Thursday, October 29, 2015

U.S. Destroyer Appears in the South China Sea and the Nanxiong Bus Station

China allowed news agencies to report a U.S. destroyer recently making the "most significant U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China claims around artificial islands it has built up in the Spratly archipelago". Today at a bus station in Nanxiong, a county-level city in northern Guangdong, I saw news posted about the "illegal" action.

Woman at a bus station in Nanxiong, China, reading news about the U.S. challenging some of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea

In discussing some of the incident's coverage by "the most-watched and most tightly-controlled news broadcast" in China, Andrew Chubb points out why China may not similarly cover future challenges by the U.S.:
The high-handed demand that the American side “correct its mistakes” leaves the CCP well positioned to claim that its stern response forced an aggressive hegemon to back down. At least one US official has described the patrols as “routine“, suggesting there will be more to come. Even if the US patrols happen, say, once a month from now on, it will be up to the CCP to decide how often Chinese mass audiences hear about this. Having established a high level of domestic publicity on this occasion, the CCP might well be able to (implicitly or explicitly) encourage the perception that it forced the US to back down, simply by not affording the same level of publicity to future FoN patrols.
I am not going to even try to predict what will happen, other than that I doubt the issues over the territorial claims will be resolved anytime soon. Read Chubb's post "China announces the US’s Spratly patrols to the masses" for more analysis of the news coverage on CCTV's Xinwen Lianbo and an example of how China's control of news can be as newsworthy as the news itself.

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