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China gatekeepers threaten Pacific media

Following the Chinese foreign minister's media-unfriendly 10-day tour, frustrated Pacific journalists hope that in future "there will be a more concerted effort to defend media freedom against creeping authoritarianism"

Pacific cartoon

| Pacific Media Watch | Edited

AUCKLAND - Timor-Leste, the youngest independent nation has the most fledgling media in the Asia-Pacific region.

But the country’s president has just offered a big lesson to its Pacific Island neighbours in tackling Chinese media gatekeepers and the creeping authoritarianism that is threatening journalism in the region.


In Dili late last week, president José Ramos-Horta pressured Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to allow more than a single question to be asked at a media conference.

José Ramos-Horta and Wang Yi

“After the controversy, the Chinese minister gave in and agreed to speak with journalists. A small victory for the media in Timor-Leste!” wrote Dili-based Lusa news agency journalist, Antonió Sampaio.

A small victory maybe, but it got a big tick from Timor-Leste Journalists Association president Zevonia Vieira and her colleagues.

Vieira thanked Ramos-Horta for his role in ending the ban on local media and protecting the country’s freedom of information.

Media consultant Bob Howarth, a former PNG Post-Courier publisher and long-time adviser to the Timorese media, also hailed the pushback against Chinese secrecy as a “press freedom breakthrough”.

On the eve of Wang’s visit, Timor-Leste’s Press Council denounced the restrictions being imposed on journalists before Ramos-Horta’s intervention.

“In a democratic state like East Timor not being able to have questions is unacceptable,” said Press Council president Virgilio Guterres.

“There may be extraordinary situations where there can be no coverage, but saying explicitly that there can be no questions is against the principles of press freedom.”

At the same time, though, Ramos-Horta was also quietly supportive of the Chinese overtures for greater cooperation in the region.

“These Pacific countries have done a lot of lobbying with China to get more support and China is responding to that,” Sampiaio said.

“These one-off agreements with one country or another don’t affect the long-standing interests of countries like Australia and the United States.

Robie -
A more open media conference in Dili

An article by Kate Lyons of The Guardian said China’s authoritarian approach to the media “raise press freedom concerns and alarm about the ability of Pacific journalists to do their jobs, particularly as the relationship between the region and China becomes closer.”

But one of the most telling criticisms came from Fiji freelance journalist Lice Movono, whose television crew reporting for the ABC, was deliberately blocked from filming.

“From the very beginning there was a lot of secrecy, no transparency, no access given Movono said.

“I was quite disturbed by what I saw. When you live in Fiji you kind of get used to the militarised nature of the place, but to see the Chinese officials do that was quite disturbing….

"To see foreign nationals pushing you back in your own country, that was a different level.”

China was moderately successful in signing multiple bilateral agreements with almost a dozen Pacific Island nations during Wang’s visit to the region.

The tour began in Solomon Islands and Wang met Pacific leaders from Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Niue (virtually), Cook Islands (virtually), Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

However, the media repercussions from the visit will lead to soul searching for a long time.

Some brief examples of the interaction with Beijing’s authoritarianism:

Solomon Islands: The level of secrecy and selective media overtures surrounding Wang’s meetings with the government sparked the Media Association of the Solomon Islands (MASI) to call on local media to boycott coverage of the visit in protest over the “ridiculous” restrictions.

Samoa: Samoan journalist Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson criticised the Chinese restrictions on the media with only a five-minute photo-op allowed and no questions or individual interviews. There was also no press briefing before or after Wang’s visit.

Fiji: No questions were allowed during the brief joint press conference between Wang and Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Local media later reported that, according to Fijian officials, the no-question policy came from the Chinese side.

Examples of local media publishing propaganda were demonstrated by the pro-government Fiji Sun, with a full page ‘ocean of peace’ op-ed written by Chinese ambassador Qian Bo which claimed China’s engagement with Pacific Island countries was “open and transparent”.

The Sun followed up with report written by the Chinese embassy in Fiji touting the “great success” of Wang’s visit.

Tonga: Matangi Tonga also published an article by Chinese ambassador Cao Xiaolin a day before Wang’s visit claiming how “China has never interfered in the internal affairs of [Pacific Island countries]” and would “adhere to openness.”

