China Still Shielding Pyongyang from Domestic Media Criticism

Li Ruigang, head of Shanghai Media Group, was recently summoned to Beijing for a verbal drubbing on account of his company’s critical documentary about North Korea. This of course indicates the limits of criticism, explicit or implicit, of North Korea within China’s political system. Even in relatively open cities like Shanghai, one cannot go too far, and China needs constantly to keep in mind in monitoring its own media that the North Koreans are on guard as well for untoward inferences toward the DPRK in PRC’s ostensibly brotherly media. No matter how many vanilla reports are filed, at some point the dam has to break and the Chinese people are going to get a truer, less anecdotal or simply extrapolated, vision of everyday life in North Korea. Of course for Chinese in the border areas, more information is to be had, but for would-be viewers of the controversial documentaries in Shanghai, it is probably worse than they can imagine.

The penalization of Chinese media figures for investigating North Korea might also be a case of bad timing.  At a time when North Korea appears to have turned back to a conciliatory posture, the CCP leadership is reluctant to “punish” the North further by airing a documentary which would, apparently, add up to a loss of face for Pyongyang.  At the same time, the Chinese leaders might be overestimating the hunger among Chinese elites for hard information about North Korea.  Most people are going about their daily lives and it is unlikely that even a highly critical television program in a once-revolutionary city like Shanghai would cause people in China to mobilize into non-governmental organizations to aid the North Korean people or urge the overthrow of Kim Jong Il.

Documentary draws N Korea’s ire
Staff Reporters
South China Morning Post
29 Aug 2009

A documentary series about North Korea produced by Shanghai Media Group has drawn the ire of Pyongyang, whose complaints to authorities in Beijing have landed the group’s management in hot water. Executives and senior producers from the media group,…read more…

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