May 7, 2008

Misuse of nomenclature in article "Olympic torch lit on top of Everest"

Just saw this article about the Olympic torch on Mount Everest. Here's an excerpt:
An Olympic flame reached the top of the world Thursday.

Live television footage showed a Chinese mountaineering team holding up a specially designed torch — separate from the main Olympic flame — along with Chinese and Olympic flags on the peak of Mount Everest.

...

The 19-member final assault team was comprised of both ethnic Han Chinese and Tibetan members and also included university students. The team captain is a Tibetan, identified as Nyima Cering, while the deputy is Chinese, Luo Shen, CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency said.

I've highlighted a portion of the quoted article above to show the non-politically correct text. If and when the mainland Chinese press get a hold of that article, it'll surely be held up as another example of Western news bias against China. "Chinese" is supposed to refer to the nationality, and then there are terms for the individual ethnicities, such as "Han", "Hui", "Manchu", and so on.

In this case, the author, who surprisingly enough seems to be of Chinese descent, used "Chinese" when she probably meant to use "Han" or one of the other ethnic groups in China. If a news article in China utilized ethnic group names in the way this article did, it would surely be picked out as not politically correct.

When the article is interpreted in this context, it gives the impression that the news agency has a definite stance on the Tibet issue. Perhaps mainland Chinese reporters will start reporting stories like, "Even overseas Chinese news reporters are anti-China", and then they'll refer to this reporter.

Having been subjected to endless messages of how to be politically correct in both China and in the US, I'm happy to have bridged more understanding.

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