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Social channels give alternative to media misinformation

A FORMER BBC reporter tried to politicize the tragic recent fire in Beijing by claiming that it was being covered up – there was no press coverage or videos or chat posts, Vivian Wu announced on Twitter.

Except people in China are quite smart now.

They quickly found lots of references to the fire in the press and in video format, and in social media chat posts.

This report can be read as a text article (scroll down) or watched as a video (below).

 “Have to say that it is not true,” replied Jack Huang, politely. “Domestic Media coverage of this unfortunate incident is prompt and broad.”

“I found eight media reports in one search,” said Mu Gong.

A quick check of timestamps showed that the press, including the People’s Daily, were reporting the story well BEFORE Ms Wu posted her allegation that there was a news blackout.

One reader noticed that the video Ms Wu posted herself contained a Weibo logo, showing that it was being circulated on China’s massively popular chat site before she wrote her post.

So the real takeaway is this:

These days, it’s much harder for western mainstream media to do their whole “China is dystopia” schtick – because ordinary people will actually do what journalists are supposed to do – actual research and fact-checking.

But you know, I think most journalists are not bad people – they are just prone to confirmation bias. Yes, China, like most Asian countries, has a less adversarial, much more moderated media than the west—and they make the assumption this is bad. West is best, and one size fits all.

This is classic western binary thinking, and here’s something to ponder. As the 13 per cent of humanity that lives in the west becomes less culturally dominant, will a more open attitude come to dominant human thinking? That would be nice.

Ines Laimins, actor and former Hong Kong resident

In related news, former Hong Kong resident Ines Laimins went viral yesterday after making a social media post saying that she felt safer in Hong Kong and Mainland China than she did in the United States – a country to which she has just returned.

“After living in Asia for the past 35 years, I’ve returned to a very disturbing and changed America,” she said.  Her opinion quickly got more than 49,000 views, with people from a range of cultures agreeing with her.

Ms Laimins, who speaks Mandarin, has appeared in both Chinese and English-language movies.

She came to China in 1986 and fell in love with the place.

Lots of voices sprang up to echo her point.

“I have been visiting China for 27 years and lived and worked in Tianjin for 15 yrs and I enjoyed every minute of my experience. NEVER was I concerned about my personal safety,” said retired forester Jon Reed.

Sabrina, a Youtuber based in China reinforced the point, and so did Morten, a popular Twitter voice from Danish roots.

But there are fears that violence is being brought to the region: news broke of 200 US troops being sent to Taiwan. Western politicians and journalists are stirring up tensions there in a bid to break the peaceful status quo which has lasted many decades.

“This must stop,” Ms Laimans said. “If we left well enough alone there would be no issue. I know both China and Taiwan and have lived in both countries, travelled and worked in both, over the past 35 years. I know US intervention can only make things worse.”

Alan Watson, a dietician, was one of many who agreed: “The US is targeting China for a war, he said.

Remember 2003? Western politicians and media clamoured for a war – but ordinary people were against it. The war turned out to be a really bad idea. Let’s hope the west doesn’t make the same mistake a second time.

Image at the top is a screenshot from Twitter.

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