April 7, 2020

Inside The Wall Street Journal, Tensions Rise Over ‘Sick Man’ China Headline

Like many other international news organizations, The Times among them, The Journal is blocked online in China, and the “Sick Man” headline was brought to wide attention there by state-controlled media, amid nationwide concern over an epidemic that has infected over 76,000 people in China and killed more than 2,400.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

China was sometimes described as the “sick man of Asia” at the end of the 1800s, in “the depths of what we now call China’s ‘Century of Humiliation,’” said Stephen R. Platt, a historian of modern China at the University of Massachusetts. The empire had then lost a series of wars and had feared being divvied up by imperial powers.

“Nobody in their right mind would confuse China today with China at the end of the 19th century,” Mr. Platt said. “I think that’s where the insult lies, this hearkening back to this terrible period and somehow implying that it’s all the same.”

On Wednesday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a transcript provided by the Chinese government that Chinese officials “demanded that The Wall Street Journal recognize the seriousness of the error, openly and formally apologize, and investigate and punish those responsible, while retaining the need to take further measures against the newspaper.”

The statement added that “the Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and smear China with malicious attacks.”

The Journal has not made a formal apology. The closest it came was when Mr. Lewis, the publisher, said in a statement on Wednesday that the headline “clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”

Susan L. Shirk, the chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego, said that there was reason for the newspaper to refrain from making an apology now that the Chinese government had demanded one.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/22/business/media/wall-street-journal-sick-man-china-headline.html

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