Megha Rajagopalan, former China bureau chief for American news platform BuzzFeed, recently applied to have her visa renewed, but was denied by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. Her story quickly spread among foreign journalists based in the capital and elsewhere, who wrote articles in a show of support for her case.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China issued a statement saying Rajagopalan's visa rejection was "extremely regrettable and unacceptable," which set the stage for another round of conflict between Chinese and Western values.
According to Western media reports, one reason Rajagopalan was rejected could have been connected to her coverage on China's Xinjiang. She has written distorted reports about a variety of things that have happened in that area, feeding the Western media narrative that favors stories critical of how China governs the autonomous region. Rajagopalan has since said the rejection was the result of a "process thing," and that there was no mention of her Xinjiang coverage.
Foreign reporters working in China are required to have a specific visa which typically needs to be renewed a few times a year. The same rules apply for Chinese correspondents working outside of China. It is a country's sovereign right to decide whether or not to renew a foreign correspondent's visa.
In 2016, three Xinhua News Agency correspondents had to leave India after they found out their visas would not be renewed. In fact, most people have a clear understanding of why a correspondent's visa renewal application is rejected, but when it happens in China, some exaggerate the situation and turn it into a much bigger deal.
Western media's coverage of China is usually negative. And there are even a few outlets that choose to take a more radical stance than others. Yet this is not something that can be resolved in the near future. China's attitude toward Western correspondents and cases regarding visa renewals will not have a significant impact on Western media attitudes toward China.
Western media has reinforced their prejudices against China. US aggression toward the country continues to rise alongside China's global ascent. Other foreign countries have also become abnormally anxious. Western correspondents find it too easy to pick on the Eastern giant with a political system they cannot understand and confounds them, even more, when it becomes clear that China has achieved an economic miracle.
Western news sources tailor their China reports in efforts to soothe readers by using Chinese stereotypes. Some platforms will use the Internet to stir confusion within Chinese society.
Some Western media outlets believe they are entitled to do whatever they want, but such nonsense is unacceptable. Friction between both sides will remain inevitable, and it will continue regardless of the source.
Relevant agencies in China are not going to step aside and do nothing when it comes to Western media's treatment of China. Meanwhile, Chinese society needs to improve its tolerance for delusional Western reporting and realize the limitations in place when it comes to having an influence on foreign media's preconceived China narrative.
As the Chinese like to say, "We'll do what we have to do regardless of what others say." However, the fact is that the Chinese care about what others think about China. Ideally, the Chinese are supposed to tolerate whatever Western media says since their country has become stronger, but this has yet to happen.
The Chinese, either officials or regular citizens, still like it when Western media says positive things about their country. They do not like to hear the negative. They are accustomed to using Western evaluations as a mirror that reflects their progress, even though they are aware the mirror is distorted like the ones used at carnivals.
Traditional Western media is in decline, just like their correspondents in China. It is nowhere near as influential as it once was. Several media outlets criticized US President Donald Trump during the election, but he fought back after he won and started accusing media of manufacturing fake news. It is conceivable how Western media has lost its influence.
Western media thought they would have a big influence on China. And it appears that some Western journalists were able to make a profit from the negative coverage. Unfortunately, Chinese society took them too seriously.
Some Western journalists tried as hard as they could to attack their own governments, which proved to be ineffective as they thought the critical coverage of China would not have as much of an impact. And it is this right here that serves as the key point and the is the only logic the Chinese can rely on, although it turns blurry while impacted by specific factors in reality.
The Chinese have two paths from which they can choose. First, try to make outside opinions on China more objective. Second, focus on self-improvement which will provide Chinese with the strength to ignore foreign "intellectuals." The second path could be the decisive action the Chinese need to make right now.