Chinese, Latin American media poised to promote understanding as ties deepen

Instead of being dominated by the Western narrative, media from the emerging world should seek common ground on development issues so as to amplify their voices.

Jiang Jianguo (third from left), Vice Minister of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of CPC and director of the State Council Information Office of China, addresses the media forum.  

“A bosom friend afar brings distance near,” goes a Chinese proverb. It perfectly captures the dynamics of China’s relationship with Latin America. Although they are geographically far apart, their strategic cooperation has never been closer.

Chinese media professionals and their Latin American counterparts recently gathered at a forum in Beijing to discuss the great inroads that have been made in this relationship as well as the role media can play in deepening their ties.

The forum was co-organized by Xinhuanet, under the auspices of the State Council Information Office.

In fact, this forum came on the heels of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and a huge media delegation from Latin America was invited to the forum.

For many delegates it was their first trip to China and they were eager to share their observations about the country they had only read about in the media, especially Western press.

Olga Ojeda Lajud, head of the international desk of Notimex, the Mexican State News Agency, said the 19th CPC National Congress had mapped out a blueprint for China’s development in the years to come. Besides, it served as a window on the country’s aspirations on the global stage.

More exchanges

The past few years have witnessed tremendous growth in terms of trade, investment and cultural exchange between China and Latin America. “Latin America has now emerged as an important trade partner and investment destination (for China),” said Lajud.

Years after the global downturn hit emerging economies like Brazil, Chile and Mexico, things are getting better, and a strong economic rebound can be seen in these countries, signaling a “brighter future not just for Latin America but also for China and the world.”

As it is of growing strategic value to China, Latin America is looking to double the volume of trade with China from some US$260 billion as of the first half of this year, to US$500 billion in the next decade.

Media should “play its part in that undertaking,” she said, adding that forms of collaborations are myriad, including sharing of content, mutual learning, and holding workshops for media professionals.

Among them, content sharing has been underway and Lajud hopes this trend will keep its momentum, as “media from both sides have something useful to offer each other.”

Zhou Zongmin concurred. The vice Editor-in-Chief of Xinhua News Agency said that during the 19th CPC National Congress, select journalism from Chinese publications has been run, in whole or in part, by Latin American press.

Xinhua’s reports about the meeting were published in more than 20 mainstream media outlets in Latin America.

“All the coverage of (the 19th CPC National Congress) has contributed to better understanding among local readers about China, the CPC and this hugely important congress,” Zhou said.

Latin American media professionals discuss with their Chinese counterparts the role media can play in promoting mutual understanding. Photos courtesy of the State Council Information Office of China.

Common challenges

Like Lajud, he encouraged the media from both sides to step up their cooperation in rising to common challenges such as the technological change, decreasing circulation, dwindling advertisement revenues, and above all, a host of new media players competing for attention.

One of the areas where he expects brisk development is to forge better coordination when reporting about issues that are of vital interest to both parties. Instead of being dominated by the Western narrative, media from the emerging world should seek common ground on development issues so as to amplify their voices.

Of course, considering the diversity across the emerging world, this can only be overcome with programs meant to narrow the knowledge deficit.

Due to the long geographical distance and cultural chasm that lies between them, China and Latin America have to sort out a few differences arising from the lack of mutual understanding if they are to further their ties.

Chen Xiaoru, a reporter with China Youth Newspaper, spoke about her experience during an assignment in April, when she interviewed the head of a Zhejiang Province-based business that had just partnered with a Mexican company on an industrial park project in Mexico.

The project hit a snag after skeptical local rights groups voiced their opposition on environmental grounds, but her investigation revealed that this may largely have been a result of ineffective communication. Chen believed the best way to address complaints like these is to let unbiased media play a crucial role in assuaging public concerns.

She said a widely shared feeling among Chinese investors overseas is that “we don’t need encomiums; instead, we need objective comments made independently of any prejudices.”

A main lesson from the Mexican story, she said, is that we can add a few more mechanisms to the existing frameworks governing media cooperation between China and Latin America. One of these additions, she suggested, is to build a database of contact information of key Chinese and Latin American media stakeholders.

So whenever issues come up that threaten to disrupt the relationship, there will always be credible voices to rely on to dispel the rumors, untruths and facilitate the flow of effective communication.

Indeed, the next time we have some argument concerning a project, the proactive intervention of objective and impartial media will help suck the oxygen out of what might become a poisonous polemics, said Chen.

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