China also “Swept” by Hurricane Sandy

This week, as Hurricane Sandy swept the U.S. east coast, China’s state media have carried out intensive reports on the disaster, stirring up debate over the reasons and necessity of such massive coverage in China. Chinese media expert He Hui sees the coverage of Sandy as an important opportunity to implement the “going out” strategy. From David Bandurski at China Media Project:

Chinese media have been blanketed this week with coverage of Hurricane Sandy, the storm that battered the mid-Atlantic region of the United States on October 29 and 30. Since October 30, 1,290 articles on Hurricane Sandy have appeared in mainland media. That includes 709 newspaper stories, 171 wire stories and 410 web stories [Source: WiseNews].

[…] In yesterday’s edition of the Chinese-language Global Times, He Hui (何辉), head of the Public Relations and Public Opinion Institute of the Communication University of China, writes that, yes, Hurricane Sandy is an important story for Chinese media.

[…] The Global Times editorial makes a rather typical, out-of-the-box Party argument (in line with the CCP “soft power” mainstream) that Chinese media should try to accommodate the demands of foreign audiences in order to expand their reach while at the same time maintaining “a Chinese position.

However, ordinary Chinese are not buying the story, especially when it squeezes out coverage on domestic issues, such as the Ningbo PX protests. Some Weibo user chafe at an apparent double standard used by CCTV in Hurricane Sandy and Ningbo PX coverage. From Ed Flanagan at NBC News:

[…A]s a popular online cartoonist who goes by the pen name “Murong Aoao” sardonically put it: “CCTV is an excellent American media company.”

In a cartoon that has been shared more than 50,000 times on Weibo, Murong paints what appears to be a CCTV reporter or government employee pointing to what is assumed is the United States while calling out, “Look! His house is on fire!” all while he himself is ablaze.

[…] State media was allegedly warned not to cover the story and when thousands flocked to the streets of Ningbo to peacefully protest the plant, only foreign media could be seen in the city reporting on the gatherings, sparking applause from grateful locals.

“CCTV sends lots of correspondents to the U.S. to report on Sandy,” complained one irate user. “Why don’t they have time for Ningbo, but plenty for America?”

Other hot comments on weibo link the massive coverage of the hurricane with family members of high officials residing overseas. ChinaSMACK rounds up such satirical weibo posts:

I think we shouldn’t criticized CCTV for its extensive coverage of the America’s Hurricane Sandy situation. So many children and relatives of government leaders, including the children of the various big and small leaders within CCTV itself, are all studying abroad or working in America, with New York and the East Coast further being where many leaders’ children are concentrated. With a hurricane this big, if CCTV doesn’t report it, would you have the leaders go watch English CNN? The leaders are also parents, with the long-suffering heart of parents, right? What CCTV is doing is a good thing.

[…] There are a lot of very outstanding Chinese people and America has the world’s best higher educational institutions, the largest economic system, so Chinese-Americans excelling there is a good thing. Even if their parents used to be corrupt officials or unscrupulous businessmen, of bad backgrounds and guilty of serious wrongdoing, if their next generation being in American can be infected by the ideals of freedom and democracy, then use their various efforts to give back to China, that too is a good thing…

[…] When government leaders check the weather reports, first they look at Beijing, second New York, third Sydney. Definitely a view of the whole world.

Avid fans of international relations may echo the analysis of Washington Post’s Max Fishier on a weibo post mocking a diplomatic tone:

[…T]his one comment, from a Sichuan-based Weibo user named @wangfei20, really struck me:

As to the dispute between the United States and Sandy, we do not take a position. We hope that both sides see the situation clearly, see peace and unity as the main aim, and manage their previous conflicts.

[…] The joke is a reference to a State Department spokesman’s statement in July about a small chain of uninhabited islands that both China and Japan claim: “The U.S. policy does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, and we expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means among themselves.”

[…] This Weibo jokester, in drawing a parallel between the island dispute and hurricane Sandy, seems to be highlighting the absurdity of the U.S. declaration that it “takes no position.”

Despite the online wording game carnival, some businessmen also have their eyes glued on the profit-steering hurricane. From Jibeibei at Global Times:

“We dispatched 3,700 power generator units for household use on Monday alone,” said Leng Wenqiang, general manager of the sales department at the Chongqing RATO Power Co. in Southwest China.

Leng told a local paper, the Chongqing Morning Post, that he expected the dispatch volume for early November to increase by 30 percent month-on-month. Ordinarily the company dispatches 15,000 to 20,000 units a month to its US clients.

[…] International airports in New York have been almost entirely closed since Monday and won’t open until Wednesday morning local time, and flights from Shanghai to New York by China Eastern Airlines have also been canceled.

Industry insiders in China said that fuel prices had been expected to fall in November, after an extended plunge in international oil prices, however this price reduction may be disrupted by the arrival of Sandy.

For more roundups of online opinions in China about Hurricane Sandy, see Chinese Web Users’ Funny and Disturbing Responses to Sandy’s Impact, via Tea Leaf Nation. See also a Sandy-related cartoon in this week’s edition of CDT’s Drawing the News.