The CIIE in Shanghai Presents an Opportunity For Chinese and Russian Journalists to Learn From One Another

Russian media aimed at the international market continues to gain attention throughout the world for two distinct reasons. First of all, in the decades since the collapse of the USSR, Russia has widely adopted the 24/7 style of news and analysis that was first pioneered in the United States when satellite and cable television became increasingly common. By contrast, the old style of Soviet news tended to report on events around 24 hours after they had occurred using the more artistically compelling but less immediate edited montage style of reportage as opposed to the more direct approach that become increasingly favoured in the US beginning in the 1970s and in Europe beginning in 1980s and into the 1990s.

Beyond this, Russian media aimed at multi-lingual international audiences has tended to combine the 24/7 style of western media with a traditionally Russian sense of humour and intrigue, thus making the delivery of news from a Russian perspective entertaining, stimulating as well as instructive.

The second reason that Russian media aimed at international audiences has garnered attention in recent years is due to the the 2016 US election where it was alleged that Russian media outlets aimed at non-Russian audiences influenced the vote in favour of Donald Trump. Similar allegations were made in France where it was said that Russian outlets favoured a Marine le Pen Presidency in the 2017 election while other statements regarding Russian media include allegations that outlets like RT influenced both the Catalan independence referendum and UK Brexit vote.

On the one hand, there has never been any compelling evidence that any foreign outlets have influenced North American or European voters beyond the more direct stimuli implicit in living in the nation holding the elections in question. On the other hand, by accusing Russian media of influencing the vote, western agitators are paying a backhanded compliment to Russian outlets as any media organ with a clear editorial policy seeks to win minds rather than repel them.

While Chinese media outlets also now operate on an increasingly 24/7 basis as exemplified by the internationally aimed CGTN, where Russian media sometimes goes overboard in attempts to revel in the controversy surrounding allegations of influencing western voters, Chinese media by contrast tends to present a more austere look at the news in its televised programs where compared with the humour laden Russian outlets or the more flashy US and European ‘info-tainment’ broadcasters.

One argument that has been employed to justify China’s more demure broadcasting style is that while many Russians and Americans were equally willing, ready and able to revive the Cold War with 21st century media characteristics, China was too busy improving its economy at a time when the US and Russian economies had comparatively more problems and thus needed to hide behind slick broadcasting styles.

In this sense, while both the private sector American flagship broadcaster CNN and the Russian government funded RT both tend to relish in negative stories that suit their respective editorial lines, Chinese media tends to be far more positive. Thus, while CNN’s main agenda is to promote negative stories about Donald Trump, while RT thrives on reacting to instances of western double-standards and policy hypocrisy, one of the mainstays of Chinese media is to reflect on the positive achievements of Chinese people and their international partners across multiple fields including but not limited to trade and commerce, culture and sport, science and technology.

Given this background, Chinese and Russian media experts could ideally learn a great deal from one another as Russian media could benefit from promoting more positive news items as opposed to reactive ones, while China could learn from Russia that getting the attention of international audiences with many options is half the battle in terms of attaining a wider understanding of modern Chinese political, social, cultural and economic issues.

Furthermore, at a time when anti-Chinese voices continue to spread false information regardin the Belt and Road initiative and China’s internal development, China could learn from Russian experts in respect of how to most effectively combat such disinformation in a style that is as relentless as those spreading the black propaganda against China.

It remains to be seen what concrete proposals the Russian delegation currently attending the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai will make, but according to delegation leader Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov, there are important steps that can be taken to strengthen a healthy neighbourly relations between Russia and China in the field of digital media. According to Akimov:

“One of the tasks of the forum is to fortify our positions in the global information competition. Discussing those issues during open dialogues and contacts, we realise that it is much easier and more efficient to meet those challenges together”.

Beyond promoting ever more Sino-Russian cross-border dialogue and human-to-human exchange, it is important for journalists and media experts from both countries to offer courses highlighting the strengths and weakness of each system in order for cooperation to result in meaningful amendments to the style and substance of journalism on official outlets from both countries.

As neighbouring superpowers with healthy relations, there is no reason why intensive seminars about the theory and practice of information dissemination should not occur as soon as next year. As every nation in an ever more interconnected world requires platforms to share their views on a shared future, such a pooling of minds ought to begin with cooperation between China and Russia, two nations with very different approaches to media but two nations which must also be prepared to explain their geopolitical interests to those becoming more curious about the long term goals of both.

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