Chinese papers are full of detail on the big leadership race – the American one

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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Front page of the Chanjiang Shangbao, October 24.

It was only a matter of time. After the New York Times splashed with revelations of the hidden billion-dollar fortunes belonging to the Chinese prime minister’s family, the newspaper’s website was bound to be blocked by authorities.

And how did the story about Wen Jiabao play in the Chinese media? Obviously, it didn’t. Because the country’s fourth estate just doesn’t do that kind of political reporting.

Indeed, you’d hardly know from reading the Chinese papers, writes Julie Makinen in the Los Angeles Times, that the hugely important 18th Party Congress is just days away, with a major leadership change expected.

“Propaganda officials keep a tight lid not only on the details of party officials’ private lives,” writes Makinen, “but even on basic facts surrounding the Congress”.

But one leadership tussle is attracting plenty of column inches: the American presidential election.

Commentators have decried “China-bashing” in the campaign, but readers seem much more interested in “just how the whole contest — and the surrounding hoopla – works”, says Makinen.

It seems they crave details of the democratic process. Such as reports that “at 7-Eleven convenience stores, Barack Obama mugs are outselling Romney mugs by a 60%-to-40% margin”, the intricacies of “cookie bake-offs” and, of course, news of an “Ohio cupcake shop selling treats adorned with the candidates’ faces”.

Writes Makinen:

The rather remarkable upshot is that Chinese news hounds are getting more information about the American political transition – and its personalities and sometimes pathetic sideshows – than the one in their own country.

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