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Games coverage exposes bias of Western media

By Chen Weihua | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-08-06 10:10
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China's Lu Yunxiu celebrates after winning the Women's Windsurfer RS:X final during the Sailing events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Enoshima, Japan, July 31, 2021. [Photo/IC]

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has brought much-needed joy to people around the world given that it is being held after a yearlong delay and prolonged lockdowns in many places due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Chinese athletes have performed superbly at Tokyo; they were leading the gold medal tally at the end of Thursday.

People across the world are celebrating the Olympic spirit. But some biased Western media outlets have wasted no time in politicizing the biggest sports gala and smearing China. For example, when Chinese people cheer their athletes, they call it a show of nationalism. But it’s okay for American fans to chant “USA, USA ...” on the streets and in bars in support of the US team.

An article in July 29 edition of The New York Times, titled “The Chinese sports machine’s single goal: The most golds, at any cost”, shows how some journalists use stereotypes and double standard to judge Chinese athletes. Hannah Beech, the article’s author, seems to argue that the United States athletes’ aim is not necessarily to win gold medals, or that US athletes can win without sweating their guts out for years.

That is not only untrue but also disrespectful to athletes such as Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee, the two great US female gymnasts. The public and news media support and sympathy Biles got when she withdrew from several events at the Tokyo Games, citing mental issues, were overwhelming. The article also lays bare the double standard some Western media use to evaluate Chinese athletes.

Beech has accused China of fielding far more female than male athletes. But shouldn’t that be seen as a great success of gender equality?

The allegation that China puts excessive emphasis on a handful sports, such as table tennis, badminton, shooting, diving, gymnastics and weightlifting, is both absurd and racist, given every country has its own strength, and table tennis and badminton are among the most popular sports in China.

The Tokyo medal table used by some US news outlets is also a cause for concern. While Olympics.com, the International Olympic Committee’s official website, put China first on Thursday with 34 gold, 24 silver and 16 bronze, the NYT and The Washington Post both put the US team, with 29 gold, on top of the table because of its total medal tally of 91 compared with China’s 74. Media outlets in Europe, such as The Guardian, all followed the IOC.

When China led the US 21:16 in gold medals, and both teams’ overall medal tally was 45 last weekend, the NYT tweeted that China and the US were tied for most medals, which was not accurate.

Such twisting of facts reminds people of the Chinese people’s outcry over Western media’s coverage of the recent floods in Henan province. Many Western media said the floods were a result of a lack of government preparedness, while floods, droughts and wildfires in Europe and North America are simply caused by climate change.

Many Western journalists described the Chinese government’s pandemic-prevention and control measures as “authoritarian” until their own governments implemented similar measures, including using surveillance drones, lockdowns and giving incentives for vaccination, to contain the pandemic.

There is no doubt that more and more foreign journalists are under pressure these days to be “politically correct” in their reporting, with China bashing being a key part of “political correctness”. The problem with the US media is nothing new. According to a Pew survey last year, only 13 percent of the respondents said they trusted the US media to do what is right.

Journalists are supposed to be the watchdogs of society. So their work should be based on solid facts, instead of being biased and sensational to fulfill the needs of their toxic domestic politics, which mislead readers.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels. chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn

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