The Wall Street Journal is a newspaper aimed at businesspeople and investors. What businesspeople and investors want to see is an eternal bull-market and an ever-growing economy.
Murdoch’s media empire revolves around the tenet of giving the people what they want. The tabloids focus on celebrity scandals to sell papers; the Fox News Channel tells conservative voters what they want to hear about politics; the WSJ gives businesspeople hope about improving economic conditions.
If you subscribe to the paper, you are presumably a businessperson or an investor. This is the headline you saw regarding Merkel’s visit to China to meet Prime Minister Wen:
China to Continue Investing in Europe
Now, people who were looking for articles through a search engine received this headline instead:
China Offers Cautious Support or Europe
Which headline do you think is more optimistic? I think it’s the first one. Which one do you think is more accurate? Let’s see.
The article opens by indirectly quoting Wen who said that China pledges to continue buying European bonds. This pledge is meaningless. China has $3.2tr in foreign currency and needs to place this cash somewhere. Note that Wen did not say that China would continue buying PIIGS bonds, just European bonds. German and French bonds are trading around record low yields and are not distressed. China is probably buying these bonds and will continue to do so.
What is more telling about China’s position is this direct quote by Wen:
“The European debt crisis recently has continued to deteriorate, giving rise to serious concerns in the international community.” Mr. Wen said. “Frankly, I’m also worried.”
And this statement from the article:
But Mr. Wen stopped short of concrete pledges and noted that China’s purchases would require “fully evaluating risk,” suggesting that meaningful aid still can’t be assured.
From these quotes, China’s actual position regarding Europe is clear. The Chinese government is worried about getting its money back. Furthermore, why does the article state, “China pledged…” and then turn around and state a couple of paragraphs later that Wen stopped short of concrete pledges. Well, did he pledge or didn’t he?
The net result is that China did not pledge to do anything. A more accurate analysis of the quotes is that the Chinese government will continue buying European bonds, but that it will stop if the bonds become too risky.
The article then relays to the reader the usual talking points about how important the relationship between China and Europe is and offers examples of trade between the two. Then, the writer tells us that Merkel believes that China should improve working conditions for foreign journalists.
Whenever a Western leader meets with her Chinese counterpart, China has to be reminded about being a totalitarian state with human rights abuses, and the journalist has to include that statement in the article. What is actually significant about this is that Merkel used kid gloves to deal with the issue of the Chinese government attempting to silence German journalists. Germany must need the money more than we realize.
The last indirect quote by Wen is utterly meaningless:
Mr. Wen said Beijing will also strengthen talks with the European Central Bank, the European Union and International Monetary Fund to help Europe get through the turmoil.
What exactly does “strengthen talks” mean? Will the Chinese Olympic weightlifting team be participating in the talks? It’s one thing for a politician to make a nonsensical political statement. It is quite another for the journalist to choose to include it in the article.
After reading the article and comparing the headlines, I find that neither is accurate. This is my headline for the article:
China to Continue German Bund Purchases Until They Become Too Risky