Papua New Guinea: As a joint scheduled press conference was about to start, media were told that after both ministers had spoken, only one Chinese journalist and one PNG journalist could ask a question of their own foreign minister.

However, according to ABC correspondent Natalie Whiting, when PNG Post-Courier’s Mirriam Zarriga “asked a question about the Solomons security deal, both the PNG and Chinese foreign ministers responded”.

Wang then “made a point of calling on the ABC to also ask a question”. The ABC asked about the “inability to get the 10 Pacific nations to sign on to the proposed regional deal”.

The secrecy and media control surrounding Wang’s tour was condemned by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and other media freedom watchdogs.

“The restriction of journalists and media organisations from the Chinese delegation’s visit … sets a worrying precedent for press freedom in the Pacific,” said the IFJ in a statement.

“The IFJ urges the governments of Solomon Islands and China to ensure all journalists are given fair and open access to all press events.”

Likewise, RSF’s Asia-Pacific director Daniel Bastard said the actions surrounding the events organised by the Chinese delegation with several Pacific island states “clearly contravenes the democratic principles of the region’s countries”.

He added: “We call on officials preparing to meet Wang Yi to resist Chinese pressure by allowing local journalists and international organisations to cover these events, which are of major public interest.”

Associate Professor Shailendra Singh of the University of the South Pacific also criticised the Chinese actions, saying “we have two different systems here. China has a different political system — a totalitarian system, and in the Pacific we have a democratic system.”

In PNG, the last country to be visited in the Pacific before Timor-Leste, “there appeared to be little resistance” to the authoritarian screen, according to independent journalist Scott Waide, a champion of press freedom in his country.

“There’s not a lot of awareness about the visit,” he said. “I would have liked to have seen a visible expression of resistance at least of some sort. But from Hagen, where I was this week. I didn’t see much.”

Reflecting on Wang’s Pacific tour, Lice Movono said “at the time of my interview for The Guardian, I think I was still pretty rattled. Now I think the best way to describe my response is that I feel extremely disturbed.”

Movono said that since her criticisms, she had come in for nasty attention by trolls.

“I’m getting some hateful trolling from Chinese twitter accounts – got called a ‘fat pig’,” she told Pacific Media Watch.

“Also I’m being accused of lying because some photos have come out of the doorstop we did on the Chinese ambassador here and some have purported that to be an accurate portrayal of Chinese ‘friendliness’ toward media.”

Chinese restriction on media before Ramos-Horta intervention (Antonio Sampaio)Timor-Leste rose to 17th in this year’s RSF World Press Freedom Index listing of 180 countries — the highest of any country in the Pacific region. Both Fiji and Papua New Guinea fell in the rankings.

Frustrated Pacific journalists hope that in future there will be a more concerted effort to defend media freedom against creeping authoritarianism.


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Corney Korokan Alone

Here's an excellent Twitter thread that will shed light on why some folks appear to take offence at China's re-emergence.

It's collated for factual understanding on the contexts of this wrangling.

You can follow Ni Mingda via @NiMing_GG

1/ Western elites often talk about a "rules-based international order" and how China has defied it. But what exactly is this "order"?

And why do Western elites feel so threatened by China that they're willing to risk a world war to maintain this "order"? Let me explain...

2/ To understand what this "rules-based international order" is, you need to understand how it came about... and who created it.
For that, you will need to go back in time to the age of European colonialism...

3/Since the 1500s, many wars have been waged by the Western financial/merchant class in collusion with the ruling class. The former would act as financiers & advisers while the latter wielded state powers (e.g. the military). We'll refer to them collectively as Western elites.

4/ Before 1945, various Western powers would compete (and at times collaborate) to advance their colonial interests across the Americas, Asia, Africa, & Oceania. But after 1945, they would all come under the influence and domination of one great imperialist power... the USA.

5/ While the destruction of WW2 raged across Europe & Asia, the USA were profiting handsomely from the sales of weapons & oil to various combatants... all while remaining unscathed by war right until after Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

6/By the time the USA engaged in combat against the Axis powers, Nazi Germany was already greatly depleted as they fought the advancing Soviets. Similarly, Imperial Japan suffered heavy losses being bogged down in China fighting a war of attrition against the Chinese.

