- By Isaac Stone Fish
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.
In an attempt to highlight the role of women in Beijing’s annual National People’s Congress, China’s party newspaper the People’s Daily published "Beautiful female journalists at two sessions," consisting of women asking questions and "beautifying" China’s legislative session. It’s hard to think of a more awkward way for a media outlet to celebrate International Women’s Day, except maybe last year’s offering from China’s state news wire Xinhua: "Attractive females at NPC, CPCC sessions."
A few points here: Surprisingly for staid state media, Xinhua and the People’s Daily publish a lot of click bait in the form of near naked women: See for example today’s "Bikini Parade in Panama to set Guinness Record," and "Seductive leg models in China." A few days ago People’s Daily published a precursor article about the meetings’ "beautiful service staff" (h/t to James Fallows and Adam Minter), as well as "Versatile Tibetan beauties" and "Seven stunning beauties from Xinjiang," in questionable taste considering the persistent government crackdown in both those places.
In a blog post, The Economist answers the question of why Western media describes the NPC as "rubber stamp" (because it accepts every law put before it). The patronizing media coverage of women and minorities smiling at the joy of being a part of China doesn’t help, either.
Porn remains illegal in China (though it’s readily available), and even in state media, sex sells, and is far less sensitive than politics. The Chinese media website Danwei coined the term Skinhua to describe this practice. The sole commenter on the People’s Daily journalist article, who aptly goes by Mr. Dong, snidely hints at this unexpected identity of state media: the JC Penny catalog of the internet age.