Journalist Expulsions and Beijing’s Counterterrorism Narrative

2015 was supposedly a triumphant year for the Chinese Communist Party, but the CCP seemed determined to end the year on a landslide of insecurity with respect to the foreign journalists within its borders.

The expulsion of French journalist Ursela Gauthier was, of course, the primary case in point. As Gauthier noted, her case was not just about her single report and subsequent failure to engage in “serious introspection” and apologize to “the Chinese people” — it was about intolerance for reporting which runs counter to the Party’s master narrative.

If Gauthier does not fit within the state discourse, then what is the context in which she is supposed to operate? And how do domestic Chinese-language media outlets frame harassment or expulsion of foreign journalists? To answer these questions I’ve translated part of an editorial from Huanqiu Shibao, otherwise known as the Global Times, the foreign affairs tabloid under the arm of the CCP People’s Daily. 

The editorial is from Ma Rao, an academic at a think tank in Shanghai.

Ma Rao [马尧], “French Anti-Terror Efforts have 100 Loopholes, But Can Study ‘the Chinese Experience’,” 法国反恐漏洞百出,可学“中国经验”Huanqiu Shibao, 15 November 2015. [Translated by Adam Cathcart]

The terrorist attacks suffered by France were not the first such experiences this year; in January, the “Charlie Hebdo” incident [查理周刊事件] had created heavy casualties. At that time, I composed a commentary in “World Expo” [世界博览], stating my belief that France may encounter another strong attack by terrorists, but I could not have imagine such an attack would arrive so fiercely [猛烈].

Since the beginning of participation in joint operations against the “Islamic State” last year, a vicious cycle has emerged between France and the terrorists of “strike-retaliation, escalated strike-escalated retaliation” [法国就同恐怖份子之间构成“打击报复、升级打击升级报复”的恶性循环].  But this time, in the view of a number of experts in France, the direct trigger [直接触发点] for the terrorist attack operation was the announcement by the French presidential office on November 5 that France will again deploy sea and air forces, including the “Charles de Gaulle” aircraft carrier, to the fight against the extremist organization of the “Islamic State.” Who could imagine, just eight days later, that the terrorists would unleash multiple attacks in Paris, killing over a hundred people.

Terrorist acts should be condemned, but the author believes that it cannot be said that there is no problem with France’s response to terrorist attacks, to the extent that that [French policy] led to the tragedy [以至于酿成惨剧]. Meanwhile, for France, the corresponding “Chinese experience” merits studying.

First problem: One hundred loopholes in French social management [一、法国社会治理漏洞百出 ]

During the January 2015 attack, two terrorists simultaneously went on a rampage without the slightest fear, as if entering uninhabited territory [一度横行无忌,如入无人之境]. Likewise, the female terrorist Hayat Boumeddiene, under conditions where the entire country was pursuing her as a wanted criminal, surprisingly fled in broad daylight safe and sound to Syria; this is just freakish [匪夷所思]. France started to take military action in Syria a few years ago, and recently a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt, but, in spite of the possibility of the terrorist attack, the French failed to maintain sufficient vigilance [法国未能保持足够警惕].

In this recent terrorist attacks, it can be seen that the terrorists used AK-47 automatic rifles and grenades, and coordinated many people. Therefore we can see the loopholes existing in French social management [法国在社会治理] controls on populations and weapons both failed to meet the needs of counter-terrorism.

Because there are six million Muslims in France, and a recent influx of large numbers of refugees there, the degree of social complexity has been elevated, and the situation for anti-terrorism [work] is very grim.

By contrast, China took decisive measures after the terrorist attacks in Kunming, quickly capturing terrorists. Moreover, such cases have not  reoccurred, meaning that this experience is something the French [should see as] worth learning from.

The editorial goes on to argue that in France, “extremist groups  can take advantage of a confused ethnic minorities policy [糟糕的民族政策],” and that French “double standards” did not allow the country to form an “anti-terrorism united front” with China. As if that was not clear enough, the author concludes with the point that human rights emphasis from Western countries amid the anti-terror global struggle would only do harm to the “united front,” a front which would be strengthened by France studying China’s techniques of “social management.”

As 2015 wound down, I had plans to translate more work from Chinese state organs about Ms. Gauthier, including a reworking of the 26 December English-language article entitled “L’Obs’ China articles biased, unprofessional” which famously advised: “If Gauthier did receive death threats on the Internet, we recommend she call the police.” In fact, the original Chinese version of the article [a lead editorial, entitled《新观察家》文章既很偏激,又不专业]  is far more colourful, as well as being glib and unapologetic:

如果确实有人在Facebook上对高洁进行超出批评正常限度的围攻,我们反对。但Facebook不是中国网站,《新观察家》应该去找美国人扎克伯格交涉。如果高洁的确遭到应予重视的“死亡威胁”,那么我们强烈建议她报警。If it is true that people on Facebook attacked Gauthier in ways exceeding common limits on criticism, we are against that. But, as Facebook is not a Chinese website, we recommend that L’Obs should seek out the American Mark Zuckerberg. If Gauthier has truly met with “death threats,” well, we strongly suggest she go to the police.

I hope Mr. Zuckerberg, who has ambitions to get into the China market, has been informed of his invocation by state media (since he has presumably already been approached about the good work he could do for China’s harmonious “united front” against terrorism).

Now 2015 has concluded, and Gauthier is back in France. I regret my own inability to chase down all of the errant threads of this particular case, and I also must admit a kind of melancholy of that I did not even have the wherewithal to have begun this essay with a wonderfully wistful Mao quote from 1958 Shandong about having only scratched the surface of a worthy endeavour. But perhaps it is best to pick up for new battles, go with the zeitgeist and end with a link:

Image: May 4 in Langfang (廊坊), Hebei province PRC, 2014.


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