Front Page of the Day
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Friday, January 23, 2009 at 3:12 PM
At a press conference yesterday, China's National Bureau of Statistics announced GDP figures for 2008.
Most of today's newspapers reported the key numbers, which included an annual growth rate of 9%, a fourth-quarter growth rate of 6.8%, and an annual CPI growth rate of 5.9%.
The majority of papers led with some variation on the neutral headline "Last year's GDP grew 9%". Some chose to highlight absolute figures, as in the Beijing Morning Post's declaration, "Last year's GDP broke 30 trillion," while others took more of a local focus, as in the Chinese Business View's reporting of the numbers for Shaanxi Province: "15.6%: Seven years of continuous high growth for the provincial GDP."
On the negative side of things, the Southern Metropolis Daily and The Beijing News noted that 9% was a seven-year low for GDP growth.
Both newspapers are ventures of the Southern Media Group, which occupies the liberal end of the spectrum of Chinese media. Last April, commentary it published in the wake of the Lhasa riots sparked a massive flame war that pitted "angry youth" who frequent nationalist-leaning forums against China's liberal press. Wen Feng (aka. Mei Ninghua, president of the Beijing Daily Group), wrote an op-ed for the Beijing Evening News at the height of the controversy that delivered a concise summary of Southern Media Group's reputation, chock-full of ironic scare-quotes:
The Beijing News, which is operated through a partnership with the Guangming Daily (headline: "2008 Gross Domestic Product Increases 9%"), ran with this headline at the top of the page:
A similar headline was used in the group's flagship newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily:
On the other side of the aisle is the Global Times, a sibling of the People's Daily that often gets called "nationalistic" or even "jingoistic." Here's the headline and first paragraph of that paper's defiant front page report:
The article goes on to cite doom and gloom predictions from The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, The Times of London, and The Los Angeles Times.
By framing the debate over the meaning of China's GDP numbers as yet another us-versus-them argument in which domestic cheerleaders face off against global forces eager to see China fail, the Global Times misrepresents the Chinese media as speaking with one voice and ignores the real differences of opinion that do exist.
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