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Effects of Media Reporting on History: The Senkaku Islands Dispute Essay

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Updated: Apr 19th, 2019

Introduction

In the contemporary world, the media has become an important tool not only in communication, but also in the development of human history. Historiography is currently a product of media influence.

This implies that historiography is an ongoing process that incorporates both facts and viewpoints of the media. Since the media has become the most important tool in providing information to the public, it equally adds some meaning relevant to the validity of a historical event.

Although the theoretical purpose of the media is to present an event or fact “as it is”, the ways in which the media presents an event or fact has a strong influence on how the audience perceive and interpret. The feelings and interests of those who cover and present often induce biases.

Most of the biases induced on news normally occur due to the interest of the media. The origin of the media, for instance, plays a significant role in giving “meaning” to a historical event. In this discussion, four newspapers have been analyzed.

They report about the recent dispute between China and Japan over the ownership of Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands. Newspapers from the United Kingdom, Australia, China and Japan are examples of media channels that induce different meanings on the same historical event.

Analysis

The ‘Japan Times’, a daily newspaper printed in Tokyo, reported that the conflict between the two nations over Senkaku Islands is a major pointer to the aggressiveness of the Chinese Communist regime.

In the story “No winners in a conflict over Senkaku Islands”, author Michael Richardson’s interest is to describe the innocence of Japan (Richardson The Japan times 14). At the same time, it points to the aggression that China’s government has employed as a tactic to show its rising influence in the Far East and the world in general.

The author introduces the story with a clear but brief description of the conflict. Here, the author’s interest appears to be largely inclined towards the political and economic significance of the conflict to the three nations.

Throughout the article, it is clear that the paper’s interest is to describe China as being on the wrong, while Japan and America on the right. For instance, the article argues “…China, an increasingly assertive and militarily powerful nation, is currently challenging the rights of other countries in the region to occupy reefs and atolls…” (Richardson The Japan times 14).

By including the term “challenging the rights of other nations”, the article is clearly biased because it seems to support Japan in the conflict by displaying China as an aggressive nation that does not respect the rights of its neighbors. The article goes on to claim that Beijing is considering enforcing controls on fishing and banning energy development in south China seas without its approval.

Evidently, the article does not touch on the issues China has raised, especially in terms of long-term Japanese presence in the Sea and its exploitation of fish and other resources though the sea is not a part of her territory.

Secondly, the article reports that Japan has done everything possible to contain the conflict, including suggesting a negotiation summit with China.

However, the article further reports that the Japanese government, being the rightful owner of Senkaku Islands, has stated clearly that there will be no negotiations over the ownership of the island. It also argues that China, aware of the fact that its claims are false, insists on negotiations.

In this case, the article seems to make the reader perceive Japan as the rightful owner of Senkaku and China as an intruder challenging the rights of her neighbors.

In addition, the article argues that China is basing its military strategies and conflicts with other nations in the region as a way of protecting its core interests.

The article argues that the Chinese definition of “defending its core interests” could possibly include the use of force in expanding its territory, something the author links to the recent quelling of independent movements in Tibet as well as annexation of Taiwan by Chinese forces.

The author concludes by arguing that Japan must be supported by America in any way, including military aid. This shows that the article assumes that Japan is the rightful owner of the Islands and as such, the international community must provide support.

‘The Guardian’, a British newspaper, carried a story on Monday 21 January that seems to take a more neutral position than the articles by the Japanese, Chinese and Australian newspapers reviewed here. Titled “China rebukes US over ‘ignorant’ comments on island dispute with Japan”, the Guardian reports on Chinese critic of the position taken by the United Sates in regards to the dispute over Senkaku Islands (Branigan and McCurry 18).

The Guardian first reports on the progress in the dispute, citing the recent return of the Chinese military ships to the waters around the islands and the Japanese threat of using warning shots to deter the Chinese military and private planes that had been flying near the islands. The guardian argues that such a step by Japan would possible raise stakes.

In addition, the article reports that a few days earlier, the Chinese military had scrambled a number of fighter jets to “tail” Japanese fighters that were thought to be shadowing a surveillance plane owned by the Chinese military (Branigan and McCurry 18).

In this case, the guardian attempts to show how serious the situation is, possible pointing towards a possible war between the two nations over the islands, which could also involve other allies of Japan such as the USA. Although the article has attempted to take a neutral position, it is evident that it stresses much on “a possible military conflict”.

