CHAPTER TEN Japan: Caution Then Criticism
Japan's often maligned (by American and British journalists) press corps does a good job on the China story. American correspondents go for the big headlines about dissidents and economic flops and political speculation.
Reporting by the Japanese press tends to be more cautious but nevertheless thorough. Japanese reporters are not driven to get on page one like their American counterparts.
The waiting game has paid off in a shrewd victory. On formal diplomatic recognition, Japanese newspapers were told to close their Taipei, Taiwan, bureaus if they wanted to open bureaus in Beijing.
Only Sankei Shimbun, the most conservative of Japanese major dailies has maintained a bureau in Taiwan for nearly three decades.
Sankei was booted out of Beijing in the 1960s for criticizing the Cultural Revolution, but kept up a lively coverage from Taipei.
Many other papers and networks resorted to covering Taipei by sending reporters over from Hong Kong or by using part time stringers. Sankei was continually turned down in its bid to open a Beijing bureau.
In the summer of 1998, Sankei found a solution that allowed the Chinese authorities to took the other way. Sankei opened an office in Beijing, but instead of calling it the Beijing bureau as other Japanese news organizations do, it called the bureau Chugoku Sokyoku or "China head office."
Taking the cue, other Japanese organizations renamed their Beijing bureaus and then opened Taipei offices. Asahi Shinbun, the most liberal newspaper with an eight million circulation, Yomiuri Shinbun, more conservative at 10 million; Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the top business paper at some four million and the Kyodo News Service. NHK, the national television network followed but insists the change in its bureau name has nothing to do with opening a full-time office in Taipei.
The face-saving compromise, after many years, was a good example of "the Japanese way" of going about things. China's image on the issue is softened and Japan has its bureaus.
A survey of Japanese press reports from Hong Kong shows many factual items, almost no "analysis"-type pieces as seen in the American press:
Japanese reporters thoroughly covered government edicts on "how to" cover the handover. The Japanese press was much more comprehensive than the American was or British press in this regard.