New soft-power media spring up everywhere

The New York Times reports a Chinese state-run English-language on-line media start-up aimed at pushing a warm, cuddly, positive-energy, soft-power, not-propaganda-NYT-DigitalPaperat-all message to the world. I immediately (vaguely, blearily) suppose the story is about the South China Morning Post, which became part of the Beijing-friendly Alibaba group as of 6.00pm yesterday. But no, it’s about Sixth Tone (Mandarin, five tones, geddit?), an offshoot of The Paper. (Note that it’s .com not .cn – subtle, persuasive and seductive or what?)

Once you get past the usual over-designed format, it’s relaxed, approachable and eager to be liked. It fearlessly tackles safe stuff like domestic violence. But it inevitably tiptoes around sensitive matters – for example, discussing the Central Leading Group on Comprehensive Deepening Reform without mentioning Xi Jinping, for whom it is a tool to grab yet greater personal power, this time at the expense of (also unmentioned) Li Keqiang.

Sixth Tone is a big step away from the Han-supremacist, Sino-skinhead, semi-psychotic Global Times to something more ‘Late 1980s Singapore Edgy’. One article asks why South Korea can produce glamorous hunk-filled military TV soaps, while Chinese army-themed dramas are such unbelievable crap – the question, and answer, being a metaphor for Sixth Tone’s own predicament ultimately under the control of censors and a Leninist one-party state.

So, the new no-paywall Jack Ma-owned SCMP

SCMP-JackiePanamaI was wrong yesterday in saying the paper did not mention the Panama Papers in its print edition. My eyes are authorized to skim over celebrity stories without informing the brain, and so I missed the Jackie Chan-angled report at the bottom of page 3 of the City section, classified as ‘investigation’. It concluded with a paragraph dismissing the Chinese leadership’s part in the saga as stale, reported in its pages long ago, and thus not worth further burdening readers with. Sniff.

Today, the paper carries standard wire services’ copy on the story. We can put the confusion down to SCMP staffers’ understandable excitement as the new bosses were taking over, and joining with the old regime in announcing a bonus for everyone. For no very obvious reason, the print edition has shuffled things around, with the sports now appearing in the business section. Otherwise, everything seems eerily similar – reminiscent, perhaps, of the atmosphere throughout Hong Kong on July 2, 1997.

One thing that hasn’t changed: godawful puke-inducing real-estate ads…


…featuring such gems as endorsements from the boss of Sa Sa and a ‘descendent of the Hysan Development family’…


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16 Responses to New soft-power media spring up everywhere

  1. PD says:

    Classic Hemlock! (though I was always taught that Mandarin had four tones)

    Sixth Tone looks like a dumbed-down Sky News, but without the meaty bits.

  2. Enid Fenby says:

    The Post completely missed the point about the Kwoks today, which was scandalous. The real point is whether Thomas continued to be a director whist he was disqualified. The details are in the original Guardian article. The Post article is sheer disinformation. The original Guardian article is proudly on NTSCMP.

  3. Probably says:

    Just tried the new SCMP site with an open mind and it is reasonably user friendly with a decent amount of reading (although as you rightly say, this is just ‘soft power’ by another name).

    Only one thing… as the app updated on my tablet I repeatedly received screen warnings of ‘SSL certificate error’. Not being IT savvy, does this mean ‘seriously stupid lefties’ or ‘a(s)senine (s)censor located’. Either way, assuming they have downloaded cookies onto my device is this just going to make it easier for the PRC authorities to kidnap after I write to the letters page under a pseudonym?

  4. LRE says:

    @PD On tones — sort of. Mandarin has 4 tones (high flat, low to high, high to low to high, and high to low) and then there’s the tone-with-no-tone, which wears a poncho, smokes cheroots and gets into gunfights a lot over people insulting mules and supporting Watford FC.

    I love how the SCMP is so proud of removing the alleged “paywall” and yet remains so massively clueless about their own business and competitors — “The removal of the SCMP’s paywall goes against the global trend of newspapers charging customers for articles they read online.”

    Yes, SCMP, it’s such a tragedy that you can’t read The Guardian or The Times or The NY Times or the Washington Post the Huffington Post online for free. Oh wait…

  5. Headache says:

    The fetid wumao pit that is the SCMP comments section is only liable to get worse from here. What’s perhaps more disturbing is that the paper’s columnists and editorial writers increasingly seem to think its contents actually represent the ordinary reader’s views. With the viewpoints from above and below coming neatly into alignment, what chance do its few remaining independent, critical thinkers have? I wanted to believe the SCMP was capable of better things but I’ve pretty much given it up in favour of EJI and HKFP.

