A New Yorker journalist famed for his reporting from China wrote that the state-run newspaper China Daily faked an editorial under his byline after interviewing him.
Peter Hessler said on Facebook on Tuesday that he didn’t write the piece posted on China Daily’s website a day earlier titled “US observer: Comparing Egypt with China” and that his words were taken out of context.
Hessler wrote that the China Daily reporter asked him to compare China with Egypt. Hessler formerly was based in China but now reports from Egypt.
The resulting editorial repeats Communist Party talking points, lauding China’s stability and education system while counseling that any changes in China are “likely to be subtle, incremental, and coming from the top.”
After living in Egypt, the editorial reads, “I think I have a better understanding of how essentially stable the Chinese system is.”
The article continues: “It reminds me that in China, even in a tiny village, there was a great deal of government activity. The villagers were very clearly connected to the larger political systems and issues of the country.”
Hessler, however, wrote on Facebook that he was asked mainly about his reflections on the past year and that the piece misrepresented his larger points.
“It omitted crucial parts, including the most important point: that I believe it’s harder to make a political change in China, where the system is deeper rooted than in Egypt, and thus the flaws are also more deeply rooted,” Hessler wrote. “I said that this is the reason why the current anti-corruption campaign will be a failure, because China is not addressing its systemic flaws.”
A China Daily editor said Wednesday she didn’t have details about the dispute but would make inquiries.
The newspaper removed the online piece in English, but it remains available in state media in Chinese. On Facebook, Hessler wrote he asked the China Daily for a retraction but the paper refused.
Having worked in China for about a decade until 2007, Hessler wrote extensively about the country, producing four popular books about his experiences there.
Editor’s Note: In recent years, Chinese media have increasingly quoted non-existent western media articles in attempts to give false credibility to their fake claims.
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