The NYT story on the Wen Family finances that came out in October, Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader, is lauded by mainstream media figures as a journalistic coup and an example of gumshoe investigative journalism. But a small minority of media outlets, led by erstwhile Western media darlings Boxun and Mingjing, counter that the story is a clear leak. At best, they say, it’s impressive the way David Barboza followed up on the leaked documents that several other mainstream media organizations had taken a look at.
Evan Osnos, in a breakdown of the aftermath of the story, says this about rumors of a leak:
Osnos himself has been involved in some serious investigative journalism, including a series of stories for the Chicago Tribune that earned the team a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism. Barboza is one of the NYT’s best journalists and has been covering business – which this story was mostly about – for years. So we should expect this level of effort from them and the newsrooms that back them and not be surprised when they deliver. Does anyone sneer when Lebron dunks? No. Only when he doesn’t.
But just yesterday a correspondent with a major British news organization was standing next to me in the bathroom and he asked, Do you think the Wen Story was a leak? It’s a question two people who follow the media and China will ask each other in the loo, or at a bar, or over dinner.
In fact, the question is so prevalent that Osnos went out of his way to refute it in his column linked above, and Barboza wrote a blurb about “Obtaining Financial Records in China” in order to prove that, yes, it is possible to get your hands on this information without a Chinese insider handing you a dossier in the shadows of the Shanghai Bund.
This essay might sound a bit familiar, if you read this blog, as I seem to be circling the idea of change as a possibility. Last essay I wrote on this topic was Silk Roads and Great Walls, and that dealt briefly with the high-level impediments, this one here is a look at the grassroots blockages …
Yesterday I went to visit the company that helps me handle fapiaos every now and then and I asked a few questions about visas. The visa situation for foreigners in China has always been a bit crooked, like pretty much everything else here, so I was only mildly surprised when she said “you’ll need a middleman to handle the documents for you”.
“In the past, you could just go to the visa office with your documents and hand them in directly,” I replied.
“Yes, but now the office will only accept applications from a middleman, for a much higher fee, because there is a woman in the office now and her brother is the main middleman.”
That surprised me. The matter of fact tone in which corruption in an official government office was just announced, to the snickers of nearby accounting girls, raised my eyebrows. Now that we had it out in the open, I could go ahead and ask a rhetorical question like,
“Is it always going to be like this?”
She tilted her head as if to think, smiled and said, yes, forever. This is our culture.
Can it be denied that the US is actively engaging China’s border nations in an attempt to contain and control China? It seems pretty clear to most observers that such was the case years ago – Kissinger commented on the idea of containment back in 2005 – but with the recent moves in Myanmar and Darwin, it seems quite clear that the US has no intention of “sitting back” while China slowly takes control of the Pacific.
Is that even the case, that China was “taking control of the Pacific”? Now we can never really now because containment implies, and in a very clear way demands, a reciprocating outward pressure from China itself to puncture the box. A city won’t start digging trenches and tunnels and seeking ways out of a siege until it finds itself besieged.