I regularly read the e-mail newsletter put out by Peking University’s Centre for African Studies. As the centre is one of the main Africa research centres in China and — at least if we believe its director, Li Anshan, who graces each issue with a personal message — one of those with most frequent access to policy makers’ ears, it is interesting to see which foreign news items it reproduces, stamping them thus with an authoritative cachet for its mostly Chinese readership.
Most of them are simply taken from Africa news aggregrators like Allafrica.com, but occasionally there are links to left-wing or antiglobalist sites like Pambazuka or Counterpunch, and more rarely, to mainstream Western news sites. As one would expect, those praising China predominate, but while the choice is certainly not balanced, critical articles are not completely absent.
Rather than in the reporting on China, I see a much more clear and disturbing bias in the newsletter’s choice of representing Western — specifically American — views to underpin the message of a U.S.-led global conspiracy to dominate the world, and within it, Africa. Articles from the English-language website of Pravda — the newspaper of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, formerly the Soviet Union’s People’s Daily but by now a marginal publication — or the Centre for Research on Globalization, a Canada-based New World Order conspiracy theory site that most academics in the West would probably regard as wacky, are offered up without any comments, creating the appearance that they represent mainstream views in Russia and North America.
In the 25 October issue (No. 65), Li — whose signature lecture in Englh is on how China’s foreign policy is driven by Confucian values — quotes Paul Craig Roberts’ article on Counterpunch in his weekly letter to readers as accusing the U.S. government of assassinating Gadhafi. According to Li, it is not by chance that he was killed a day after Hilary Clinton expressed the U.S. government’s hope to see him captured or dead soon.
Who knows, maybe Roberts — and Li, who doesn’t accuse but insinuates — are right. The problem here, though, is that Roberts is identified simply as a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, creating the impression that the U.S. has all but officially confessed to engineering the murder. Now, Roberts had that position for two years in the Reagan administration. Today, however, he is known as a radical critic who, according to Wikipedia, has called the U.S. a puppet state of Israel and said “There is probably more democracy in China than there is in the west. Revolution is the only answer…”