There is nothing new about Global Times’ pouring gasoline onto the flames of ignorant anti-foreigner rage. So I’d like to advise our readers to bear that in mind when you proceed to read this blog post. When I first read this Global Times report, I intended to disregard it, as I usually disregard everything published in that Chinese tabloid equivalent of the Nazi Party’s Voelkische Beobachter. This time, however, my co-blogger Ned Kelly has convinced me to write a post about it, just so that our readers will be more informed about why and how public opinion is manipulated in China. Articles like this one will never make their way to the English language newspapers published in China. The Communist Party’s US-based public relations agent would have weeded them out.
Global Times conducted an online survey in response to Rio Tinto’s move to recall all its research staff from China. The online survey contains only one leading question, which reads: “Do you agree that Rio Tinto staff and its senior management of exploration should be temporarily restrained from leaving this country?”
In a subsequent report published this morning, Global Times claims that 91.6% of respondents approved of stopping Rio Tinto staff from leaving China, 6.5% disapproved and 1.9% abstained.
Global Times also quoted netizens’ comments in the report to indicate that Rio Tinto’s announcement of recalling its staff has been interpreted as an admission of guilt. Some netizens are advocating the detention of Rio Tinto staff as a revenge against the US for the conviction of Dongfan Greg Chung, a former Boeing engineer who has been found guilty of stealing space shuttle secrets for China. Chung’s conviction has been interpreted in China as a case of miscarriage of justice. Incidentally, I also noticed that the news about Rio Tinto has now been placed “strategically” next to the news about Chung’s conviction.
What is this telling us? From what I can see, the Chinese authorities have not been able to find any evidence against the Rio Tinto staff now under detention. Rio Tinto’s refusal to back down and the Australian Government’s stepping up of international pressure are creating further complications for the industry regulator China Iron and Steel Association (CISA). If Gordon Chang’s prediction is correct (and he usually is), some members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee are already using the Rio Tinto scandal as a pretence to launch a full scale investigation into the iron and steel industry. China’s top organ of political power has a track record of using charges of high-level corruption to sideline adversaries. The way Global Times attempts to manipulate the incident for a domestic audience has all the typical signs of how struggles within the Chinese Communist Party are usually handled. As Gordon Chang has put it: “Chinese leaders seem to be knifing each other at this moment, and they probably don’t care what foreigners think. This is not a particularly good time to be doing business with, or in, China.”