China: Propaganda Against U.S. Ambassador Backfires

Since the escape of blind civic rights activist Chen Guangcheng into the U.S embassy, the U.S Ambassador Gary Locke has become the major target for media attack in Bejing. However, so far each piece of political propaganda has resulted in a backfire.

A number of state-controlled newspapers are involved in the propaganda campaign but Beijing Daily is the most high sounding one. On May 4, 2012 it published an editorial, “Reading the Measly Performance of U.S. Politicians through the Chen Guangcheng Affair” and openly criticized Gary Locke for playing “little tricks” (via China Media Project):

. . . It must be said that for some time, the American Embassy in China and the new U.S ambassador to China, Gary Locke, have used various means that are incommensurate with their roles and responsibilities — their “little tricks” have continued unabated. This causes people to ask, is it the role of this ambassador to do his utmost to advance the U.S.-China relationship, bridge gaps and eliminate misunderstandings, or is it to hatch schemes and bound out into Chinese society to make trouble, manufacturing new and greater fissures between China and the United States.

Many netizens were outraged by such propaganda and attacked the newspapers for losing their consciences. By 8 p.m on May 4, the term “Beijing Daily” (北京日報) had become unsearchable [zh]. The political spoof below, a imitation of political prosecution during the Cultural Revolution, reflects the popular sentiment towards the Chinese propaganda machine's attack on Gary Locke (via China Media Project). The photo's caption read: “The only way out for Ambassador Locke is to be whole-hearted corrupt!”:

Gary Locke's little trick. Via China Media Project

The latest round of attack by Beijing Daily came through its official Sina Weibo account on May 14 demanding that Gary Locke disclose his personal assets. China Media Project has translated some of the immediate responses from Sina Weibo:

@Liu Yadong [zh]: No matter whether its praise or criticism your dishing out, it must be based on a deep understanding of the other side. Seen from a many sides, Beijing Daily‘s demand that Gary Locke disclose his personal finances is a basic error. It shows a basic lack of understanding of American society: how can that country’s top politicians possibly keep their personal assets secret! To openly make such a childish demand perhaps also reveals the closed-up nature of this newspaper, its lack of international perspective. This is a lesson!

@Zhao Chu [zh]: Beijing Daily is a joke. For them to make a joke like this just shows they’re a bunch of stupid pigs at the top.

In early morning the next day, the newspapers removed its comment and re-post the same comment by adding a re-post in front of the message [deleted]. It continued to attract a lot of criticism. The China Media Project has captured and translated some from the comment thread:

@半拉北京人: His assets were disclosed back in 2010. Why doesn’t he teach Chinese official how to disclose [their assets]?

@辣笔小飞: Beijing Daily, are you really dumb, or just playing dumb? You think that just by having this title “Beijing” to back you up you can lead public opinion astray?

@无梦的八戒: Of course Gary Locke’s personal assets have been disclosed. And what about the assets of those imperial officials [of ours]?

@天恩0120: Oh, editors and comrades of Beijing Daily, how are you? How tough things are for you. It’s just that the residence of the Ambassador and the cars he rides in are about the image of America. No matter how we try to refine the idea of whether or not Gary Locke is corrupt, there’s the looming issue of our leaders living in Zhongnanhai. And how much more resplendent are those official residences? Why don’t you have a look.

@老男人的小日子: “What about that post asking Locke to disclose his assets? How was that deleted? How humiliating for the Party!

In less than an hour or so, the post was removed again. However, it couldn't stop netizens from laughing about its self-humiliating move:


@wh_w [zh]: I seriously suspect that Bejing Daily is run by mentally retarded or it has been bribed. I don't want to comment on Locke's intention. But please don't expose the dirt/corruption in our own country by comparing with others. Our country is still backward in many aspects.


@buckforland [zh]: Beijing Daily is quite hilarious. It just punched its own face.

lpcysy:纽约时报:我们美国多民主,可以公开要求骆家辉公布财产 北京日报:我们中国也民主,可以公开要求骆家辉公布财产

@lpcysy [zh]: New York Times: We Americans have democracy and can demand that Gary Locke publicize his personal assets. Beijing daily: We Chinese also have democracy and can demand that Gary Locke publicize his personal assets.


@haistone1 [zh]: We should thank Beijing Daily for humiliating itself to raise the public's concern on the need to be more transparent regarding Chinese government officials’ personal assets.

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