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

By James Fallows
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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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/a-cloud-no-bigger-than-a-mans-hand-cctv-america-dept/256053/