I’m always kind of suspicious bc I think western media has a habit of sensationalizing any and all news coming from china or like they try to spin it to make china into this bizarre oppressive communist dystopia but at the same time unfortunately I don’t know enough about china’s politics to be able to discern anything for myself
it’s not really about being knowledgeable in all and every field of social, historical and political aspects so much as it is about knowing how to decode the media.
If the news piece compares China to North Korea, you can tell it’s bullshit. Same if they they mention ‘Mao Zedong mentality’ or communist utilitarianism philosophy, government brainwashing, ‘mindlessness/apathy/ignorance’ of the Chinese population, bizarre references to Confucius and/or Tiananmen or anything that seems to be pulled out of 1984…because they’re most likely pulling it out of their collective behinds. It doesn’t mean that the whole article is a complete and utter fabrication, just that it’s a heavily biased piece that shows you a very specifically orchestrated picture. This could be a Newsweek article, a CNN ‘special feature’ or just think-piece in a magazine
or that fucking tumblr post going around that literally says China is no better than NK.
Media has certain buzzwords when it comes to certain countries that are basically used to code them into a narrative. For India it’s mass-poverty, for Africa-the-country it’s starvation and famine, for the Middle East it’s honour killings. Japan and Korea is usually ‘weird things from this country’ and ‘Japanese people behave strangely’, but with a mix of exotification and neo-imperialism, we’re given a very skewed, very dehumanised version of these countries.
Most of the time, we don’t recognise it because there is literally no way to piece together a coherent picture unless you’re experiencing it first hand. Not everyone has the resources, time and knowledge to correct it, but what’s important is that you recognise when the image of China (and many other non-Western countries) is being manipulated. The fact that you’re already conscious of how you’re consuming media makes it far easier to spot sensationalism.
Concerning the incident in Tiananmen; it’s often cited and exaggerated for its shock value, but I think it does have a place in discussing the protests happening in Hong Kong right now.
The protests in Tiananmen happened in 1989, less than a decade away from Britain giving control of Hong Kong back to China. A lot of HK citizens, seeing what happened, thought, “Is that what we have to look forward to eight years from now?” Following 1989, many families emigrated from Hong Kong to avoid getting caught up in any future incidents.
What’s happening now, though perhaps to a different degree and for different reasons, is exactly what a lot of citizens feared would happen when China regained control, even if it’s come years later. Comparisons to the Tiananmen protests may seem outdated and sensationalist (and it’s probably the latter, depending on the news site), but I know there are at least a few people in my family who immediately made that connection and are hoping for the safety of everyone in Hong Kong, given the Chinese government’s track record.