Beijing looking for ‘useful idiots’ to boost global image: Le Monde

Published (HKT): 2021.05.05 05:30

The Beijing leadership is hoping to improve its image abroad by finding a “new Edgar Snow,” the model of a Western journalist seen as sympathetic to the regime, according to an article in Le Monde.

China’s soft power strategy got the thumbs-down on Monday from the French newspaper, which said that officials wanted to find someone like Snow but had seen little success. Instead, they could only rely on “useful idiots” who did nothing to improve the country’s international image, wrote the paper’s China correspondent Frédéric Lemaître.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had no interest in meeting any foreign journalists and just wanted the press to report the Communist Party’s version of the truth, Le Monde said.

Without a figure like Snow to provide sympathetic coverage to the Communist leadership, Beijing must reuse Lenin’s old formula of “useful idiots.” But the policy only showed the weakness of China’s soft power as its image continued to deteriorate around the world, the paper added.

In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised the late American journalist for telling the objective truth without ideological bias, and for upholding justice and conscientiousness.

“With admirable professionalism and moral ethics, he devoted his life to enhancing mutual understanding between the Chinese and American peoples,” Wang said at the time, adding that China hoped to see a second Snow.

Born in 1905, Snow arrived in China in 1928 and was later invited to cover Communist leaders such as Mao Zedong. His book “Red Star Over China” was published in 1937; it presented a rosy view of the Communist revolutionaries and introduced Mao to the world. The book continues to be widely sold in China.

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