CAPTION: “Look at how much fun we’re having!”
Every once in a while, I’ll catch segments on the news here that serve as surreal little reminders of exactly just how much state media is controlled in China. Yesterday was one of those moments.
It was a short piece on the 6 PM evening broadcast about Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Uruguay. (Sidenote: I got super excited after realizing that I was able to determine it was Uruguay from reading the Chinese characters alone. #notsohumblebrag. Go me.)
Anyway, the segment opened with sweeping shots of Wen and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica walking down a red carpet on an airport runway probably (I’m guessing) in Montevideo. They were flanked by Chinese and Uruguayan guards.
For Wen, it was just another media event. You could tell by now he’s figured out how to behave around the cameras. Each step was made with carefully paced precision. His head was held high, the slightest of a smile etched onto the corners of his mouth. Dude deserved an Oscar because it was incredibly well-acted.
Mujica, on the other hand, was a different story. As he followed Wen down the carpet, he seemed a little out of place. He had no rehearsed carpet walk, no smile that had been practiced over and over again in front of the mirror. In fact, he looked perhaps a bit confused — why were there cameras everywhere?
Of course, all of these staged “cementing of ties" appearances are nothing new to me. For two years, I worked at two different state-owned newspapers here in China. One of the biggest questions I get from people is if I ever dealt with the propaganda directly. As a designer, I didn’t really. Aside from some rules regarding photos — handshake photos, for instance, were often our only choice of art even though they’re generally frowned upon in news design — most editorial decisions were made well before the pages were handed down to the designers to work on.
Some months ago after yet another front page appeared with Hu Jintao shaking a foreign leader’s hand, a friend mused: “China really loves its bilateral ties.” Indeed it does.