Columns

Voices from developing countries need better recognition

Li CONGJUN

Wednesday, July 16, 2014    

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Reviewing the World Cup games, I was constantly disappointed at the Chinese team's absence. However, when finding so many Chinese elements in the games, my disappointment was somehow mitigated.

Most of the mascot toys were made in China; the energy-saving solutions of the stadiums were also provided by Chinese companies, so it was the Chinese footballers' absence from the games rather than the country.

Now, as soon as the breathtaking football event comes to the end, another event begins.

The sixth BRICS summit began yesterday in Brazil's beautiful coastal city of Fortaleza, where heads of the state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will meet again to exchange ideas on sustainable development and other issues.

Since the establishment of the BRICS mechanism member countries have made profound strides in cooperations on trade, investment, innovation, and finance. Every summit provides a great opportunity for its members to deepen mutual understanding, enhance cooperation, promote common development and win-win outcomes.

None of the BRICS are traditional western powers, but it does not hurdle their economic accomplishments. The combined GDP of the five states accounts for one-fifth of the world's total; each of them has become the most powerful emerging economy leading regional development. Their willingness to participate in international affairs has also been growing.

During the past 20 years after the Cold War, developing countries have made significant contribution to the welfare of all human beings. The world order, however, has hardly been changed. The global information flow remains unbalanced as media in western powers are so influential that developing countries still struggle to make their voices heard.

In the context of globalisation and hybridisation, the instant exchange of information on an equal footing has become increasingly important, as those whose voices cannot be heard cannot express what they want.

Fortunately, something positive is taking place. Internet and smartphones have entitled everyone a "microphone". Rapid development of mobile communication technology provides emerging economies with more diversified, equalised and easy-to-access channels to express.

The dynamics of the world media industry are also undergoing profound change with the voices from emerging economies gradually strengthening. In recent years, reports from mainstream media organisations in BRICS and other developing countries have received more and more attention from across the world.

As representatives of the world's emerging economies, the BRICS countries have laid a solid foundation for economic cooperation. Yet, their political influence on the international community remains weak. This weakness is not in line with the need for emerging economies to participate in international affairs and their desire to do so.

Some critics say the BRICS have acquired formidable economic strength, but their soft power remains weak. The influence of their media organisations is yet to improve. This means even the BRICS still lack the ability to express their will, let alone other developing countries.

Media organisations of the BRICS countries face similar external environments and have similar motivations as their counterparts in other developing countries. They should deepen cooperation, make full use of co-ordination mechanism and play a bigger role in the international voice system to make their voices heard throughout the world.

To realise that, I would like to put forward a four-point proposal.

First, taking into consideration the interests of the developing countries as a whole, their media organisations should strengthen co-operation and coordinate their stances.

This is a situation media organisations of all developing countries have to face. With well-recognised economic development, developing countries are being required to shoulder increasingly heavy responsibilities in the international system. However, the current international system is obviously in favour of traditional western powers.

Emerging economies do not shirk their responsibilities, but the responsibilities they take must match the level of their political and economic development.

Media organisations in developing countries should have a clear understanding of the need to safeguard the overall interests of their countries. They should speak in a co-ordinated manner, as a result of their common position, and have their voices amplified with joint efforts.

Second, media organisations in developing countries should exchange experience constantly with the purpose of safeguarding the images of their countries. They should learn to tell facts in an effective manner.

Although developing countries around the world have made great achievements, they have different political systems and face various problems. Widening income gaps, social inequalities and corruption phenomena exist to varying degrees.

But all countries are dealing with those problems through reform and innovation. Media organisations in those countries should enhance exchanges to learn effective ways to tell the story from their counterparts in order to better introduce their countries and to win the respect of the world.

Third, media organisations in developing countries should make use of the existing coordination platform such as the World Media Summit (WMS) to help enhance mutual trust and clear up misunderstanding.

Initiated in 2009 by Xinhua New Agency and other well-known global news organisations, the WMS, with the theme of 'Co-operation, Action, Win-Win and Development', has been growing over the years and has become a multilateral co-ordination mechanism for media organisations across the world.

Media organisations in developing countries may establish regular communication mechanisms within the WMS framework to discuss problems they have encountered and to find solutions.

Fourth, media organisations in developing countries should jointly confront the challenges presented by the development of new technology through co-operation.

Technologies such as cloud computing, big data processing, and Internet of Things have been making profound changes to the world's media industry. New technology is applied, opening a new chapter of informatisation.

Media organisations in developing countries should grasp this opportunity and carry out trans-regional and cross-industrial multimedia cooperations with integrated methods, focusing on reports that are fit for the application of the latest information technology to upgrade the model of news production and dissemination to adjust themselves to the changes.

An international relations expert once told me that the BRICS mechanism has never gained the full support of the world voice system since its birth.

But I believe those who doubt the cooperations among developing countries will eventually have to face the reality. The co-operation between BRICS countries has become ever closer in the past five years, and the trend may continue for even longer. The mechanism of BRICS, a mechanism without traditional West powers, is just like an underdog in the World Cup, which may well make its way successfully to the final amid boos and doubts.

As an old Chinese saying goes: " Genuine gold fears no fire." The faster and better co-operations among developing countries go, the louder the voices of scepticism and disapproval from powerful Western media might be.

As leader of a media organisation in China, I sincerely hope that media organisations in developing countries can do more in the world voice system to strengthen their ability to have their voices heard internationally, and to win the understanding and support for cooperations among their countries.

I like this year's World Cup very much, because not a single player backed off in front of a strong rival. The wonderful matches brought both surprises and joy.

Now the games are over, the five BRICS states are gathering in Brazil -- for golden BRICS instead of the golden trophy of the World Cup. Let's cheer the team of five, let's cheer the co-operations among developing countries, and let the entire world hear our cheers.

Li Congjun is president of Xinhua News Agency.

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