Jiang Qisheng, a former leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square prodemocracy protests, has gone on trial for ‘inciting the overthrow of state power.’ He is charged with calling for the lighting of candles to com mem orate those killed in 1989.”
—The New York Times, October 28 “There are 3 billion people in Asia and 2 billion of them are in the MTV generation. That’s who we’re after.”
—Sumner Redstone of Viacom, owner of MTV and soon CBS, explaining why news organizations should not be unnecessarily offensive to foreign governments, in The New York Times, September 29
We rarely see America’s corporate oligarchy gathered in public. Deals affecting us and the rest of the world are made behind closed boardroom doors or discussed in trade and industry publications most of us don’t see.
But in September, Time Warner’s Global Forum—a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ascension of China’s Communist Party and a gathering of more than 300 of the world’s foremost multinational capitalists—was held in Shanghai. The festivities continued in Beijing.
Among the guests honoring one of the most repressive regimes on earth were America’s lords of the press—a term coined by the greatest press critic in American history, the late George Seldes.
In preparation for the fawning tribute to the totalitarian rulers of China, martial law was declared in half of Beijing—to make sure that the hundreds of thousands cheering in the streets included only those cleared by the government. Furthermore, as Seth Faison reported in the October 1 New York Times, “The authorities ordered shut every window facing Beijing’s main avenue, and blocked some residents from leaving their homes for two days.” And, of course, Big Brother kept close watch on the dissidents who had not been arrested beforehand.
This brazen display of tyranny included the banning of Time magazine’s commemorative issue, “China’s Amazing Half Century,” just before the conference began. Breathing in the stifling air were Sumner Redstone; John Welch of General Electric (which owns NBC); the boss of Bertelsmann (owner of the Random House stable of book publishers); and the heads of America Online, Yahoo!, et al. Cushioned by the bottom line, they genuflected before President Jiang Zemin.
These owners of much of the U.S.’s free press toasted the government that—as Cynthia Cotts reported in the October 12 Voice—hustled thousands of migrant workers off to detention camps before the Time Warner forum and then told newspaper editors precisely what to write about it. Said one editor: “There was no discussion, no variation, no room to change anything” in covering the resplendent celebration.
As icing on the birthday cake, 34 prisoners were summarily executed—without any trace of actual due process. In the months before the Chinese politburo’s 50th anniversary, the government—notes Amnesty International—had “turned the clock backward.”
Yet the Clinton administration, Time Warner, and all the chronically greedy global capitalists who came for the birthday party keep assuring us that “constructive engagement” and free trade will eventually, inevitably, bring freedom to the Chinese people.
In a recent conversation with me, Xiao Qiang, executive director of the New York–based Human Rights in China, pointed out that every time Clinton has practiced “constructive engagement” by pushing trade with China or removing pressure for action
on human rights, repression in China has increased
as a result.
Of all American journalists, Abe Rosenthal—lately fired by Pinch Sulzberger after 56 years with The New York Times—most persistently exposed the barbarous cruelty of the Chinese government. At the end of his September 17 column, “Partying in China,” he quoted California member of Congress Nancy Pelosi, who has vigorously and angrily opposed Clinton’s China policy. She said:
“The spectacle of the U.S. CEOs kowtowing to the Chinese Communist leaders is grotesque but not new.
“This time, however, when the CEOs stand in Tiananmen Square with the Beijing regime to ‘celebrate’ 50 years of killing and repression, they will have blood on the soles of their shoes.”
Because, clearly, they have no souls.
For example, Gerald M. Levin, chairman of Time Warner, Inc.—and the orchestrator of this disgusting obeisance to the bottom line—made sure that he would be the one to personally introduce President Jiang Zemin, calling him “my good friend.” And—as reported by Seth Faison in the September 29 Times—Levin presented the boss of torturers with a bust of Abraham Lincoln.
Levin—who refused to meet with human rights representatives before the conference—told the extremely important visitors in his caravan that Jiang is one of the few world leaders who can reel off the Gettysburg address from memory.
“Mr. Jiang,” wrote Seth Faison, “beamed as his praises were sung by the Time Warner chairman.”
Except for Abe Rosenthal, before he was banished by the Times, and human rights organizations that don’t get much media space, the press has long underplayed the atrocities committed by Jiang and his government. Next week: the awful truth about China.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 1999