Friday, 27 May 2011

The Voice of America: Silenced in China

This is a fascinating and very perceptive panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation of the consequences of silencing the Voice of America in China. I don't think I can add anything to the comments, only to say that depending on so-called 'new media' in a country like China - a huge country in both geographic and demographic terms - is a big mistake. At a time when China's political, geostrategic and economic power is expanding, and when Beijing is investing resources into public diplomacy and soft power that would shame other major powers, it is necessary to use all means necessary to engage with the people there. VoA does have an audience in China. By focusing only on the internet, Washington puts at risk the availability of alternative information for millions of Chinese. This is especially worrying at a time when the Communist Party's grip on the media and communications - especially the internet - is becoming tighter. Dependence on one platform that is so easy to censor and excludes a large section of the potential audience is not a recipe for effective public diplomacy. Shortwave signals are not that easily controlled; and radio remains the ultimate 'democratic medium' because it is inexpensive and does not require a level of technical competence or education. It remains the medium of choice in many parts of the developing world, including parts of China.

This panel discussion is highly recommended.

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