Off the Wall or on the Ceiling? The Gullibility of Chinese Media

Off the Wall or on the Ceiling? The Gullibility of Chinese Media
Sep 16, 2013 By Trey Archer ,

Whether it be the Global Time’s contentious piece titled “Never Sleep With a Virgin”, or CCTV’s ultra-modern, radically shaped new headquarters in Beijing that looks like a giant pair of underpants, the Chinese media always puts a smile on our face even when they’re trying their absolute hardest not to. What’s even more hilarious is the fact that China invests billions to possess the planet’s most sophisticated technology aimed at censoring the media, yet somehow still manages to slip on the eggs thrown at them from news outlets abroad; only to embarrass themselves and keep us roaring with laughter. Let’s just say that if we told Chinese media that ‘gullible’ was written on the ceiling, they’d look up; they just seem to believe everything and everyone these days!

Gullibility of Chinese media

The evidence

Let’s start with the good stuff! The Atlantic ran a piece listing some of the most recent (emphasize recent, there’s much more where this came from) instances of the satirical stories the Chinese media actually believed were real:

1)  People’s Daily fell for a story from the Onion that declared North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un as "the world's sexiest man" for 2012, and even added a 55-picture slideshow dedicated to the leader. Funny enough, one of the slides depicted Kim riding a white stallion!

2)  The satirical comedian Andy Borowitz — who CBS called one of the “funniest people in America” — wrote a piece for the New Yorker saying that Jeff Bezos (tech-billionaire and CEO of in reality didn’t want to buy the Washington Post and instead accidentally clicked on it while shopping on his own website.  Xinhua translated the story and sadly published it as fact.

3)  Apparently anything written by Borowitz’s still doesn’t raise any red flags in Chinese news rooms (unlike, ahem… Tibet). The 21st Century Business Herald was duped by another Borowitz article that said a glitch in Microsoft Windows was the factor that delayed the launch of a North Korean missile. Afterwards, the report continued, the Hermit Kingdom declared war on Microsoft. According to Beijing Cream, this was obviously a joke because everyone knows that “Kim Jung-un uses a Mac.”

4)  This is one of my personal favorites. The Herald fell for a spoof from the Daily Currant that stated economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman declared bankruptcy from "credit card debt and jewelry from Tiffany's" but that he "still supported Keynesian economics."

5)  CCTV fell for an April’s Fool’s joke by Richard Branson that Virgin Airlines would start flights between London and Scotland in glass bottomed airplanes. This report even went a step further and was aired on the CCTV evening news for the entire country to see.

6)  And last but certainly not least, Xinhua and the Global Times both laid an egg when they blew the lid off a piece about the “inhumanity” of the death penalty in Western countries.  The only problem is they used photographs taken from a fetish porn film. The Atlantic puts it best, “Apparently the ‘prisoner's’ near-nudity and the ‘guard's’ green hair didn't arouse the editors' suspicion.”

Why does China fall so easily?       

One argument that many Westerners bring up is that China just doesn’t understand the West’s particular brand of sarcasm. Sure, many Westerners seem to enjoy a good parody, myself included, but the Chinese point out that their humor too is packed with puns, idioms and irony. This is actually true and anyone with a knowledge of the Chinese language, or who has seen xiangsheng (or crosstalk, a form of Chinese stand-up comedy), is fully aware of the satirical language used by the Chinese.

Others blame China’s obsession with controlling the media. The editors at these broadcasting powerhouses might be so focused on trying to weed out any stories about Taiwan and Tiananmen that the most ridiculous reports about Kim Jung Un’s sex appeal easily fly under the radar. Furthermore, these news outlets, just like all the other ones in the world, have to fill pages, and with so many stories out there deemed “off limits” by the authorities, that leaves some of these companies no other option but to search the web for a story, any story, that’s somewhat publishable.

Lastly, the Chinese media just may actually believe these sardonic reports coming out of the Western media. All the crazy stuff that happens in China on a daily basis makes a report about a glass floored airplane 100% believable in the eyes of many Chinese because, frankly, it’s just not that bizarre when compared to some of the other news stories coming out of China. In the end, no one for sure knows what the true reasons are, but in all likeliness it’s probably a little bit of everything along with other factors than none of us can explain. That’s just how China is…

The repercussions

There are most certainly repercussions for the media outlets publishing such absurd stories. For one, their news, legitimate or not, will lose all credibility. Second, they’re laughed at and ridiculed. Third, and perhaps the most serious issue, they’re going to lose readers and could eventually go bankrupt. The damage has already been done, however, so looking into the future, one has to ask whether they can ever be taken seriously again. My personal answer is yes, absolutely. International readers will take the Chinese media very seriously in the future; just as serious as the millions of readers who follow the Onion each month. Watch out world, there’s a new parody news organization hitting the bloc, and it’s called the Chinese media!

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Keywords: Chinese media Gullibility of the Chinese Media


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the horse is part of the pleasure squad

Jun 28, 2016 09:05 Report Abuse



This is so true about the Chinese and their news and it filters into personal conversations you have with Chinese friends and students. Stuff they hear or read that is pure and utter bullshit they latch onto like a limpet because it denigrates something in the west hence glorifying their own country in comparison. We have our crazies in the west but we kind of know about it. Here, unfortunately, fiction is stranger than truth, the reverse to western countries.

Sep 16, 2013 08:25 Report Abuse