7/Protected by two oceans and entering the war late meant that the U.S. mainland was spared any destruction, and its armed forces suffered less casualties than Europe and Asia. By 1944, it was clear that the USA would be the strongest country emerging from the war.

8/In 1944 with the inevitable defeat of the Axis powers, the Allies (later known as the UN) met to establish a new monetary system. As the nation most unscathed by war and holder of 65% of the world's gold, America proposed the USD as the global reserve currency backed by gold.

9/This new USD-centered monetary system became known as the Bretton Woods system. And since America controlled the USD, it also gained control over the rules of world economy... and with it... unhindered access to the world's markets & raw materials.

10/The USSR (one of the Allies) also attended the Bretton Woods conference but refused to ratify the final agreements... calling the institutions that the American elites created as "branches of Wall Street".
They were right.

11/With American elites taking control over global finance through the USD and writing the rules of world economy via institutions like the IMF & World Bank, a new "rules-based international order" came into being.
Pax Britannica has successfully transitioned to Pax Americana.

12/Some historians say 1947 was the year the Cold War began. But I believe the Cold War began when the Soviets rejected America's monetary system back in 1944, deeming it to be "branches of Wall Street".
From then, American elites were bent on destroying communists everywhere.

13/Japan became the testing ground for the USA to demonstrate to the world (and especially to the Soviets) what could happen to those who reject America's world order. In August 1945, the USA nuked Nagasaki & Hiroshima... even though Japan was already on the verge of surrender.

14/In 1949, the communists won the Chinese civil war & established the People's Republic of China. The PRC naturally allied itself with the USSR. This meant most of Eurasia was now outside of America's monetary system... and their wealth out of the reach of America's elites.

15/ Since China & the USSR were socialist countries, their financial system, economy and natural resources were firmly in the control of the state. That meant there were no free or open markets for the Western elites to exploit. And they were determined to change that.

16/ The Korean War in 1950 gave the USA the perfect opportunity to destroy a newly formed but still war torn People's Republic of China. Impoverished from a century of fighting against Western & Japanese imperialism, China barely had enough weapons to equip its soldiers.

17/ So the first war that the USA fought post-WW2 was against the socialist states... namely China, North Korea & the USSR. It was a big war, consisting of about 1.8M Americans & UN soldiers vs about 3M Chinese, North Koreans & Soviets.
The USA & China were the main combatants.

18/The Korean War resulted in a draw, despite the U.S. having technological superiority over the poorly equipped Chinese army. The American elites have failed to expand their "rules-based international order" over China and North Korea. But they haven't given up.

19/Not long after the Korean War ended in 1953, the USA decided to wage war against another communist government... North Vietnam. This war lasted from 1955 - 1975. And once again, the American elites failed to subjugate an Asian country to its financial & economic order.

20/The American elites continued to wage wars to bring defiant countries (mostly socialist) to heel. However, wars are expensive, and the USA was running out of money. (At that time, the USD was still backed by gold).
America wanted to find more money without raising taxes.

21/ After WW2, the nations that joined the Bretton Woods system started accumulating USD through exporting goods to America, believing that they're as good as gold. But in 1971, Nixon suddenly & unilaterally abolished the dollar's gold convertibility, making it a fiat currency.

22/ Nations which planned to convert their USD into gold were furious, stuck holding pieces of green notes backed by nothing but "confidence in America". Since the USA was the most militarily powerful, there was nothing these nations could do but accept that unilateral decision.

23/With the USD no longer backed by gold, American elites decided that the USD should be backed by oil instead. To be precise, someone else's oil.

So America began providing "security" to oil-rich countries. In exchange, they were required to sell their oil exclusively in USD.

24/ Since every country needed oil, they had to have USD in hand to pay oil producing countries. In short, the American elites operated a protection racket to maintain global demand for the USD. This is why the USD is also known as the petrodollar.

25/ Since the American elites operate a protection racket, it should surprise no one that war is extremely profitable to them. Hence America has waged endless wars to maintain the USD as global reserve currency and to ensure that nations keep their economy open for exploitation.

26/ With the fiat USD as global reserve currency, America can print almost unlimited amount of dollars with no fear of hyperinflation.

These dollars are then used to buy real goods & services from other nations. This is how the American elites defraud the world till this day.

