We recently received a Letter to the Editor that was critical of an opinion article the Silhouette published last month, titled “Chinese students aren’t brainwashed”. The opinion article voiced concerns about the anti-Chinese rhetoric that emerged following the de-ratification of the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association last September.
An earlier draft of the article, before its publication, had said, “Contrary to what many people in the West may believe, state-run news stories about China, although heavily censored, are in fact quite accurate when they do get published.”
During the editing process, this was changed to, “[…] the fact that state-run news stories about China are heavily censored does not make them factually inaccurate.” This change was reflected in the print version of the article which was published on Jan. 9.
After being contacted by one of our readers, we realized that the initial version of the article had been unintentionally uploaded online. Following this realization, the online version of the opinions article was updated to accurately reflect the final version published in print.
Regardless, the Letter to the Editor states that, despite the change, this new wording is still misleading.
We acknowledge the concerns brought forth by the Letter to the Editor. There is substantial evidence that shows that state-owned Chinese media has been found to publish factually inaccurate and biased information.
As a student-run newspaper, we are committed to truth and accuracy, and we recognize that this comes from highlighting a range of perspectives. This mandate has informed our decision to publish the opinion article in question and allow the author to reference state-owned media. However, we also recognize the danger of falling into the “both sides” fallacy, since not all perspectives are true or deserving of a platform. It is our responsibility as an editorial board to ensure that we are not publishing anything inaccurate or harmful. This is what informed our editing process and our decision to change the article’s phrasing.
The opinions section gives contributors a platform to share their perspectives. We encourage writers to speak to their own lived experiences, and we prioritize viewpoints from those who have been excluded and marginalized in our community.
As we understand it, the purpose of the opinions piece in question was to push against the narrative that students from mainland China are unable to think critically and to challenge a prevalent belief that mainland Chinese students uncritically consume Chinese media.
The author of the opinion piece in question acknowledges that Chinese state media should be viewed critically, stating, “Chinese people are usually hyper mindful of the fact that the government dominates and controls information inflows. Hence, they do not take media at face value and are usually super critical of it.”
In the article, Chinese state-run media is listed as one of many avenues through which Chinese people may receive information, in addition to non-official media channels, social media platforms, online chat groups and western media.
Alongside this specific opinion piece, we have also published articles, in both the news and opinion sections, that were critical of the Chinese government.
We will continue to provide a platform for members of the McMaster community to voice their opinions, while editing with a critical eye to ensure that the information we publish is accurate, balanced and fair.