The Chinese Communist Party is hoping to enlist the efforts of a new-era Edgar Snow – amenable foreign journalists deployed as “useful idiots” to improve the regime’s image abroad.
Summary by Probe International
Earlier this month, the state-run English-language newspaper China Daily unveiled “The Edgar Snow Newsroom” in an effort to sell a more sympathetic view of China abroad via foreigners like the initiative’s namesake.
The late Edgar Snow was one of the first Western journalists to introduce Communist China to the world and report on the birth of the country’s Communist movement in his 1937 account, Red Star Over China. Snow’s interviews with Mao Tse-tung and his access to leaders within the movement was unparalleled for a foreign reporter at the time. His point of view would later be seen as compromised by the selective perspective he gained through his proximity to Mao and associates, but he remains an example in China of an ideal foreign correspondent.
Announcing the initiative, Zhou Shuchun, the publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, described “The Edgar Snow Newsroom” as a modern-day quest for a “true, multi-dimensional and panoramic view of China by better telling the story of the country and the Communist Party of China to the world.”
In the piece below, international news broadcaster Voice of America – Chinese looks at the quest to locate a new-era Edgar Snow in a world where China’s Communist regime is now a known quantity, as opposed to the world of 1937 when Snow’s impression “turned Western society’s curiosity about the Communist Party into sympathy for the Communist Party,” according to Perry Link, an American sinologist and professor at the University of California-Riverside.
Link says the CCP is not seeking a Snow per se but what is less flatteringly known as “useful idiots” – a term used during the Cold War in reference to the Western intellectuals Moscow would handpick for orchestrated visits to the Soviet Union to ensure a sympathetic version of the Lenin regime transmitted to the outside world.
In modern Western society, Link says there are two types of “useful idiots” that serve the CCP’s interests: left-wing journalists and academics who “hate Western capitalism and neo-nihilism” with sympathy for the Communist Party politically or people who can look past the reality of the Communist Party in exchange for financial gain, the Party’s favour and access to the Chinese market.
Patricia Adams, the executive director of Toronto-based China monitor Probe International and author of The Red and The Green: China’s Useful Idiots, told Voice of America some environmentalists and environmental agencies in the United States and Canada have become useful green idiots. In exchange for funding or favour, she says they are willing to tow the Party line on environmental issues and paint the regime’s efforts in a flattering light.