China Steel Body under Fire, Govt Support Seen Waning

Reuters reports:

The China Iron and Steel Association, which is leading annual iron ore price talks, has sought this year to impose its will on an industry it accuses of undermining its demand for a bigger price cut. Its calls for more control over import pricing and licensing are so far unheeded by Beijing.

A commentary carried by the prominent China Youth Daily on Wednesday said the association was going way beyond its remit by seeking to impose a “unified” iron ore price on the industry.

“Pricing and purchasing are part of enterprises’ business freedom. If a firm can buy iron ore at a price lower than the ‘national unified price’, why should CISA or the NDRC not allow it to buy?” it said.

The more critical tone is a change from earlier reports on the negotiations, as well as the detention of Rio Tinto (RIO.L)(RIO.AX) iron ore traders, when most Chinese media portrayed CISA as protecting the national interest.

Danwei has a lengthy post today looking at Chinese media coverage of the Rio Tinto case:

The Chinese media has been no less eager to cover the Rio Tinto case. Yet one might assume that in matters of national security, it would simply act as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government.

[…] However, a closer look reveals that the Chinese media has produced more diversified commentary on the case. Through the website of the state-run Xinhua News Agency, one finds a vast quantity of articles from different journals that discuss its legal, commercial, and political implications. While there is criticism of Rio Tinto and the suspects, there is also a great deal of introspection about the problems of China’s legal system and the structural inadequacies of the steel import sector. On a broader level, the case has fueled debate about Sino-Australian relations and Western media depictions of China. These debates illustrate that Chinese attitudes toward the West continue to sway ambivalently between hardline and liberal opinion.

Following on the heels of the Green Dam scandal, the Hubei pedicurist murder case, and the Xinjiang riots, the Rio Tinto case offers a further opportunity to scrutinize China’s media in the post-Olympic era.

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