A Response to President Xi Jin-ping
The New York Times, November 12. 2014
During their summit meeting in Beijing, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China made much of their agreement to ease visa restrictions for businessmen, students and tourists.
Yet when Mr. Xi was asked at a news conference if he would do the same for foreign journalists, who have had a hard time obtaining permission to work in China, he displayed little patience with such concerns.
After first appearing to ignore the question from Mark Landler, a reporter from The Times, Mr. Xi circled back to the issue and advised that “when a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to step down and see what the problem is.” The metaphor may have been oblique, but the message was clear: He was warning foreign news organizations that their troubles are self-inflicted; they are being penalized for unfavorable or controversial news coverage and could correct the problem by changing that approach.
The Chinese government has regularly declined to process visas for any new resident Times journalist and has sought to block access to the newspaper’s English-language and Chinese-language websites for people inside China over the past two years after news reports were published by The Times on the wealth of China’s political elite.
The Times has no intention of altering its coverage to meet the demands of any government — be it that of China, the United States or any other nation. Nor would any credible news organization. The Times has a long history of taking on the American government, from the publication of the Pentagon Papers to investigations of secret government eavesdropping.
The Times’s commitment is to its readers who expect, and rightly deserve, the fullest, most truthful discussion of events and people shaping the world.
China, with 1.3 billion people and the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, is a major force regionally and internationally and merits serious coverage. The Times will continue to give the country and its citizens honest reporting and attention. Mr. Xi claimed that China protects the rights of media organizations. Demanding that journalists tailor their coverage to suit the state only protects the powerful and those with something to hide. A confident regime that considers itself a world leader should be able to handle truthful examination and criticism.