Experts highlight the need for greater ‘cross-border collaboration’ when investigating China’s growing global influence

By Ashley Seymour

Journalists have been implored to work together when uncovering financial foul play from the rapidly-developing powerhouse that is China. This was the takeaway from Friday afternoon’s discussion on the growing role of ‘China in Africa and the World’ at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference held at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Professor of Journalism at the University of Hong Kong and consultant Ying Chan attributed China’s diverse investment interests, especially in Africa, to the Asian country’s growing economy.

Evidencing domestic restrictions placed on journalists when investigating Chinese state investments, Chan encouraged non-domestic reporters to perform “more in-depth” reporting and to take advantage of the “outside space” to accurately represent the Chinese state’s actions.

According to Chan, under President Xi Jinping, “investigative journalism is dead in China”.

Journalists, Kimon de Greef (South Africa) and Karen Zhang (Hong Kong), detailed acts of corruption, political manipulation and smuggling affecting their countries, emphasising a growing need for critical coverage when approaching global Chinese behaviour.

However, given the multiple projects facilitated by Chinese capital in Africa, Chan said that these actions could either “export corruption” or foster development in implicated countries, thereby creating a conflict on how these interactions are perceived by the media and other civic bodies.

In some quarters China is being seen as the “new coloniser” in African and South American countries, Chan said.

Journalists attending the session appeared enthusiastic to develop global networks to further investigate the effects of Chinese investment. One audience member highlighted the gaps apparent when investigating Chinese influence in Central America, calling for greater “cross-border collaboration” to maximise the reporting potential of journalists working on China-related stories.