Press Box

A Test for the Murdoch Street Journal

How will it cover a new book alleging Rupert Murdoch’s kowtowing to the Chinese?

Today’s Financial Times reports a bit of news about a forthcoming book, Rupert’s Adventures in China, that Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal won’t be able to ignore. Or will it?

According the Financial Times, former News Corp Vice President Bruce Dover, who handled Chinese affairs for the company, alleges in the book that Murdoch wrote a personal letter to Chinese leaders in 1997 to apologize for any “misunderstanding” caused by a speech he’d given four years earlier about how satellite television could topple totalitarian governments.


The FT continues:

The letter assuring Jiang Zemin, then Chinese president, and then-premier Li Peng that Mr Murdoch was “a good friend of China” highlights the lengths the News Corp chairman has gone to to gain entry to the country’s vast but tightly controlled media market. …Mr Dover says that in 1997, Mr Murdoch wrote to Mr Li and Mr Jiang saying he was “alarmed” to hear his comments on technology’s liberating effect had been interpreted as referring to China.”This was never the case. I apologise for any misunderstanding this may have caused. I remain firmly committed to China and the development of the Chinese economy,” Mr Dover quotes Mr Murdoch as writing.


Murdoch has wanted to have it both ways about the nature of his “relationship” with the Chinese. In 1994, he confessed to an interviewer that he had evicted the BBC World Service from his Asian satellite TV system in order to placate the angry Chinese, who hated its coverage. Last year, Murdoch told the FTin a Page One story that he gave the BBC the boot for financial reasons.

How will the Journal editors handle this one?


I predict they’ll play the story very straight. At least I hope they do. Send your prediction to (E-mail may be quoted by name in “The Fray,” Slate’s readers’ forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)