Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Still: no real Wikileaks stories from China

Montreux 017Fons Tuinstra by Fantake via Flickr
Call me a bit of a cynic, but up to now none of the Wikileaks I have noted in the media have brought any news concerning China. I hope for other countries that the efforts of Mr. Assange have made a bit more sense, but the two major "news" stories on China are really no news at all. We still have some US diplomatic cables to receive, but I'm getting worried.

When I saw the story "break" that China's GDP figures were man-made, it took me an hour to recover. What a display of ignorance! The frustration about those GDP figures being fabricated can only live with journalists who actually believed they were true.
Wikileaks offers mainly nice gossip stories from US diplomats. In one of the Wikileaks a Chinese official was quoted saying that GDP figures in 2007 were man-made. I'm not very good with figures, but when you see that China's provincial GDP figures have been for years, including 2007, all been above the national GDP, then you know there is something rotten. We did not need Wikileads for that.
Most of those figures were also announced in the first ten minutes into the New Year, so you knew they had been fabricated long before year end. Why were they fabricated? Because the bonuses of provincial officials were dependent on them.
And the same goes for the national GDP over the years. Western media have been reporting annually that the national figures were adjusted almost every year to show that there was no economic crisis, or no overheating, depending on what year you look at.
In the past few years a lot has been done by the Chinese official bean counters to improve their scientific value. Disconnecting bonuses from GDP figures was for example a smart move. But I still find those figures very hard to take serious.
Next issue. Wikileaks disclosed the Politburo is working like a cabal of business interests. I looked around after reading this, but there was nobody to share my sense of shock about this nonsense story. Who had every claimed it was no cabal of business interests?
Alright, especially American media were very good in dividing up the politicians in China into two groups, the reds and the blues, the progressives and the conservatives, preferably each with a 'leader' heading for the presidency. I always found that an agreeable way of faking reality to make the complicated Chinese situation slightly consumable for their US audiences, who saw a nice mirror of US politics.
And now, in a sudden discovery through Wikileaks, they discover that their false assumptions on China's politics were false. We Europeans are more used to a slightly more complicated political landscape, so I made often fun of these US "news stories". But that way of wrongly framing the China stories, now got a new twist.

Sight. So, in fact, we did not have any real disclosures from Wikileaks. I always appreciated the thorough insights of US diplomats in China. They had many more opportunities to collect information and analyse it, compared to us, poor foreign correspondents. But Wikileaks still has to disclose that competence.

Update: Glad to see I'm not the only one wondering what the fuzz is about.

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