that the cardboard beds might prove awkward for athletes to use for sex could be a happy accident for the Olympic organizers, as they’ve made it clear that they don’t want attendees having sex to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They’ve even gone so far as to threaten athletes who have sex during the games with penalties.
In an effort to further dissuade athletes from hanging outside of their dorms or with others, the use of alcohol has largely been banned. Athletes are allowed to have it in their rooms but are supposed to enjoy it while alone.
For many, proof that the Games can’t be protected against COVID-19 has already presented itself, despite assurances from organizers like IOC president Thomas Bach — who said there was “Zero” risk of transmission between athletes and Japanese staff. At least 61 people at the Olympic village have reported contracting COVID since arriving, including at least one U.S. athlete and Japanese workers at the village.
Non-political Games Rocked by Political Tit-for-Tats
The Games have also been rocked with other problems, especially involving Japan and its neighbors.
Korea was forced to take down flags that it had hung from its Olympic Village dorms that read “I still have the support of 50 million Korean people.” The phrase was borrowed from Korean Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, who said, “I still have 12 battleships left,” prior to a lopsided 16th-century naval victory against Japan in the Imjin War.” The phrasing drew outrage from right-wing Japanese groups who asked the International Olympic Committee to have Korea remove the quasi-political statement.
Korea agreed, but only if Japan agreed to use the Rising Sun flag, a standard used by Imperial-era Japan and the Japanese Navy. It’s also one that is often viewed by many East Asians as a symbol as controversial as the Nazi flag is for Westerners.