Chinese Media Skews Coverage of US Vice Presidential Debate

Chinese Media Skews Coverage of US Vice Presidential Debate
(L) Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and (R) Vice President Mike Pence during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Oct. 7, 2020. (Eric Baradat/POOL/AFP & Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
The U.S. vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 was broadcast in China. State-run media censored sensitive issues on China in an effort to manipulate public opinion and push Beijing’s narrative.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Propaganda Department dictates the trend and content of the media’s report. Let’s look at the coverage by the popular and influential media The Paper as an example.

First of all, The Paper did not cover certain topics raised during the debate between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Ironically, part of the report’s headline stated that the candidates “avoided” many issues. The vice presidential debate covered at least nine topics—the pandemic, the presidential candidates’  health condition, the economy, climate change, China issues, foreign relations, Supreme Court, racial justice, and transfer of power. The Paper claimed to “comb through” the debate but only touched on a few topics such as the pandemic, Trump’s tax returns, and the transfer of power.

Secondly, The Paper pushed the CCP’s narrative on sensitive topics. For example, while the pandemic was the first topic in the debate, The Paper laid it out as the second topic, and only reported on Harris’ criticisms of the Trump administration’s pandemic response and her statement that she would not take vaccines approved by Trump.

As for Pence’s response, The Paper reported that he “vigorously defended efforts made by the Trump administration in preventing the pandemic” and “criticized that Biden’s plan was to copy what the Trump administration was currently doing.”

But The Paper did not say anything about the Trump administration’s “efforts” and did not dare to mention what Pence said about holding the Chinese regime accountable for the spread of the virus.

“China is to blame for the coronavirus and President Trump is not happy about it,” Pence said. “China and the World Health Organization did not play straight with the American people, they did not let our personnel into China to get information on the coronavirus until the middle of February.”

The Paper also omitted what Pence told Harris, “Stop playing politics with people’s lives,” after Pence challenged Harris for undermining “public confidence in a vaccine, if the vaccine emerges during the Trump administration.”

The CCP has deflected blame on its botched handling of COVID-19 and has launched a disinformation campaign targeting the United States, even promoting a conspiracy theory that the virus came from the U.S. military.
Trump’s tax return is the first topic that The Paper covered. It stated, “Just like what Biden did during the presidential debate, Harris also hit Trump over his tax returns.” The Paper continued, “When the moderator asked whether candidates should publish their health records, Harris said that she supports the transparency of health and tax records, and pointed out that Trump is the first president in modern American history who did not publish his tax records. The Paper cited American news sources that reported that “Trump paid no income taxes for 10 of the 15 years before he was elected president.”

Of course, The Paper did not bother to mention Pence’s reply, which was: “And the President also released literally stacks of financial disclosures the American people can review just as the law allows.”

The Paper briefly touched on the issue of taxes and wrote, “Pence intended to divert the focus of the debate to the economy and U.S. tax policy.” Pence had said that if Biden wins the election, “on day one, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.” But Harris immediately reiterated that “Joe Biden has been very clear, he will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year.’”

Pence praised Trump’s efforts in strengthening the U.S. economy but The Paper deliberately left out his comments. Pence had said: “Joe Biden has said it twice in the debate last week that he’s going to repeal the Trump tax cuts. … Right after a time where we’re going through a pandemic that lost 22 million jobs at the height, we’ve already added back 11.6 million jobs because we had a president who cut taxes, rolled back regulation, unleashed American energy, fought for free and fair trade and secured four trillion dollars from the Congress of the United States to give direct payments to families, save 50 million jobs through the Paycheck Protection Program.”

On the issue of the Supreme Court, Pence asked Harris three times in a row, “Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” He also made it clear to Harris, “This is a classic case of if you can’t win by the rules, you’re going to change the rules.” But Harris did not directly answer Pence’s question. Pence said to the camera: “Reelect President Donald Trump, and we’ll stand by that separation of powers in a nine-seat Supreme Court.”

The Paper’s report did not report on these nuances.

The Paper also reported that both candidates dodged the moderator’s question about peaceful transfer of power after the election results. It reported that Harris said, “Joe and I are particularly proud of the coalition that we’ve built around our campaign,” and she urged everyone to vote. Whereas it also reported that Pence said, “We have a free and fair election. We know we’re going to have confidence in it. And I believe in all my heart that president Donald Trump is going to be reelected for four more years.”

What The Paper deliberately ignored was Pence’s reminder to the audience that the Democratic Party “has spent the last three and a half years trying to overturn the results of the last election.”

During the 2016 election, the Democrats alleged that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia, but evidence shows that there was no criminal conspiracy. Trump recently announced in a Twitter post that he has authorized the “total” declassification of all documents relating to the Russia collusion and Hillary Clinton email probes.

Surely, the China issue is just too sensitive to cover for The Paper. Pence’s words would have pierced the heart of the CCP.

Pence said bluntly, “Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades,” and “Joe Biden never fought the trade war with China,” but “we’re going to hold China accountable for what they did to America with the coronavirus.”

The overall tone of The Paper’s report is that “Biden will win and Trump is in trouble.” That’s exactly what the regime intended to instill in the Chinese people. The CCP’s strategy of supporting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and belittling President Trump was once again demonstrated through the report.
To confuse the general Chinese population, The Paper also cited Oct. 6 poll results from RealClearPolitics. Trump lagged behind Biden with 41 percent to 57 percent. Local polling data also showed that former Vice President Biden may defeat Trump in most “swing states” and win key Electoral College votes.
But there is also polling data that projects Trump will win. The monthly Democracy Institute Sunday Express poll showed that Trump was on course for a victory with 46 percent of the popular support, compared to Biden’s 45 percent support. This gave a projected Electoral College split of 320 to Trump and 218 to Biden.
Chinese state media have openly voiced support for a Biden presidency. But Trump may be re-elected, and this is what the CCP fears most.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Zhou Xiaohui is a former college professor. He has been contributing commentaries to The Epoch Times on Chinese politics, history, and culture since 2009.
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