Why The FoxConn Case Should Not Have Been Settled

(New Century Net)  Why did Southern Metropolis Daily protest against the settlement in the FoxConn Case 南都为何抗议富士康案和解.  By Zhu Jianguo (朱健国).  September 4, 2006.

In the news reporting on the case of FoxConn suing China Business News for damaging its reputation, Southern Metropolis Daily (SMD) was the quickest out the gate and it was also the flagship that influenced other local media around the country.  It can be said that in the reporting on the FoxConn case, SMD led all other print media in terms of the quantity as well as impact through its reports and commentaries.

But on September 4, 2006, SMD placed the important breaking news released at 18:10 on the amicable settlement between FoxConn and China Business News as the third entry on page A17 with just a brief several hundred words.  Apart from that, there was no commentary or background.  Over the past ten or so days, SMD had editorials, commentaries and citizen observations almost every day.  But why did it not comment when there was an ending with a major twist?

I think that this was a case of "silence is golden" at this moment.  On the surface, SMD was not pleased with a quick resolution of the FoxConn case.  At a deeper level, SMD "specifically" uses this unusual low-keyed presentation (this is akin to leaving a blank in the publication to indicate that censorship has taken place 开天窗) to protest the settlement between FoxConn and China Business News.

Yesterday at 18:10, China Business News published the joint statement on its website, and SMD was probably upset: when the media investigate how businesses treat their workers to make sure that there are no sweat factories, it is a just cause within the rule of law.  So how can this case be inexplicably shut down via a settlement?  Who is ever going to be a watchdog again in future?  If not, then SMD would have placed the story as the headline, along with several editorials and commentaries, as well as special discussion features.  This was how SMD paid close attention to the FoxConn case over many days before.

Why did SMD not highly publicize the FoxConn settlement but ran a low-keyed protest instead?  At a time when "freedom of press" is not yet born in China, the inside story is unlikely to come out.  But people can extrapolate from the known facts and speculate ---

First of all, SMD knows very well that the FoxConn settlement was not the true wishes of either side.  At the very least, China Business News was reluctant.  In the explanation "Why is this a settlement with apology?" (China Business News, September 4, 2006), the China Business News chief editor Qin Shuo offered some clues.

In Qin Shuo's essay, there is a puzzling paragraph: "Concerning the values and constraints of FoxConn, I have my own views.  I also hope that FoxConn Enterprises can surpass what it does in this new era in China.  But, if we use a flawed report to gain 'total victory,' then I cannot convince myself whether this was a genuine victory.  Besides, it would be unfair to FoxConn."  This seems to say that it was China Business News which acted first to seek a settlement because the chief editor Qin Shuo found  that his newspaper's last paragraph was "exaggerated" in criticizing FoxConn.

But this is too far-stretched -- everybody knows that no report is ever completely perfect but when the newspaper is willing to "support the accurate evidence in the reporting and is confident of winning the lawsuit," then the flaws are minor and people "should be allowed to see the entire litigation process -- because we hope to gain more ideas, values and guidance for social development, legislation and journalism, and even setting a legal precedent."

If we follow Qin Shuo's viewpoint, then all critical reporting in China is wrong and we don't even have to bother about going through any litigation -- what critical reporting is 100% accurate with no flaws?  If we accept that, then there can be only "You're okay, I'm okay, he is okay"-like reports and there can be no autocracy, miscarriage of justice and corrupt officials in any reports.  Such a "harmonious society" is obviously great, but it also obviously does not exist.

Qin Shuo is one of the pioneers in media reform in China.  Why was he being inconsistent?  There must be something that he cannot spell out!

I'm super-dim and I  have already gotten to think like this.  So how could the many brilliant minds at SMD not figure out even more?

Secondly, the "amicable settlement" between China Business News and FoxConn was actually a pact -- there is a "third party" which can override the interests of the two parties and which has enough power to make them obey.  This "third party" forced the two parties to settle out of concern for its own special interests.  China Business News and FoxConn both examined their own involved interests and realized that "the rich cannot fight the government" and "a mouthpiece is a servant of the government" and "if you live under someone else's roof, you have to bow."  Or else you can win the lawsuit and lose your life.

There is no way that China's number one urban newspaper SMD did not get this point, for they must have also received the "smiling attention" of that "third party."  SMD knew why Qin Shuo had to settle, so that was why they reported the news in that manner.

As everybody knows, in the history of China, "settlements" usually mean that darkness won over light.  In the Book of Twenty-five Histories, how many "settlements" were there?  How many Zhaojun's were sent into exile as part of the settlements?  Do you remember that when the news about the Treaty of Shimonoseki arrived, all the Chinese people cried ...!  And how angry the Chinese were with the Treaty of Xinchou after the invasion of the Allied Armies of the Eight Nations! ... Superficially, the people of China today no longer suffer the shame of "peaceful settlements" like their ancestors.  Yet, if we look at the local news reports across the country, how many rape victims tearfully reach "peaceful settlements" with their rapists?  How many abused people were forced to "work for peace" with the powerful?  Inside and outside the Great Wall and north and south of the Long River, how many peaceful settlements in the manner of the FoxConn case take place every day?

Who says the peaceful settlement in the FoxConn case was a settlement between China Business News and FoxConn?  No, this is obviously a case of public reason surrendering to the powers, the legal system submitting to evil and democracy admitting to defeat by autocracy!

At the time of the settlement of the FoxConn case, innumerable settlements have occurred between the abused and their powerful abusers and the particles of sand have accumulated together to form a sandcastle that symbolizes this unprecedented shameful "peaceful settlement."

Too many such "peaceful settlements" will lead to chaos in society eventually.

SMD must have thought about this deeply.  So when someone said "I represent the Order of Things," it can only use a disguised approach to express its protest if it wants to survive in this environment.

In this "silent China," even a brief report on page A17 can be taken as an act of courage to express sorrow.