China Beat Archive


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May 12, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright May 12, 2008 James Farrer. Used by permission.


My knowledge of Japanese media coverage of China is largely limited to print media, and mostly as a regular consumer of the major liberal daily Asahi Shimbun. Despite this relatively narrow window, several features of Asahi‘s China coverage strike me as noteworthy.

One obvious difference with American newspaper reporting is a far greater focus on historical features. During the past year, Asahi ran an excellent series on turning points East Asian history, that included essays on Japan’s colonial expansion in Korea, Taiwan, China and other parts of Asia. One series of articles compared the way these events were described in Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and PRC textbooks. In general the articles were insightful and well-documented and did not back away from Japan’s historic aggression in Asia. At the same time, they discussed subjects that would not have been covered by Americans including the lives of Japanese in former colonial possessions.

These progressive elements aside, Asahi, also chases the scandalous China stories that other major Japanese outlets chase. This bias towards dramatic and/or violent events is not so different from the West, particularly US television, but the proximity and greater human resources of Japanese media in China mean that headline events there produce a huge volume of reporting in Japanese media outlets.

This year these media circuses included the Tibet riots, and the “frozen dumpling” incident in which Chinese-manufactured frozen dumplings were found to have agricultural poisons on the surface of the packages. The dumpling incident, in particular, was front page news for days, even though no fatalities were involved.