China is well known for denying visas to overly critical and/or hostile journalists. Write too many bad and unfair things about it and you quietly get the boot, while China maintains plausible deniability. “Oops, your visa application seems to have gotten lost yet again, sorry.” Meanwhile, your employer loses its “on the ground presence” and is now saddled with supporting you at home. And while it is China that has gotten the most flak for such policies, this is in fact something that “democratic” countries such the US (anti-imperialists, socialists), Israel (anti-Zionists), and the Ukraine (Russian reporters) practice as well.
I don’t see anything wrong with this. Hateful, surly laowai have no innate, God-given right to sully their host nation’s soil with their propaganda, which in many cases they can produce at home just as easily. And it also seems to work, at least to the extent that the Western media seems to write far fewer calumnies against China than against Russia, which doesn’t systemically practice this (despite my long-standing suggestions that it should).
What is rather weird is stating such policies out loud and dissing that journalist’s country at large, especially when said country happens to be a strategic partner and not an adversary like Canada.
This is what recently happened to Nezavisimaya Gazeta journalists who wrote about the topical issue of China’s slowing growth. According to their account, the Chinese Embassy became aggressively involved, with its press advisor Gou Yunhai demanding the removal of the offending material: “I’ll tell you categorically that you should immediately delete this article from your newspaper’s website, otherwise you will be blacklisted and you will never be allowed to enter China!”
This seems to have been the article in question (“China will infect the Russian economy with a crisis“) that provoked the official’s ire [machine translation]:
Further deceleration is indicated by the February PMI business activity index. Thus, in the services sector, the PMI index was 54.3 points versus 54.7 points in January. And in the industrial sector, it was 49.2 points against the January value of 49.5 points. As a result, in the industrial sector, this index value was the lowest after March 2016, the Prime agency reports, citing data from the State Statistical Office of China.
Unexpected was the fall of the car market inside the PRC, recorded by industry representatives. In January, the Chinese Passenger Car Association reported that car sales in China in 2018 decreased by 6% to 22.7 million. As it was clarified, this is the first decline in car sales in the country in more than 20 years. …
A different opinion is shared by the first vice-president of the Russian Club of Financial Directors, Tamara Kasyanova. According to the expert, if another US president is elected in 2020, the US approach to China may change, there is a chance that these countries will return to the previous level of trade cooperation, and then in 2021 Chinese GDP growth may even accelerate to 9%.
Apart from the sensationalist title – which, in fairness, may have been the only thing that evidently non-Russophone official read – it’s not even some radical text claiming that China is cooking its GDP figures, which is a topic of some considerable interest today, but a simple citation of economic statistics that, so far as I know, China doesn’t even deny.
The official continued: “You’re lying!!! The Chinese economy slowed down???? We last year showed economic growth of more than 6%, and what is your growth???? Russia will become infected by the Chinese economy??? … Only the GDP of one Guangdong province is much larger than the whole of Russia. Where is our social discontent???? I just felt great discontent in Russian society, especially after Putin’s address.”
Incidentally, that is factually wrong. Russia’s GDP [1.6T/3.8T] is higher than Guangdong’s [1.3T/2.3T] in both nominal and PPP terms as of 2017, even though Guangdong is slightly ahead in GDP per capita terms (nominal only).
Now I wouldn’t treat this as some major scandal, since Chinese diplomats are not exactly well known for their diplomatese around the world, so they can be given some leeway on account of that. At the very least, the Chinese do not openly foment treason and color revolution in Moscow, unlike Russia’s “Western partners.” Furthermore, I think there’s a good chance that diplomat will be disciplined. Boorishness aside, you’re not supposed to be open about denying journalists visas, at any rate.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that NG is a moderately liberal publication, and Russian liberals are the most Sinophobic ideological bloc in Russia (with attendant foreign policy implications). I don’t know if Russia should get riled up by the Chinese harassing Russian liberal journalists, with their penchant for apologizing for the US and promoting its interests, to the same extent as it does over Western countries harassing RT or Sputnik.
However, such attitudes may offer a glance into the sort of reality that countries too deeply drawn into the Sinosphere may find themselves in. It’s probably not going to be a nirvana. Free speech will be restricted as it is under the American sphere, if on different topics. Russia is too large and self-contained for that to be a real risk, but things may turn out otherwise for some of the smaller and more dependent South-East Asian and African countries.