Bill Gertz, the classic “dragon-slayer” reporter for the Washington Times, has made a successful career out of emphasizing Chinese defensive buildups since the early 1990s. Gertz has a big audience and, as an individual, has more influence over how China appears on, say CNN and FOX News than your average reporter. Because his stuff tends to be sensational, he’s far, far more explosive with his headlines than the New York Times reporters Edward Wong or Andrew Jacobs.
But sometimes he just doesn’t read the original sources which he himself quotes.
On February 10, I found myself reading this article by Gertz in the Washington Times.
(Along with scanning the Times every so often, I also make an effort to follow what is being said about China on Fox News. Did you know Sarah Palin works for Fox, and, according to this fabulous left-wing French newspaper article , is both “sexy and teflon” and has engaged in a “calculated seduction” of the U.S. electorate? These are the things one can learn by watching Fox while reading newspapers founded by French communists — you can’t do this in China, people!)
Gertz asserts the following [bracketed caveats by me]:
China’s military stepped up pressure on the United States on Monday by calling for [consideration of] a government sell-off of U.S. debt securities in retaliation for recent arms sales to Taiwan.
A group of senior Chinese military officers also said in state-controlled media interviews that Beijing’s leaders should boost defense spending and expand force deployments in the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement last month of a new $6.4 million arms package for the island state claimed by Beijing.
Senior officers from the Chinese National Defense University and Academy of Military Sciences made what some view as an economic warfare threat, something outlined in past military writings.
The comments by Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu and Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan and Senior Col. Ke Chunqiao appeared in the state-run Outlook Weekly [Liaowang /瞭望] magazine, part of the Xinhua News Agency, published in Beijing on Monday.
Gen. Luo warned that China could attack the U.S. “by oblique means and stealthy feints,” and he called for retaliation for the arms sale.
“For example, we could sanction them using economic means, such as dumping some U.S. government bonds,” Gen. Luo said.
“Our retaliation should not be restricted to merely military matters, and we should adopt a strategic package of counterpunches covering politics, military affairs, diplomacy and economics to treat both the symptoms and root cause of this disease,” said Gen. Luo, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences.
“Wow”, you think, “this is provocative stuff,” until you realize that Gertz is just taking the quotes directly from this Reuters dispatch by Chris Buckley entitled “PLA Officers Urge Economic Punch Against U.S.”
So then you read the Reuters dispatch, and spend about 15 minutes digging up a Chinese version of the article upon which the Reuters article is based in its entirety, and you find long passages in the original article, entitled 《瞭望》：以战略组合拳反制美对台军售, like this:
Take a look at the original article and you will realize that the entire Reuters story, which was then picked up by Bill Gertz and goes directly to Fox and CNN, is hatched out of one man’s reading — Chris Buckley’s very brief reading, to be precise — of what is Liaowang’s magazine’s very, very long article. Of which the interview with PLA officers is but a part, and which has got a ton or two of context highlighting the need for a solid U.S.-China relationship. And Bill Gertz didn’t seem to take any effort to read the thing. As you can see for yourself (using a Google translator if you so choose), the article itself takes great pains to cover all kinds of ground about the need for Sino-U.S. cooperation, why Obama can partially be forgiven for the arms sales to Taiwan because he’s just trying to save 8,000 jobs with Lockheed Martin and Ratheon, etc. But we don’t get that: we just get the money quotes and that’s all we need to know: China considers blowing up US financial system! PLA officers get belligerent! And Bill Gertz keeps his cash flow intact, and why shouldn’t he? Everyone’s got a right to whip up fear of China; the problem comes when there is absolutely no factual backstop against that fear and the “facts” peddled by Gertz and the Washington Times stand unchallenged. Did anyone read a single story about the Taiwan arms sales in the Western press that had anything not to do with China’s unreasonable ire?
When is the CIA or the Defense Department going to open up their own translations of this and other articles for the general public to read so that schmucks like me don’t have spend hours slogging through the sources that the reporters allegedly read, yet give no evidence of having read? Ridiculous. But perhaps the lack of transparency is precisely the point. You can have your mob, Bill Gertz, I just need to get me an army of translators…
哎呀! No sooner is this rapped into the keyboard than one mean linguistically-capable and blessedly-eclectic army of six arrives on the Western flank: Sinoglot, which I recommend to anyone interested in the many wonderful forks in the Chinese tongue. Gertz, your exertions shall soon be matched…