Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Hearing the voice of Rupert at The Oz?

There’s probably no businessman in the world who understands better than Rupert Murdoch the difficulty of doing business with the Chinese communist regime. He’s been trying for years to build a lucrative relationship in their country with very limited success. And it’s not as if the great media pragmatist has been unprepared to make a few concessions to the Chinese. His willingness to drop the BBC News from his Asian pay television network all those years ago showed that he was prepared to support a policy of the people’s right not to know.

I have no idea to what extent cracking the Chinese market remains a Murdoch priority but I do notice this morning that his local mouthpiece The Australian has made a dramatic change in the way it is covering the case of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. A glance at the two front pages tells the story.

Monday was all gung ho. China shuts the door on diplomats — screamed the page one headline as the story explained China has rebuffed the Rudd government and may force Australian officials to wait a further month for a second visit to detained Rio Tinto iron ore executive Stern Hu. Inside an editorial proclaimed “China has undermined its claim to be a modern industrialised nation and a safe place to do business”. Greg Sheridan the Foreign Editor declared “if Hu is not released, our relationship with China is shattered” and speculated that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade might have to “issue a travel warning pointing out to Australian businessmen that they face the danger of arbitrary arrest and lengthy detention in China if they, their company or even the Australian government displease the Chinese.”

This morning such editorial anger has disappeared at least from page one with the coverage more moderate as would befit the premier publication of a media company whose international aspirations still included China. The very straight story at the bottom of page one “Who’s on Hu?” was taking a side swipe at the Australian Government and its lack of action rather than continuing to bore it up the Chinese commos.

Methinks the word had finally filtered through from New York that there is more at stake in dealing with China than Australia and its iron ore.

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