Hey BRICS, We've Got A P.R. Problem
Media in emerging economies must start to challenge the dominant voice of the Western press, argues Xinhua News Agency chief Li Congjun in a guest column for America Economía.
Over the past few weeks, I've enjoyed all the emotion of watching the World Cup games. My disappointment with the absence of the Chinese national team was in part mitigated by the fact that many of the products and services at the event came from China.
For example, many of the Fuleco mascot dolls were made in the Chinese province of Zhejiang, while a Chinese solar panels firm provided energy-saving solutions for stadiums.
China's players were not present in the World Cup, but China the country was there indeed.
This week, the BRICS countries of the world's large emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will hold their sixth summit in the beautiful Brazilian city of Fortaleza. The leaders of the five member states will focus on a series of pressing economic challenges.
Each BRICS summit provides an opportunity for members to deepen mutual understanding, improve cooperation, and promote common development. Since the BRICS began, the members have made important advances, cooperating in trade, investment, technological innovation and finance.
Their combined Gross Domestic Product represents one-fifth of the global GDP, and each member has become its region's most powerful emerging economy. Meanwhile, the group has also shown a determination to take a greater role in world affairs in a time of an increasingly complex international panorama.
Nonetheless, even though the Cold War ended two decades ago, the global flow of information remains out of balance. Voices in developing countries are habitually drowned out by the louder voice of the Western press. What we have wanted to say to the world is barely being heard.
Fortunately, positive changes are taking place. In the context of globalization and technological innovation, the instantaneous and horizontal exchange of information means everybody can access a microphone now.
The rapid development of the Internet and mobile networks has given emerging economies more diverse, egalitarian and accessible communication channels.
Soft power speaks
The dynamics of the global information industry are also changing profoundly, with the increasingly vigorous voice of press organizations from emerging economies. In recent years, the world has paid greater attention to the voices coming from the media in BRICS countries.
As representatives of the emerging economies, the nations of the group have created a solid base for economic cooperation. Nevertheless their political influence remains weak internationally, in contrast with their desire to participate in international affairs.
Some critics say the BRICS have acquired formidable economic force but are weak when it comes to "soft power." Part of the way to fix that is for the press to improve in the individual countries, and to develop the ability to voice their will and project their forces in a concerted fashion.
The press organizations in BRICS countries must deepen their cooperation and play a greater role in international communications. They must fight so their voices are heard across the world.
To this end, I would like to present a four-point proposal:
Firstly, there should be greater press cooperation and coordination of positions with regard for the interests of BRICS as a group. Press organizations must have a clear understanding of the need to safeguard the general interests of member states. They must speak in a coordinated manner following a common position, and join forces to amplify a common voice.
Secondly, BRICS press organizations must exchange experiences in order to promote the public image of their countries. They must learn to transmit facts objectively and effectively.
While the BRICS have achieved much, they have different political systems and face different problems. These include income disparities, social inequality and corruption. All of the states are working hard to resolve these problems through reforms and innovation.
Press organizations in these countries must improve their exchanges to learn the narrative strategy and techniques that will earn them the world's respect, but also to find effectives means of objectively and amply projecting the national image.
Thirdly, BRICS press organizations must use the World Media Summit platforms to help improve mutual confidence, and clarify misunderstandings. Created in 2009 by China's Xinhua agency, the World Media Summit has grown to become a multilateral mechanism of coordination for global press organizations.
Fourth: BRICS press groups must together face the challenge of new media and technologies. Factors like cloud computing and big data have changed the way information technology develops and is used and how public opinion can be shaped.
As the Chinese saying goes, real gold does not fear fire. The faster and farther that BRICS go, the louder will be the voices of skepticisms and rejection. As the head of a Chinese press body, I sincerely hope that BRICS media will be able to do more in the world of international communications to win the world's support and understanding for their nations' development goals.
Much like those who competed in the World Cup, this young team of five also deserves to be cheered and heard around the world!