For instance, it argues that Chinese neighbors are anxious of her increasing power and aggression, while China is anxious of the involvement of the US in trying to contain Chinese powers and influence.

For instance, the article reports that Chinese government considers the American stand as “ignorant of the facts on the ground and indiscriminate of rights and wrongs” (Branigan and McCurry 18). China claims that America’s involvement in the region is interference.

Throughout the article, there is evidence that the newspaper tries to convince the audience that the conflict is tense and could cause a regional war or better still, a world conflict. For instance, it argues that the tension is great to an extent that a mistake or accidental pulling of ‘single trigger’ could make things go out of control.

In the ‘China Daily’, a Beijing-based daily newspaper, the actions of Japan and the US in the conflict have greatly been criticized.

In an article titled “Ishihara’s dangerous dream”, the newspaper begins by convincing the reader that some Japanese politicians are out to provoke a conflict between their country and China and then involve the US (Zhaokui 7). The article argues that this move is a strategy to ensure that Japan regains her glory as the regional military and political power.

In particular, the article argues that the former Governor of Tokyo, Mr. Shintaro Ishihara, is one of the most significant politicians involved in triggering the conflict between the two nations over the islands.

Throughout the article, the author argues that Ishihara, in his campaigns for Japanese premiership, criticized his opponent for trying to involve China in a negotiation about the sovereignty of Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands because he believed the islands were within the territories of Japan.

The article goes further to argue that China and Japan have strong relationships in trade and regional cooperation, but the remarks and moves by politicians like Ishihara are out to cause a military conflict. In fact, the newspaper blames Japanese politicians such as Ishihara as being the perpetrators of the conflict.

This article appears to divert the public from believing that China is aggressive. For example, the article cites a comment made by Ishihara, where he argues that he would “purchase” the Senkaku from the US and if China attempts to oppose this move, it would be “declaring war” on Japan (Zhaokui 7).

The article further argues that Japanese politicians believed that a war on China was one of America’s top agenda and as such, by provoking China, America would automatically join Japan.

From this article, it is clear that the presentation of news and facts is full of bias because the Chinese newspaper wants the public to believe that the source and progress of the conflict lies within the circles of the Japanese politicians.

In addition, the article attempts to show that China is innocent, while Japanese politicians are not only aggressive, but also seeking any way possible to trigger a military conflict that would involve the US against China.

The ‘Canberra Times’, an Australian newspaper, has taken a critical and analytical approach to the events surrounding the conflict. In general, the article “Troubling signs of the rise of Chinese ultra-nationalists” tends to argue that the main problem is the rise of China as an economic power, which has in turn made the country outdo Japan as the military power in the region and second in the world after the US (Richardson The Canberra times 23).

Just like the ‘Guardian’, the ‘Canberra Times’ has presented the news in an analytical manner that show the possibility of a war between China on one side, and Japan and America on the other. However, this paper attempts to show that Chinese aggressiveness in terms of military technologies and power is the main cause of the conflict.

In addition, the newspaper attempts to show that the conflict over the Senkaku Islands is just one of the examples of areas that China is using as a point of conflict with its neighbors.

This article attempts to convince the reader that the people of China do not approve the stand that China is taking; rather it is the role of the military wing of the Communist Party.

In addition, this Australian newspaper attempts to make the reader believe that Japan, an ally of Australia, is innocent and the rightful owner of the islands, which therefore means that Tokyo has the right to use military intervention and include her allies such as the US.

Conclusion

By looking at the four articles in the four different papers, it is evident that the media influence history. Each paper portrays a bias, especially as they seek to make the reader believe in one side of the story. It is evident that the stand taken by the author or the owner of the newspaper develops bias in reporting by favoring one side of the story.

Works Cited

Branigan, Tania and Justin McCurry. “China rebukes US over ‘ignorant’ comments on island dispute with Japan.” The Guardian 21 Jan. 2013: 18. Print.

Richardson, Michael. “No winners in a conflict over Senkaku Islands.” The Japan Times 5 Feb. 2013: 14. Print.

“Troubling signs of the rise of Chinese ultra-nationalists.” The Canberra Times 13 Feb. 2013: 23. Print.

Zhaokui, Feng. “Ishihara’s dangerous dream.” China Daily 30 Jan. 2013: 7. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Effects of Media Reporting on History: The Senkaku Islands Dispute." April 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/effects-of-media-reporting-on-history-the-senkaku-islands-dispute-essay/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Effects of Media Reporting on History: The Senkaku Islands Dispute'. 19 April.

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