U.S. media misquote China-related reports, causing concerns

Well-Known U.S. newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have raised the eyebrows of many Chinese recently in their two questionable reports on sensitive China-related topics.

Under a provocative headline, “Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Chinese need for conflict is ‘deeply ingrained'”, The Post published an interview Thursday citing Abe as saying that China has a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory, because it uses the disputes to maintain strong domestic support.

The pugnacious posture from Tokyo sparked strong reactions from Beijing, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying it is rare for a country’s leader to brazenly distort facts, attack the country’s neighbor and instigate confrontation among countries in the region.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga quickly denied the comment on Friday, telling reporters that it has clarified to China that the U.S. paper incorrectly quoted Abe’s words and led to misunderstanding.

In a similar case, the Wall Street Journal misquoted a Chinese story in a recent report on China’s growing luxury shopping trips abroad.

The writer of “China gets angry at overseas luxury shopping trips,” which published on Tuesday on its website, quoted a Xinhua story released a week earlier, saying it criticized Chinese consumers of spending wantonly abroad, avoiding tariffs that would benefit the nation.

The reporter had unfortunately misunderstood the basic stand of the article, which was urging the “relevant departments” of the Chinese government to contemplate possible policy changes — such as to cut the high luxury import taxes — to gain these customers back, boost the domestic retail industry and add jobs.

“If you have the money to spend, why not spend it at home?” The newspaper took the question thrown at government officials to mean an obvious finger-pointing at consumers.

The paper’s devious interpretation, also translated into Chinese and posted on China’s popular Weibo, has triggered flooding criticism on the Chinese report. The negative public response to the Wall Street Journal quotes threatens to damage the reputation of the Xinhua reporters as well as the news agency they work for.

Neither the reporter nor the paper has yet responded to the email and online complaints by a Xinhua reporter. The two Sina microblogs introducing the distorted story has each been forwarded more than 1,000 times, two most popular messages of the week on the official Weibo feed from the Wall Street Journal Chinese online edition.

“I often read the Wall Street Journal because it’s an influential and well-respected Western newspaper,” one Weibo user wrote in Chinese. “But the obvious misquotation and misinterpretation here have called into question the credibility of the newspaper and let me wonder whether it’s habitually bending the truth to sell its stories.”

Observers said such journalistic missteps are not uncommon in Western media, although it’s quite impossible to determine whether they are intentional or accidental.

In the case of the Abe comments, the Washington Post misquotation has certainly inflamed the already touchy relations between China and Japan, something Washington does not want to see, a weibo user said.


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