What a contrast in professionalism and civility. The 7/30 Report

Sep 8, 2022
Xiao Qian National Press Club
Image AAP / Mick Tsikas

You have to admire the PRC Ambassador, Xiao Qian. After the uncivil behaviour, and gotcha questioning, and the visible personal animus journalists gave him at the National Press Club four weeks ago, he’d have been forgiven if he declined to make himself available to speak to Australian media for a while. Or at least, if he did so, only on agreed terms of civility.

But on 6 September he appeared on the 7.30 program, with Sarah Fergusson in the chair. This was an exclusive, and even something of a coup, for as far as I can recall it’s the first time a PRC Ambassador has appeared in a one-on-one on 7.30. And you might have thought she would use the occasion to try to tease out some of the thinking and attitudes and perspectives that go into PRC policy-making on the issues she would seek to pursue.

But she just let him have it. With rude and belligerent tone, and constant interruption, often not allowing him even to finish offering the answers and explanations she said she was seeking, and rudely rejecting answers he did give, in some cases speaking as though she knew China, and much better than anything he might say.

Of the two, there’s no doubt which one emerged as the more professional. Throughout, Ambassador Xiao remained composed and civil and pleasant, endeavouring patiently to answer, and to explain his government’s policies, which is his job. And these need to be properly examined, not set up as a punching bag. It is not apparent, for example that Sarah Ferguson had read the detailed account of the history and background to the status of Taiwan which the Ambassador had published in the Financial Review the week before, or if she had she chose to ignore it. It was an article I thought accurate, and persuasive.

Many have taken issue with PRC government policies over the years, and so have I, and no one can pretend there are not issues now that deserve scrutiny and challenge. But scrutiny and challenge are one thing. Rudeness and belligerence towards individuals doing their job is no substitute for serious investigation and examination. Did Sarah Ferguson and her viewers emerge from her interview with more insight than could be obtained from existing media headlines around the Western world?

We should be concerned about this trend in the attitude of our media, and of those who feed them. It speaks to much older and more deep-seated strains in the history of our society, strains that we once thought we had, if not buried, at least under control.

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