27/ The Federal Reserve (a privately owned central bank) & the US government also work hand in glove to give free money to American corporations in the form of grants, loans & bailouts. These corporations then use the free dollars to buy up assets & raw materials from overseas.

28/ Here's how American elites steal from the world.
1. The Fed prints the USD
2. The U.S. gov distributes it to the elites via their corporations
3. The corporations buy up assets, goods & services from other countries
4. The military "maintains global demand" for the USD

29/ And in order for these "USD rich" American elites to own the wealth of other countries, their corporations must have unfettered access to the markets of those countries. Hence why the U.S. gov aggressively "promotes" liberal democracy... even thru regime change if necessary.

30/ So where does the U.S. military industrial complex come into the picture? Well, they're simply one of the tools wielded by America's elites. The weapons manufacturers are no more dangerous than the Federal Reserve, Wall Street & other organisations controlled by the elites.

31/ By the 1970s, the American elites, rich from the plunder of so many nations, decided to have another try at cracking the Chinese market. So in 1978, Washington normalised ties with Beijing by accepting the PRC as the sole legal government of China & Taiwan as part of China.

32/ Although Western elites finally gained a foothold in the Chinese market, they did not have unfettered access to China's wealth; the PRC was still a socialist country with state controlled economy. So the elites decided that its time for China to become a liberal democracy.

33/ In 1989, a colour revolution erupted in China. Authorities scrambled to stabilise the situation even as violent protesters torch vehicles & beat up highly restraint police & soldiers. Understandably, there were casualties on both the side of law enforcement & civilians.

34/ The 1989 Tiananmen colour revolution ultimately failed. But that didn't stop Western media from painting the entire incident as a "massacre" by greatly exaggerating civilian casualties while ignoring law enforcement casualties and the great restraint they showed.

35/ The 1989 colour revolution was a turning point for China. From then, China erected various mechanisms to defend against foreign interference and Western propaganda attack on its citizens. The Great Firewall was one such measure.

36/China keenly observed how the American elites weaponised SWIFT, GPS and other international apparatus for their own interest. So in order to protect itself, China developed their own alternatives such as CIPS, Beidou and more.

37/ China had to balance between allowing Western corporations to do business while preventing Western elites from hijacking the country. Although bilateral trade between China & the USA has greatly profited both countries, this was still not good enough for America's elites.

38/For America's elites, nothing short of subjugating China to their "rules-based international order" was acceptable. Using claims of human rights violation & "China threat" as pretext, the elites waged asymmetric war against the CPC, with regime change as the final goal.

39/Western elites have attacked China from inside & outside... from supporting Tibetan, HK & Taiwan independence to inciting terror attacks in Xinjiang... from sabotaging BRI projects across the world to tech bans on Chinese companies. Western media also smeared China daily.

40/China's success in defending itself & defeating the imperialist Western elites is crucial for the world. Only China has both economic & technical capability to provide viable alternatives for other countries to escape America's exploitative "rules-based international order".

41/However in recent years, the USA has managed to pressure China into relaxing restrictions for some of America's biggest banks & investment firms operating there. In my opinion, this is a highly concerning development... because finance is the main weapon of America's elites.

42/I would like to believe that Chinese regulators have understood the risks posed by these Wall Street entities.
America's financial giants are more dangerous than U.S. military bases... because they can corrupt the country from within... just like opium in the 19th century.

43/Key takeaway #1: The "rules-based international order" is primarily a monetary system which gives the American elites indirect control over the finance & economy of a country. It also gives the elites unhindered access to a country's market, assets & natural resources.

44/ Key takeaway #2: A communist/socialist style of government is abhorrent to the American & Western elites.
This is because such a government exercise strong control over its own market, finance & economy... which makes it very hard for the elites to plunder the country.

45/ Key takeaway #3: China has greatly offended the U.S. by...
- exercising tight control over its market, finance & economy
-creating a parallel monetary system (CIPS, e-Yuan, AIIB) thus providing the world an alternative to America's abusive "rules-based international order"

46/Key takeaway #4: The Federal Reserve & Wall Street are no less guilty of imperialism and war crimes than the U.S. military industrial complex. They're simply vehicles used by the American and Western elites to accomplish their agenda.

47/ Key takeaway #5: The "rules-based international order" is also marketed as "democracy".

