Chinese censorship has been in overdrive since U.S. cable news channel Fox Business Network aired a primetime debate between one of its hosts and a Chinese state-run television anchor.
The scheduled debate between Liu Xin, Chinese TV anchor for CGTN, the international arm of China’s state-run broadcaster, and Trish Regan, a host on Fox Business Network, was shown on May 29 in the United States.
CGTN, citing copyright issues, canceled initial plans to show the debate live.
However, in major Chinese cities, Fox Business Network is accessible via TV cable packages with U.S. cable channels. On May 30, netizens began sharing video segments that they recorded from their televisions—only for the posts to be quickly deleted by Chinese censors.
Some netizens also published social-media posts with links to watch the debate online, with some claiming that the links didn’t need to be accessed via VPN (virtual private network), a tool for circumventing the Chinese firewall by masking the origin of one’s internet protocol.
Rather than a true debate, the roughly 16-minute-long segment mainly consisted of Regan asking Liu some pointed questions; Liu mostly stuck with the Party line in her responses. Perhaps the only unexpected point of the debate was when Liu corrected Regan’s introductory remarks describing her as part of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), to which Liu responded that she isn’t a Party member and was only speaking as a CGTN journalist. (CGTN is among the Party’s array of propaganda outlets that are geared toward international audiences).
When Regan asked about China stealing U.S. intellectual property, Liu responded by saying that, while she didn’t deny that there are cases of IP infringement and theft of commercial secrets in China, these cases also happen in other parts of the world.
Liu’s response was typical of how Beijing has addressed U.S. allegations that China has encouraged IP theft to achieve its policy goals. For example, the state-run China Daily, in an opinion article published in July 2018, said the U.S. Trade Representative’s Section 301 investigation into Chinese IP theft is based on “rumors, surmises, and half-truths.”
According to a 2017 report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, the U.S. economy suffers an annual loss between $225 billion and $600 billion due to China’s IP theft.
Regan then asked Liu why China, while being the world’s second-largest economy, can still claim developing-nation status and continue to borrow from the World Bank.
“Will China decide to abandon its developing-nation status?” she asked.
In response, Liu questioned the definition of a developing country, explaining that China’s per capita GDP is still a fraction of that of the United States.
She also sought to portray China as a responsible major nation by saying that it has contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions and provided humanitarian aid; she failed to mention that China continues to be a recipient of humanitarian aid itself.
David Malpass, president of the World Bank, said at an April 11 press conference that the bank would reduce lending to China, as it’s no longer a developing country that depends on such loans.
The two hosts had previously said on Twitter that the main topic of the debate would be the ongoing Sino–U.S. trade war. But when Regan asked Liu about whether she believed a trade deal could be negotiated, Liu stated that she didn’t have “insider information” about that, adding that the two governments have already made their positions clear.
However, none of the Chinese citizens who tuned into CCTV’s live blog about the event knew such details. CCTV didn’t provide any footage of the segment but only published a live blog, which later was compiled into an article with only 428 Chinese characters.
This article has since been reposted by other Chinese media.
The 428-character article contained an abridged version of Regan’s question and Liu’s response about the trade dispute. It then mentioned Liu’s brief comments on intellectual property—taken out of context, without mentioning Regan’s question. Finally, the article touched upon China’s economic status by quoting Liu’s comments about China wanting to become stronger, but failed to mention Regan’s original question, which prompted such a response.
Some Chinese netizens posted complete debate videos or posted live comments about the Fox segment on Chinese social-media platforms; Chinese authorities have since removed such content.
On Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, many Chinese netizens expressed a desire to see the complete segment.