As China relaxed decades-old restrictions on foreign media, the
upcoming annual parliament session, along with a session of top
political advisors, is expected to become a prelude to the
country's further openness to foreign observers.
China became a news-maker in 2006 with a stunning 10.7 percent
gross domestic product growth, a tough hand against corruption and
active involvement on international affairs like the six-party
talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
This has attracted unprecedented global attention to the
country's top political sessions -- the annual full meeting of the
National People's Congress (NPC) and that of the National Committee
of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC),
slated to open on March 5 and 3 respectively.
By 2 PM Thursday, two days before the CPPCC session opens,
the number of foreign reporters to cover the so-called Chinese "Two Sessions" had reached 527, exceeding that
of last year, according to the press center of the NPC and CPPCC
"We are glad to see some news organizations from Asia and Africa
send in their reporters to cover the two sessions for the first
time this year," said Cong Wu, an official from the press center in
charge of foreign reporters reception.
The newcomers, mostly news organizations with no resident
correspondents posted in China, have benefited from the newly-
adopted regulations on foreign media openness, as they no longer
need to apply for reporting the events months ahead or wait for
official permission as they had to before, according to Cong.
China has enacted a set of new regulations granting foreign
journalists more freedom to report in China in the run-up to and
during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games since the beginning
of this year. The regulations are scheduled to expire on October
Under the regulations, foreign journalists who are non-residents
in China will not necessarily have to be accompanied or assisted by
a Chinese official when they report in China.
Foreign journalists also no longer need to apply to provincial
foreign affairs offices for permission to report in all provinces
of China, but need only obtain prior consent of the organizations
or individuals they want to interview.
Jaime FlorCruz, CNN Beijing Bureau chief correspondent, takes
the new rules as "experimental and positive" changes in China's
opening up to foreign observers despite skepticism over how earnest
the grass-root officials will be in implementing the relaxed media
Jaime recalled the days of "hunting the session participants" at
hotels or in the lounge of the Great Hall of the People, where full
meetings of the lawmakers and advisors are held.
"It's like we were playing the hide-and-seek with interviewees.
The worst is we finally got them but they declined our request for
interview by asking us to play the 'routine' -- getting the
official permission first," said Jaime, who has studied and worked
in China for more than 30 years.
Jaime's lousy experience is expected not to be repeated this
year thanks to the new regulations.
The press center of the two sessions just re-confirmed on
Thursday that foreign reporters are free to make contacts with and
interview the NPC deputies and CPPCC members themselves. It also
released information online concerning which hotel is accommodating
which specific delegation and the route to the hotels, the first
such practice in more than 50 years.
Jaime said that the CNN Beijing office will send a team of six
or more to cover this year's two sessions -- almost the same crew
number as last year's, but "definitely with higher expectations
"I hope the NPC deputies or the CPPCC members will be more open
and spontaneous, and there will be more press conferences," he
However, the newly-obtained procedural convenience doesn't
necessarily mean that foreign reporters can always get useful
information from their interviewees, especially when it comes to
some cautious officials.
NPC deputy Song Yuhua, also vice mayoress of Deyang City in
southwestern China's inland province of Sichuan, has showed a mixed feeling toward the
possible "face-to-face" encounter with foreign media.
"I have not received any interview application from foreign
media before, so I'm not well prepared (for foreign reporters'
interview) this time," Song told Xinhua News Agency upon her
arrival in Beijing on Thursday. "The two sessions will give me a
chance to learn how to deal with foreign media."
"I will be cautious as I know little of them, but I will not say
'no' to their request (for an interview)," she said. "Actually, I
will have more confidence if asked about how the central government
polices, like those on social security and health care for farmers,
are implemented at grass-root level, because I'm familiar with
Experts, however, urge the officials to further expand their
horizon and learn how to conduct more effective communication with
The 2008 Beijing Olympics is an important factor that has
obviously promoted the adoption of the new rules, but the socio-
economic changes in China over the part two decades are also
pushing the country to become more and more transparent, said Yu
Guoming, a professor with School of Journalism and Communication
under the Beijing-based Renmin University of China.
"It has thus required the officials to follow the trend (of
openness), to lay down their psychological defense against foreign
media and to get used to the international norms and standards of
media management. Actually, it's a very important test for their
governance capability," said Yu.
"In the meantime, foreign media should also cast away their
outdated concept, sometimes even bias against China, so as to seize
the opportunity of the two sessions to introduce a real China to
the world in an objective way."
(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2007)