Journalism in East Asia

Article excerpt

Journalism in East Asia. Toh Lam Seng. Tokyo: Sairyu Sha, 2010. 292 pp. ?3500 JPY.

JMCQ readers may not know that an American-owned Chinese newspaper is one of the three "Forefathers of Japanese Press" and also one of the recognized ancestors of the modern press in China. Toh Lam Seng, a guest professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, brings us a sense of freshness and originality by pointing out those historical relevancies between journalism in East Asia and its U.S. counterpart.

Toh's book, written in Japanese, starts with solid research on the Chinese and Foreign Gazette, a Chinese newspaper established by Daniel Jerome MacGowan in Ningpo, China, in 1854, and continued by Elias B. Inslee in 1858, both missionaries of the American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. The Gazette was translated into Japanese and edited by Bansyoshirabesyo, a Japanese institute for the study of Western learning.

At first attracted by the Japanese revisions, Toh spent more than ten years unearthing the Chinese originals scattered in libraries in Britain, Japan, and China, and even some transcripts kept by a few Japanese individuals. With these source materials, Toh undertook a meticulous examination of the newspaper, which had previously remained hazy in academia of Chinese journalism history. Toh's research has inspired admiration and respect among young students and scholars.

Toh finds the editorial policy of the Gazette relatively outspoken and diversified regarding aloof U.S. attitudes toward Pacific issues of the time. MacGowan and Inslee frequently attacked local corruption and social problems in Ningpo, and exposed wrongdoings by "bad foreigners," such as Portuguese involvement in illegal trade of Chinese labor. Such news obviously won the heart of the local community, and the Gazette could be said to have earned Chinese readers' trust to a certain degree. However, while dealing with issues concerning U.S. national interests in China, the Gazette showed a double standard by applauding the British Opium War, which led to a disastrous end for China. This double standard is illustrated by the Gazette's, high moral standards on the one hand and competing "national interests" on the other.

According to Toh, this "double standard" legacy of the Gazette was fully inherited and developed in Japan. The second half of his book follows historical threads to demonstrate how recent press performance over the past ten years still manifest the double standard and service to national interests, including the coverage of Hong Kong's return to China, the SinoJapan relations, and the East Asian region. Chapters 3 and 4 take several significant media events as examples to show that Japanese press has been practicing a "uniformity of opinions" for the "national interests" during and after the SinoJapanese War. In October 1940, for example, the military government of Japan set up the Wang Jingwei puppet regime in Nanjing and established a new press system aimed to "wake up" the people and "guide" the public to serve their country "peacefully" - i.e., to stop fighting the Japanese. Opinions should be "created, forward-looking, and uniformed," according to this press principle, which is still observed and practiced by the Japanese press in their news reports about SinoJapanese relations today. …

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