Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Global News Blog

Two propaganda flops in less than two weeks: Is Beijing losing its touch?

The official Chinese media appear to have it in for US Ambassador Gary Locke. But their angry attacks against him are backfiring with Chinese Twitterati.

By Staff writer / May 15, 2012

In this May 2 file photo, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng (c.) holds hands with US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, at a hospital in Beijing.

U.S. Embassy Beijing Press Office/AP



The official Chinese media really have it in for US Ambassador Gary Locke. But now their angry attacks against him are backfiring.

Skip to next paragraph

Beijing Bureau Chief

Peter Ford is The Christian Science Monitor’s Beijing Bureau Chief. He covers news and features throughout China and also makes reporting trips to Japan and the Korean peninsula.

Recent posts

Ever since he arrived here last August, Mr. Locke’s image as a “regular guy” has won widespread admiration from Chinese bloggers and, it seems, irked the authorities.

The way he tried to get a discount at Starbucks with a coupon en route to Beijing, and carried his own backpack, is the polar opposite of the way aloof and pampered Chinese officials behave. So when Chinese citizens praise him, by implication they are criticizing their own leaders.

Lashing out at the US ambassador earlier this month for his role in protecting blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, the Beijing Daily published a strongly worded criticism of his “little tricks.”

But readers’ reactions to the editorial were so negative that within hours “Beijing Daily” was a banned search word on the Chinese Internet, effectively closing down social media debate on the article.

That setback does not appear to have chastened Beijing Daily, however, and today the paper put its foot in it again.

Editors used the daily’s account on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, to post a snide request, responding to another post about Locke’s wealth.

“Will Gary Locke please disclose his personal assets?” it asked.

The question was, perhaps, conceived as a sideways commentary on the lively debate currently underway in China about the need for top officials here – often accused of corruption – to disclose their wealth.

But of course, the editors simply revealed their ignorance. As scornful readers quickly informed them, Locke HAS disclosed his personal assets, just like every other member of the US government. (According to his 2010 declaration, he is worth between $1,356,025 and $7,615,999, which makes him the sixth richest person in the executive branch.)

“Of course Gary Locke’s personal assets have been disclosed,” read one comment on the Beijing Daily post. “And what about the assets of those imperial officials [of ours]?

Within hours, Beijing Daily’s original post and all comments on it had been deleted from Sina Weibo, according to David Bandurski of Hong Kong University’s China Media Project, who tracked the incident in real time.

Two propaganda flops in less than two weeks: Beijing Daily is losing its touch.


Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!