Friday, December 28, 2007

Dog Eats BBC Homework on Japanese Prime Minister’s Trip to China

The trip comes amid signs of a diplomatic thaw, following decades of rivalry and historical tensions.
In recent months a Chinese warship dropped anchor in Tokyo Bay for the first time since World War II.

- from Japanese PM to Boost China Ties, 27 December 2007, BBC

A friend of mine in Washington agrees that “most of the time [wire services] do a good job since they do it on the fly (my italics).” The idea that wire services don’t have the time to get it wrong never occurred to me when I posted this, but he’s a correspondent who goes through reams of news wire reports every day and goes to the press briefings themselves, so he should know what he’s talking about. My idea was that a wire service correspondent cannot afford to push a particular agenda or indulge himself in a theme of his choice because the retail media, who are the wire services’ main clients, span the whole range from left to right and cover every point in between. It should also help that a typical local wire service bureau is more heavily staffed than those of its retail media counterparts. But the explanations are not mutually exclusive, and I think that they all make sense.

To get back to Prime Minister Fukuda’s trip, the above quote ignores the long history of some downs but plenty of ups since 1972, when Kakuei Tanaka, Prime Minister at the time, was feted in Beijing by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai and gives the impression that the diplomatic “thaw” began only a few months ago. The BBC writer who cobbled the article together as well as his Asia-Pacific copy editor must think that history began with Junichirō Koizumi.

If its Shanghai correspondent gave some of the political background on the Chinese side as a significant reason for the most recent turnaround that began with Prime Minister Abe on the Japanese side, it’s totally missing in the article. At the broadest level, the mutual-love hate relationship will endure because of the Communist Party’s need to balance legitimacy and stability requirements in its educational propaganda on the Chinese side and the fear of an ascendant China against a perception of domestic decline on the Japanese side*

I have a menagerie of other peeves**, but they are trivial.

* Think Japan-U.S. relations in the 80s and early 90s.

** Peeves make good pets. They are house-trained, and don’t have to be fed. Be careful though. They can breed prolifically, and are very difficult to give away. They also bite friend and foe alike.

ADD: Said correspondent just wrote in, agreeing that "we're hitting two angles on the same thing." That was quick. There was more in his email. He may want to blog it one of these days.(same day, 12:12 PM)

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