Mediating Asia| Reporting from China: 400 Reports, on 1.4 Billion People, in One Authoritarian State — Commentary

Melissa K. Chan


My posting as Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beijing covered transformative years—from the run-up to the much anticipated 2008 Olympics to the post-Olympic period that saw the tightening of civil liberties and press freedom. The Chinese government’s decision to try to control the message took a toll on the foreign press corps, and I recount the nuts and bolts of trying to run a television news operation in the country and my experiences with reporting interference in roiling, rollicking China. In doing so, I examine the government’s uncomfortable relationship with the media, at times clumsy and incommensurate with its growing global status but also effective in controlling information. I discuss my own story, when the government expelled me from the country in 2012—an early clue that the media would become a greater diplomatic battleground. How China approaches its relationship to overseas journalists has a direct impact on how the country is viewed overseas. It is not clear whether Beijing fails to understand this or does not care.

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