Nov 19, 2012

ABC China corro: another view on Andrea Yu

"Journalist" Andrea Yu created waves at China's recent party Congress with her soft questions. ABC China correspondent Stephen McDonell responds to a Crikey article which defended Yu.

Friday's article in Crikey by Kway Teow regarding Andrea Yu entirely misses the point of the CAMG story. And by setting up her "crimes" at the beginning of the article -- which are not actually the central issue at all -- the item is rather misleading. By using the surname Yu, she is just using her married name. There is obviously nothing wrong with that. Her "crime", if you want to call it that, is really her company's crime. It is that they are pretending to be an independent Australian media company when they are actually, in effect, an arm of the Chinese government. This is misleading when CAMG provides stories for third parties (it seems to me that the company is actually laundering Chinese government propaganda through Melbourne and into other countries). It is misleading when Andrea Yu presents herself at the Great Hall of the People as an independent correspondent to ask her ultimate paymasters how good a job they are doing, and it is misleading when Chinese media does stories on her and presents her to their viewers and readers as an Australian foreign correspondent. Kway Teow has suggested that we covered this story because we were looking for something quirky at the Congress to report on. Firstly, we have been busy enough with serious matters to be out looking for frivolous angles. The point is this is not a "quirky" story. It is a serious matter relating to a new (and deceptive) strategy from the Chinese Government to get its own spin out. As I pointed out in our original ABC story, she can ask whatever questions she likes. That is not the issue. It is certainly not a "crime". The problem is pretending you are one thing and being another. If readers have any doubt about this they can go to CAMG's website and try to find the part where it says they are a Chinese-owned company, with links to the Chinese government. The story is not about Andrea Yu. It is about CAMG and the Chinese government. At the Congress there are only limited numbers of questions allowed from foreign correspondents. What we're seeing now appears to be a strategy of the government stacking these opportunities with questions from its own people masquerading as correspondents. This may seem trivial to some but it is the very serious matter regarding information control. I genuinely wish Andrea Yu all the best and hope she can get a proper journalist's job if that is what she's after. We have all done crappy work to get into journalism but, as I have said, this is not about her. It's about a much bigger picture problem.

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10 thoughts on “ABC China corro: another view on Andrea Yu

  1. Harry Rogers

    Stephen you are absolutely correct of course and anybody that has experience with China knows to be very suspicious of “soft” journalism emanating from this region.

    Unfortunately Stephen, the Chinese government has only learnt its media spin skills from the West. Finding the truth these days in media content will soon become a university course.

  2. craig z

    It is obvious some of the intentional deception from the chinese communist party spills over or through foreign media here, which is the greater evil: where do we do something about it? Well done Stephen, let’s pursue that line, until we have honesty.

  3. Jane Ben

    Yes, this is not about Andrea Yu. She has done absolutely nothing wrong, she’s just a month into her first journalism job and when called upon, asked polite questions as part of her job.

    Stephen. You work for the ABC. The ABC is owned by the Australian Government. Your salary is being paid by the Govt. Stephen, does that mean you’re only “pretending” to be independent, or part of some shady “strategy” of the Govt to control reporting? No. Neither is CAMG.

    CAMG has published many stories which essentially criticise the Chinese Govt, just like the ABC reports on the Australian Govt. For example, they’ve interviewed Chinese political refugees who’ve fled China and moved to Melbourne.

    Just because their junior employee asked polite questions, you make a sweeping claim about “a strategy of the government stacking these opportunities with questions from its own people masquerading as correspondents.” Stephen, I think you’re the one who needs to report transparently.

  4. CML

    @ Jane Ben – Are you seriously comparing the Australian and Chinese governments and their individual “media outlets”? WOW!! For one thing, I thought Australia was a democracy, and China is a Communist one party state.
    As far as I know, the ABC is a completely separate entity, and there would be he+l to pay if the government started interfering with what was broadcast on its programmes. Can’t say the same for what happens at CAMG. Can you?

  5. Jane Ben

    @ CML – don’t get me wrong, of course the two governments are totally different. But we wouldn’t accuse the ABC of being a Govt puppet if they asked a seemingly pro-carbon-tax question of the Australian Govt, for example. The claims made about CAMG are incorrect. CAMG is a tiny media agency in Melbourne for the Chinese Australian community. It has shareholders that own it, including a Radio Group that is in turn owned by the Chinese Govt, but their every move is not some conspiracy controlled by the Chinese Govt. In reality, the questions asked by CAMG were not fed by the Chinese Government.

  6. Roberto Tedesco

    Yep, the ABC is the Labor government’s mouthpiece. An obvious fact, because it does not toady to the whims of Abbott’s crackpot reactionary gang.

    Jane Ben – do you work for CAMG, or are you in any way linked to them? Or is it just an IPA thing?

  7. Greg Wilcox

    People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  8. craig z

    I would also ask Jane Ben’s reason for respecting the desire for pathological control of media illustrated by the chinese communist party. I would also wish to know: what is her connection to camg/the party?

  9. Jane Ben

    I’m interested in truthful reporting. It annoyed me that journos claimed Ms Yu was operating under a fake name, which I’m glad Stephen corrected in this article. But I’d also like to correct Stephen, when he says: “The problem is pretending you are one thing and being another. If readers have any doubt about this they can go to CAMG’s website try to find the part where it says they are a Chinese-owned company, with links to the Chinese government.” So I went to CAMG’s website.

    And surprise! Smack bang on their front page (and pretty much every page) it has a box listing who CAMG is linked with, and first up is CRI – which everyone knows is a Government-run Chinese Radio station.

    I also clicked on CRI, and again, the first thing on their About Us page (, clearly says: “Founded on December 3, 1941, China Radio International (CRI) is a state-run radio station.”

    Believe me, I have no sympathies for the Chinese Communist Party, and am personally disgusted by their human rights record. I don’t work for CAMG, so I don’t know everything about them. But in in the interests of truth, I just believe that Stephen has incorrectly claimed CAMG are ‘pretending’ when I saw for myself that CAMG’s website are pretty clear about their links to Government. (Meanwhile, I checked out ABC’s website and couldn’t find the part where they say they are Government-owned!).

    The hilarious thing about this is that there was nothing wrong with Ms Yu’s questions anyway, as Stephen said, “she can ask whatever questions she likes”. This whole story is based on such a non-issue, and yet so riddled with journalistic inaccuracies!

  10. craig z

    I find any mechanism, including the ‘use’ of foreign journalists to cloud the metering of information wrong. Stephen’s thesis was that it then ‘appeared’ as if a foreign media person was objectively reporting Chinese politics with critical thinking, but in reality, she is a patsy-like person (probably) used for metering information for control: abhorrent.

    If true, why is that bad: it is linked to other mechanisms of control used by the Chinese state: violence, abuse of official court processes to defame or unlawfully hold, etc etc. Most common, though is the use of media to portray or conceal these things which are crimes, often. Media is forced to portray everyday human Chinese stories, which are in a backdrop of a successful society, with strong growth, or else.

    You and I, if you are Australian, would, as joint rulers (democracy = rule by the people) exercise a good level of control. To do that, we need independent and critical media, including access to free information.

    There is a link between violence exercised partially (for party reasons) by the Chinese state, and what Andrea did here, so regardless of the ‘OK-ness” on the surface, it is the principal that grates on me. (…so an issue with me.)

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