American News Coverage on
Tiananmen Square Massacre 1989
Through Television news media, the whole America was watching China during April 15th to June 4th in 1989. U.S. audiences were well informed the progress of student protests when journalists used news technologies to transmit instantaneously what was happening in Beijing Tiananmen Square and other places in China. Ironically, the real-time political response was not launched firstly by Bush's Administration but the Chinese Government: American news media like CNN and CBS were ordered shutdown" by "official representatives of the Chinese Government, embarrassed and clearly aware that they were losing face on live television." After June 4th the U.S. reconsidered their bilateral relations with China on "an entirely different course, one that is far more contentious and hostile than at any time since the late 1950s". In this paper, I examine the factors that may determine the relations between American news media and the foreign policy-making process in this case by using Entman's cascade model. The main attention of my research is focused on the analysis of the dominant frame of news coverage made by the New York Times. During the analysis, the semi-influence of the news media on foreign policy decisions is explicitly displayed.
II: Rationale for Using the Cascade Model
Three points need to be notified before discussing the media-foreign policy relations in this case. One is that the behavior and reporting of American news media on Tiananmen Square Protests did have a significant influence on American public opinion against China. Another is that Bush's Administration, which was opposed to harsher restrictions to China, did take responsive sanctions to this country. The third point is that after June 4, political elites showed a disagreement with Bush's insufficient reactions to Tiananmen Square Massacre and called for harder penalties to China. According to Risse-Kappen, in a liberal democracy like the U.S., with an "open and decentralized political system" and a "society dominated policy network", its foreign policy-making process is more close to a "bottom-up" model: the general public has a measureable and distinct impact on the foreign policy-making process. Following this vein, the American news media seemed to have played "CNN effect" to force their government to "do something" against its will by lighting up the public outrage against China. However, the objectivity and accuracy of American news accounts on this issue had been seriously questioned not only by Chinese Government but also worldwide analysts and scholars. One possible reason for the inaccuracy is that most sources to U.S. media were cut off after the declaration of martial law on May 20. Thus what they uncritically reported to the American public was "flooded with hoaxes", "exaggerations", "rumors and disinformation". It is understandable that most Americans think Tiananmen of a "massacre" due to the Chinese government 's vague talking about what happened during that night. The other cause of the non objectivity is considered by the "disproportionate sympathy with, and admiration for, the student demonstrators distorted their reporting of the demonstrations". The excessive subjective tone illustrated in the coverage leads to another question: who was responsible for setting up the tone and conveying a moral judgment on this issue? In addition, the political debate of political elites against White House in this case sorts out a government-media nexus close to an indexing model -- which argues that "the media index or reflect elite debate rather closely". This model is also discussed as the elite version of manufacturing consent paradigm which perceives media as subservient to the interests of political elites, where elites are defined broadly as members of the executive, legislative or any other politically powerful group. To understand the case in...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document