A Cloud No Bigger Than a Man's Hand: CCTV America Dept


Over the years in China, I watched my share (thousands of hours?) of China Central TV, CCTV, and have a very clear idea of its role as reliable presenter of the official governmental view.

In the past few evenings I've started watching the launch of new programs from CCTV America. I don't know how representative the shows I've seen are, or how long this can go on -- but flipping back and forth between CCTV America and a well-known US network based in Atlanta, I've generally heard a lot more, and in a lot more detail and less tendentiously and cutesily, from, gasp, CCTV America. I'm not even comparing it with some other networks, including the one run by Roger Ailes.

(For instance: right at this moment CNN is giving us an hour on "Remembering Dick Clark." Of course I love Dick Clark! But at the same time CCTV-America is giving us a whole bunch of world events and economics, including just now Timothy Geithner saying that China "still has a long way to go" in liberalizing the RMB. "Dull but worthy"? Perhaps. But closer to actual "news"? Definitely yes.

On the other hand: Yet to see any Bo Xilai updates. Still...)

This is not something I expected, nor -- on the basis of a couple nights' viewing -- that I'm sure how to react to. I will follow its evolution, and I invite you to check it out for yourself. Meta-point: I have been very bearish on contemporary China's ability to exercise "soft power," since its efforts have so often been so Onion-like. This seems different, and for China-watchers and people in general is worth paying attention to.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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