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Listening Post
China: Soft power or hard sell?
As Chinese stories dominate global headlines, we examine one of the country's growing exports - the image of itself.
Last Modified: 19 May 2012 16:31

On Listening Post this week: Soft power or hard sell? China's new media strategy. Plus, beating censorship in Zimbabwe by dialling in the news.

Over the past few weeks, stories coming out of China have dominated the global headlines. First came the Bo Xilai political scandal, followed by the story of Chen Guangcheng, the blind dissident, and more recently, the expulsion of Al Jazeera's sole China correspondent Melissa Chan. Chinese authorities have yet to specify the reasons why Chen was not allowed to stay, and it has left room for speculation, mostly negative, in the Western media.

Meanwhile, Beijing is addressing what it sees as an unfair deal in the Western media through its own soft power push. China has reportedly spent $6mn on news channels broadcasting in English, Russian and Arabic. In this week's News Divide, we look at one of China's growing exports - the image of itself.

This week's News Bytes: Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of Rupert Murdoch's British media arm is charged with perverting the course of justice - the latest development in the phone hacking scandal; a Mexican presidential candidate is accused of buying favourable media coverage; a Moroccan rapper is jailed for a YouTube video he insists is not his; and what happens when an Iranian cartoonist draws a caricature of a local MP?

Although the 'Arab Spring' has been contained to North Africa and the Middle East, it has unnerved leaders further afield in countries with democratic credentials that are less than stellar. Zimbabwe is one such country. Earlier this year, six Zimbabweans faced treason charges for gathering and screening footage of the Arab revolutions. Although those charges were eventually whittled down and they received suspended jail sentences, the message was clear from Harare. It has been more than three years since the Zimbabwe Government of National Unity was formed, merging Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change. However, critics argue that the coalition has done little to reform the country's media. Government censorship - direct or indirect - is still a reality in Zimbabwe, but some are finding ways around it. Listening Post's Nic Muirhead looks at how, even in the digital age, sometimes the best way for Zimbabweans to get the news is to pick up the phone.

Pi San is a Chinese animator and provocateur whose work would certainly not fit in with Beijing's media message. His web animations are so popular that they often go viral before government censors can pull them down. One of his most famous creations is a mischievous schoolboy named Kuang Kuang who he uses to address some of China's social and political issues. The animation we are showing you depicts a dream Kuang Kuang had about a world in which rabbits are ruled by tigers. The symbolism is well recognised in China - the rabbits represent the people and the tigers represent the authorities. Our Internet Video of the Week reportedly got three to four million hits before falling victim to the Great Firewall of China. We hope you enjoy the show. 

 
Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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