The Western media gave a fair amount of attention—although not always the most judicious or well informed—to the political struggle in the Jewish state over judicial reform. But how did news outlets in China, where journalism is strictly controlled by the state, cover the story? In seeking to answer this question, Adi Ben Eli and Ori Sela observe that reporting on the subject was overall “quite balanced.” They add:
The main characteristics of the Chinese coverage of the judicial reform in Israel, apart from being relatively small-scale, include three major aspects: (a) the view of the crisis in Israel as leading to a potential rift in Israel-U.S. relations (presented as a positive development), and also as another attempt by the United States to impose its ideology in the world by interfering in Israel’s internal affairs (either to prevent Israel from implementing a reform all together, or to push Israel toward one); (b) reducing the implications of the reform and reflecting on the actual importance of liberal democracy and/or presenting the inherent problems, in Chinese eyes, of such democracy in general; (c) using the internal schism in Israel, and occasionally the reform itself, to ponder the very future of the state of Israel.
In contrast to their Israeli counterparts, Chinese news websites hardly feature any unmediated comments. The few comments that can be found on official websites called for “respecting the will of the people” or claimed that “Netanyahu is seeking dictatorship.” Other comments did not refer to the judicial reform but rather used the events in Israel to criticize Israel’s diplomatic ties with the United States, an issue that seems to preoccupy the Chinese a great deal and has appeared in many reports.
The nature of the coverage itself reflects the character of the Chinese regime and its world view, which regards liberal democracy or protests against the authorities as problematic, as well as reflecting its strategic rivalry with the United States and an attempt to promote China’s position in the Middle East.