John Garnaut, a case of dogdy journalism

I have mentioned previously that many of the  Western journalists writing about China are just not up to the tasks in term of fairness  and objectivity, to put it midly.  If one is to read their articles on China, nothing seems to be going right for China. They have tendency to use dubious secondhand accounts  to cast negative light on China. The more embarassing or awful for China the better it seems. Hence it is not surprising that their accounts are often highly exaggerated and too ludricous  to be true. When these  lies have been exposed, the journalists would  defend themselves by saying that they obtained their source from some unnamed Chinese journalists.  Here is a case of dodgy journalism that is exposed  by a well-informed Melbourne based writer, Chua Wei Ling.  The  site is at :

John Garnaut is a reporter for the SMH / Melbourne Age that  is stationed in China.  I don’t normally read his report as I consider them trash from an avid China hater. I am not really sure why Fairfax Press would  send such amateurish silly  journalists to China, as they seem to do nothing but contribute to the souring of ties between people of Australia and China. Perhaps there are certain people who just do not like closer relationship between China and Australia, and are in charge of putting him there.

In May 2009, John Garnaut wrote a story in which he claimed to observe  PLA soldiers did nothing much but looted in the Wenchuan earthquake of May 2008. However, in a report on the earthquake in  Sichuan  that was  written by him and another reporter back in May 2008, no such looting incident was mentioned at all. Thus, it seems John Garnaut has been caught lying with the May 2009 story. If the incident really happened as claimed by Garnaut, this would have been  big news back in May 2008, with photo evidence etc.

Here is how she grilled John Garnaut and gave him a trashing:

  My question is, why none of the 3 photo series produced under your name and the other 12 videos and photo series produced by someone else for The Age showing the following statements made by you on the 9th May 2009 under the heading: ‘Journey through an earthquake’? Your 3 dodgy statements were as follows:

a) On May 14 and 15, The Age watched People’s Liberation Army soldiers loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops, while the cries of trapped citizens rang out from buildings nearby.

b) Of the tens of thousands of soldiers in Beichuan in the days after the quake, the only ones we saw raise a sweat were a dozen who jostled in front of Premier Wen as they rushed to an imaginary rescue for the benefit of the China Central Television camera

c) All of the rescues we witnessed were by local volunteers or orange-suited firefighters from far corners of the country. Thousands died who should have been saved. And yet CCTV has played endless slow-motion footage of heroic soldiers at the service of the common people. For many in the Communist Party, the tragedy was primarily a propaganda opportunity.

The questions here are, who was that Chinese Journalist named in your report? What is his name? When and where did you and him engaged in those conversation and under what circumstances did you all got to know each other? Since he told you so much of his account of what he witnessed in such great length and detail, including statement such as “At 10.11am he snapped a picture of a group of soldiers running…”,  that mean you all knew each other quite well. Why don’t you buy the photos from him as it should worth owing those materials as they were the only evidence of People Liberation Army “loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops, while the cries of trapped citizens rang out from buildings nearby,”.

Given the hostile International (Western) environment against China, I believe that those evidence of “People’s Liberation Army soldiers loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops” should worth a lot of money. As an experience journalist, don’t you have the instinct and urged to owe those evidence and make it an exclusive report with worldwide circulation? There are going to be a lot of money $$$ to be made, don’t you think so?

In addition, the Earthquake happened on 12 May 2010, the Chinese Premier was on board the plane on the way to the Quake zone within 2 hours of the event. He has been on the ground for 3 nights and 4 days as I may recalled. Perhaps this Wikipedia website ( can help refresh your memory with the detail of the rescue efforts.

The following are just a small part of the direct quote from the Wikipedia website:

“Francis Marcus of the International Federation of the Red Cross praised China’s rescue effort as “swift and very efficient” in Beijing on Tuesday. But he added the scale of the disaster was such that “we can’t expect that the government can do everything and handle every aspect of the needs”.[111] The Economist noted that China reacted to the disaster “rapidly and with uncharacteristic openness”

“The Internet was extensively used for passing information to aid rescue and recovery in China. For example, the official news agency Xinhua set up an online rescue request center in order to find the blind spots of disaster recovery.[118] After knowing that rescue helicopters had trouble landing into the epicenter area in Wenchuan, a student proposed a landing spot online and it was chosen as the first touchdown place for the helicopters.[119] Volunteers also set up several websites to help store contact information for victims and evacuees.[120] On May 31, a rescue helicopter carrying earthquake survivors and crew members crashed in fog and turbulence in Wenchuan county. No-one survived.[121]

Rescue efforts performed by the Chinese government were praised by the critical western media, especially in comparison with Myanmar’s blockage of foreign aid during Cyclone Nargis, as well as China’s previous performance during the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.[122] China’s openness during the media covering of the Sichuan earthquake led a professor at the Peking University to say, “This is the first time [that] the Chinese media has lived up to international standards”.[123] Los Angeles Times praised China’s media coverage of the quake of being “democratic”.[124]

Therefore, by suggesting that, “For many in the Communist Party, the tragedy was primarily a propaganda opportunity,” is simply meant and irresponsible.


Both the ABC Media Watch and  the Australia Press Council have refused to take up the case against Garnaut, as media fairness and objectivity is not in the agenda when it comes to China. I am in complete agreement with Chua that Australians deserve to be better informed and not fed with lies and mistruths  about what happened in China by dodgy reports from biased journalists, ideologues, crappy religious nuts (of the FLG type)  or those with truly biased  supremist agenda.


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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