Chinese thank Murdoch for `objectivity'

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH, the media magnate who five years ago angered Peking by saying satellite television posed an "unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere", has been personally thanked by President Jiang Zemin for his efforts "in presenting China objectively" to the world.

Mr Murdoch's attempts to win back favour have now secured the ultimate stamp of approval, a meeting in Peking with Mr Jiang. The official Chinese account of Thursday's encounter, which was reported prominently yesterday on the front page of the People's Daily, said Mr Murdoch had "expressed his admiration for China's tremendous achievements in every respect over the past two decades", including in the media and cultural fields. The News Corporation chairman told Mr Jiang "that he was willing further to enhance friendly co-operation to present the world with a better understanding of China". Peking routinely attacks Western media reporting of China as unbalanced.

Since his 1993 gaffe about totalitarian regimes, Mr Murdoch has done all he can to claw back political acceptability in China, whether by removing the BBC World Service from his Star TV satellite channels or, most recently, ordering his publishing subsidiary, HarperCollins, to drop a book by Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, who is loathed by Peking.

"News Corporation is optimistic about the scope for co-operation with Chinese media industry partners," Mr Murdoch said after his meeting with Mr Jiang.

To coincide with the visit, News Corporation has been approved to open a representative office in Peking.

Warm relations with the Chinese leadership may have a limited short-term impact, however, in opening up China for Mr Murdoch and his rivals. The media remains one of the most restricted sectors for foreign investment controlled by the state. In the current climate of renewed political repression, the propaganda chiefs are not planning any relaxation.

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