  6. reductio says:

    Please, Hemlock, can you incorporate a warning of some kind before you present such disturbing items as Doctor (and don’t you forget it) Simon Kwok’s effulgent outburts . I was reading while eating and now look what’s happened.

  7. WTF says:

    PD, LRE’s referring to the gutteral, applied to particles in and to some of the second characters in two character word constructs.

  8. Knownot says:

    Dr Simon Kwok and Marie-Christine Lee-Louey came to visit me.

    “We were delighted by everything we saw and heard in our host’s building, above all the intimacy and comfort. The small lift, in which five people stood in friendly proximity, opens onto a cosy windowless lobby on our host’s floor, where we were pleased to see eight delicate iron gates, each distinctive in its own way.

    “The front door of his flat opens, revealing at once a large refrigerator, imaginatively placed in the living-room, although our host explained that it was the developer’s own bold idea to make the kitchen so small.

    “That is why there is such a spacious living/dining-room and we were astonished to be told that this was achieved in a flat little over 400 sq ft in size! We opened the windows and were charmed to hear birdsong, alternating with the peaceful buzz of a drill in a nearby flat …”

  9. Headache says:

    The SCMP’s Facebook stream today is an exemplar of the wumao mindset and what we can expect from the Post going forward: little or nothing informative or critical on China; diversionary stories on problems occurring elsewhere; and fluff pieces on food, weather, etc.

    Mentions of the Panama Papers:
    – PPs reveal big holes in US enforcement
    – Kwok bros in Australian detention centre scandal
    – British PM Cameron blah blah offshore funds

    And miscellany:
    – Alex Lo’s latest diatribe about civil unrest in HK
    – First Chinese to win children’s book award credits motherland
    – Singapore is hanging a Malaysian

  10. pie-chucker says:

    The Times (UK) severely paywalled, LRE.

  11. PD says:

    LRE/wtf/GA, It sounds like the two extra “tones” in Cantonese that aren’t tones at all. How about a smidgen of detail, like low/middle/high, or descending etc (rather than simply: gutterel), or, if you’re feeling up to it, even a diagram?

  12. PCC says:

    The cynical mindset reflected in many of the comments ejaculated upon this otherwise respectable blog is simply appalling! They are digital carbuncles on the face of an old friend!

    On a personal note, like many other canny investors (banish from your mind the indelicate term “speculator”) I was ineluctably entranced by the Morgan Entrance and instructed my Indonesian amah to immediately purchase two flats sight unseen on my account and, as a consequence, have already enjoyed a 3% return today on my investment and am feeling better about myself already. Oh yes!

    Take that you irredeemable and unpatriotic Philistines! See you at the Rugby!

  13. Joe Blow says:

    The Phoenix property development company was founded by a Hysan Lee scion (forgot the twat’s name). So, by featuring Marie-Antoinette in their ad (a ‘descendent of the Hysan Development family’…), they are really keeping it in the family.

  14. Cassowary says:

    Every damn thing in this town is a property ad. It’s inescapable. I know a guy who does aerial drone videography for a living. That’s about as hipsterish and alternative as you can get for a job, without running craft beer tavern. Half of his jobs are property ads. Apparently all the developers want you to see their soulless, extruded, pink-tiled, be-podiumed hulking monstrosities from really high up. I’m sure they erase the ugly factory/tenement/container dump next to it in post.

  15. WTF says:

    PD. This is Hong Kong. Are you qualified to speak “proper” Cantonese?

    First I’d need to know that you come from a long line of patriots who founded the family fortune on selling opium.

    Then you’d have prove you rigged a few bids and abase yourself before London pre’97 and Beijing post’97. Gas chromatography tests showing the age and origin of grit captured in the shoe polish layers built up on your tongue is the usual method of proof.

    Then (this is the tricky part, because it’s currently moving target, changing domicile from Panama) you’d have to wire cleaned funds to Eddie Ng’s private corporation. Then and only then should I pass out the secret diagrams from the Education Dept. on how to speak proper Cantonese like a real sycophant (Latin abbreviation for “Hong Kong political appointee”).

    If you want to speak like all the Hakka, Tiechu, Fukin, and other non-native speakers who some how get it done in this town, then go to any dim sum restaurant and learn the one critical tone, Shout. Practice shouting, as loud as you can while trying to maintain a normal conversation, just like the rest of us. Do it on the bus, on the train, in the park, while hiking in nature (in this case, bring your ghetto blaster with Cantonese Opera) so you’ll not get lazy about the shouting part). Soon you’ll be right at home, as mis-understood as the rest of the people in this town. This certainly explains why the government can never get it right, no?

  16. Tom says:

    17 (seventeen) sponsored articles today on awesome Zhengzhou

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