Durian and needle in a pillow: critical mind needed to read distorted reporting

When I read anything from China, or from Falungong on the other end, I always remind myself the media is tightly controlled and I need to be critical of everything they report. Supposedly you can be more trustful to western "free" media.

Not so. Recently I found it hurts more if I was present a down pillow with a few needle than a durian. People's Daily is the durian which I know how to handle, simple avoid touching it. Epoch Times is even easily to read, just negate every sentence and you got the truth. But the free western media are apparently harmless pillows which could pinch you to bleed if you are careless.

In a recent discussion on sinosplice and eswn, a comment by a jim on Roland Soong gave me some thought
  • "However, he goes out of his way to go against the Western conventional wisdom on China, which makes him overly sympathetic to the government at times. I understand this tendancy given the state of conventional wisdom on China, but I think ESWN should guard against swining too far the other way."
To me, Roland got my respect precisely because he does not take the "Western conventional wisdom" wholesale. If ESWN follows the conventional "wisdom", not just on China, but on anything, I believe its hit rate would drop by 90%+. And I am among the 90%.

Jim was careful in using a rather neutral word "conventional wisdom". I think he is aware of the pitfalls in such 'wisdom'. I know China well enough that even without Roland I am able to sort out the needles quickly. But the recent report on the Ukraine-Russia gas dispute almost got me needled. It took me quite some while to figure out the truth and I lamented that I couldn't find something similar to Roland's site about Ukraine. I wish there is a site similar to Roland's, which does not follow the "western conventional wisdom", for every country/area.


Here is my problem with the report on Ukraine. There are 18,700 (as of now) reports if you google the news on "ukraine russia gas price cubic meter". 99+% of them contain lots of hidden needles. I will take NYT as an example (see earlier posts for the business issues), but you can see the same stupidity and biase in almost all other papers.
  • Most reports failed to mention what the market rate is, but they tried to compare Ukraine's rate to that paid by Putin's crony Belarus ($47/tcm). As it turns out, even the $230 rate is way below market rate. No one mentioned that $230/tcm is equivalent to $6/MMBtu, and NYMEX is trading at a price higher than $10/tcm. It is Russia's supply price to Belarus which should be questioned, not its asking price to Ukraine.
  • "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia paid a stiff political price as his country's natural gas company, Gazprom, backpedaled on ultimatums of a gas embargo against Ukraine under pressure from European leaders who questioned the Kremlin's reliability as an energy provider." - Why is Kremlin not reliable as an energy provider? if you refuse to pay you got you electricity cut off. If NYT is referring to the EU, again, blame Ukraine for stealing the gas, not Russia.
  • "Whatever extra revenue Gazprom might earn through the deal may be offset in the long term by a huge dose of skepticism over its expansion plans in Western Europe created by the failed Russian gas embargo......Even Germany, usually a faithful Russian ally and Russia's largest gas customer, wondered aloud whether Russia could be trusted. " - Russia restored supply even though Ukraine continue to free-ride, in order to maintain the confidence of EU. If anything, you could be less skeptical of Russia to fulfill its commitment to its contracts
  • see the comments field here for different sides of views
I personally believe Russia is a big bully and aggressor and it has been so since 1500 and not changed much today. I think the orange revolution is great for Ukraine. But I cannot stand the hypocrisy and biase of these reports. The "convention wisdom" is a plague. It takes a lot time and research to find out the needle in the pillow/haystack in such "wisdom", or the sand grain in your bowl of rice. It would pierce your head or break your teeth if you are careless.


Nathan said...

I understand and absolutely agree. I am no defender of China, but when I try to share the truth as I see it, I am called blind, stupid, China-lover, etc.

The only thing that still upsets me about Roland Soong and many other China bloggers is that they know how to sort out the needles in Western media talking about China, but don't know how to do the same thing when the Western media talks about the west.

But, yes, I come to this site and ESWN Blog and others because I know where my best sources of insight come from.


LfC said...