But is America itself ruled by 'a government of the masses, by the masses & for the masses'?
I don't think so.
Not when 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth.
That's plutocracy.

48/ Conclusion:

The greatest threat to China is not the U.S. bases surrounding it. The PLA can take care of those.

The greatest threat is probably the Western elites that come to China bearing great wealth and the promise to invest... but has ulterior ambitions (cont.)

49/ Some of these Western elites may even be the same people that have profiteered off the misery of the world and ran the West into the ground... and are now seeking a new base.
Chinese leaders would be wise to keep these Western elites and their money out of China.
For convenient reading...

50/ Addendum: Most countries have gold reserves. It is the people's ultimate, hard-earned national savings.

Now do you know what happened to the gold reserves of so many countries that the USA has invaded and regime-changed? I think you can guess the answer...

I have chosen not to fact check this comment , so one instance shall have to stand for what further fact checking might yield.

The author stated that the US Federal Reserve is "a privately owned central bank".

This is not true as the following explainer shows: https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/about_14986.htm

"The Federal Reserve System is not 'owned' by anyone. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 by the Federal Reserve Act to serve as the nation's central bank. The Board of Governors in Washington, DC, is an agency of the federal government and reports to and is directly accountable to the Congress."

Lindsay F Bond

Bravo Timor-Leste, President and Press. Tuning tone, trust and territory is a start.

As reported, 'Intelligence suggests Chinese entities are supplying the vast majority of precursor chemicals used to make illicit drugs in Australia'.


Also reported as an exogenous impost although of location(s) less specific:


Stephen, "to the death" may be more pertinent than utterances, as of misuse of 'chemicals'.

[ exogenous impost - burden from place(s) external ]

Corney Korokan Alone

The best strategy is to be honest. There is nothing complex and complicated about that.

Then learn to have understanding, mutual respect and trust in a multipolar real world.

Hope this educational comedy helps:


Paul Oates

I do agree with you Corney and with Sir John who I had a passing acquaintance with many years ago. The issues are complex unless you take a more aerial view of them.

Those who keep sprouting either propaganda are really only revealing their inadequate researching of the real situation. Others who are intentionally misleading and are in it just for what rewards they can get.

The battle of the giants in this Century are shaping up to be just as divisive as they ever were. Previous wars and hostilities have been the cause of misery and death since humans first started to attack their own species in ether conquest or defence.

Is there a middle road that might provide some insight without being obviously included in either one camp or another?

Regrettably, those who set out to win don’t seem to want there to be any other alternative to them winning. Clearly those who are resisting also n can’t see another course to follow.

The only rationale that seems to hold some water therefore is to look at the record of those who are part of the contest and resist becoming part of the problem.

What would you suggest is a reasonable strategy? What the Pacific leaders seem to be practicing seems eminently reasonable at the moment.

Corney Korokan Alone

Let Papua New Guinea's veteran retired politician Sir John Kaputin address this.

"The most annoying aspect of the continuing debate over the pros and cons regarding the current geo-political wrangling between the re-emerging Chinese nation and the Western's Imperial Liberalism is that, media, lawyers, and journalists in Papua New Guinea and Australia, are almost all regurgitating the same poisonous stuff in support of one faction or another without offering a proper diagnosis of the disease that is called domination and control by an entitled minority clique.

Stephen Charteris

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Attributed to Voltaire.

So goes the principle of the Freedom of Speech, the gold standard for free societies.

Freedom to speak your mind does not exist in China. When the ruling class wields absolute power and lives behind a veil of lies it cannot afford to have citizens know or speak the truth.

Say or do something contrary to the official line and you could disappear forever. There are lots of examples.

For example, more than a million Uyghurs locked up in Jian Jiang Province or those in Hong Kong last week who wished to memorialise the thousands of student protesters murdered on the night of June 3, 4 in Tiananmen Square in 1989. I watched it unfold live on TV.

An expression more apt for any country contemplating dealing with China.

“If you wish to dine with the devil, ensure you use a very long handled spoon.”
Attributed to Chaucer.

While cosying up to the CCP may be extremely rewarding for the Pacific’s ruling elite, it will be an unmitigated disaster for their people.

To those who categorise themselves as “the people” there is another expression to contemplate.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.”

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