There are innate differences in how the news media reports on the various global economic regions, and East Africa is no exception. As this particular region has achieved remarkable fiscal growth and development over the course of the past 10 years, people are beginning to consider it more seriously as a contributor to the global emerging market landscape. But how do Chinese and the Western news media differ in their perspectives regarding this? As this study proves, your assumptions may be incorrect.
In their recent publication “Framing the economy of the East African Community: A decade of disparities and similarities found in Chinese and Western news media’s reporting on the East African Community” Elizabeth K. James and Mark Boukes shed more light on how the economic climate of the East African Community was covered in Chinese and Western news media between 2005 and 2015.
About the research
The authors conducted a content analysis with a sample consisting of three Western news agencies and one Chinese news agency. The Xinhua General News Service represented China as it is the official news agency of the country. The perspective of the West was sourced from the content of the Associated Press (AP), Agence France Presse (AFP) and Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). A 10-yeartime construct was used in order to attain a thorough longitudinal perspective. Additionally, the period covers three important accomplishments of the EAC’s economic integration: the ratification of the Customs Union (2005), the introduction of the Common Market (2010) and the ratification of the Monetary Union (2013). The full amount of available news included 271 Chinese articles (i.e., Xinhua) and 118 Western articles (AFP 67; AP 38; DPA 13).
The Western versus the Chinese perspective
Given the numerous influencing factors in China and the West, the perspective of the EAC economic development varies significantly. China sees its role in the region as a powerful supporter of equality movement and counter actor to the hegemony of the former European colonizers and the United States. China recognizes the similar global status between itself and the EAC as emerging markets and strives to act on the notion that the two regions can engage in reciprocal trade and development relationships. China also maintains a firm non-interventionalist policy. The West on the other hand has the tendency to portray the African continent as unstable and underdeveloped. Historically, the West has largely engaged with Africa via public institutions, and its economic relationships consisted largely of donor aid that hinged on the fulfillment of various social and governance mandates.
What are the findings?
The frames which were analysed were risk, opportunity, morality and valence. The morality frame was used in the context of how rightfully the financial resources are allocated. It was found that it is barely used in the news media from either region. Both the Chinese and Western news media featured opportunism more prominently than risk and this positivity regarding the East African Community increased with every year between 2005 and 2015. The optimistic tendency is supported by actual economic growth, confirming that the framing devices found in the news media were in alignment with market developments.
However overall, the Western media framed the East African Community more in terms of potential risks than the Chinese media. This outcome provided support to the assumption that the West continues to be skeptical about the EAC’s economic development due to factors like political instability, corruption, and bureaucratic inefficiency. There was a distinct difference between the coverage of the implementation of the Customs Union, Common Market and Monetary Union in the Western and Chinese media in regards to potential risks as the Western media offered a perspective on the conflicting realities in practice.
One of the more puzzling findings was the manner in which African agency had an effect on the valence of the media. Western media featured the voice of African actors more often, and in doing so, the economy of the East African Community was framed somewhat less optimistically. This finding supports the remarkable divergence of Chinese ‘constructive journalism’ and Western watchdog journalism.
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For more information check out the article in International Communication Gazette and get acquainted with the details of the research. For further information you may contact the authors at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.