How scandalous! Another instance of Rupert Murdoch bending over backward to assuage the sensitivities of China's leaders in the service of his own business interests. According to Bruce Dover, a former executive in charge of China operations for News Corp., Murdoch wrote a letter to China's leaders Jiang Zeming and Li Peng in 1997 apologizing for the infamous 1993 speech in which he declared that satellite technology posed an "unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere."
The tidbit comes from Dover's new book, "Rupert's Adventures in China: How Murdoch Lost a Fortune and Found a Wife," as reported by the Financial Times (which, at last check, has not yet been purchased by Murdoch).
Australia's Sydney Morning Herald (also Murdoch-free) provides more detail, including a quote from Dover in reference to Murdoch's decision in 1998 to spike a memoir by the former governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, for fear it too might offend China.
The Patten incident marked a distinct warming in the relationship with the propaganda department. On a personal level, it left me questioning for the first time the real cost of accepting the Murdoch dollar and working for News Corp in China. Pragmatism was one thing, but this bordered on the coldly amoral.
If only Dover had listened to me!
Eleven years ago, in my very first full-length feature for Salon, "Chairman Rupert's Little Red Bucks," published right around the same time Murdoch was engaging in his groveling correspondence with the CCP, I said a number of unkind things about a joint venture between News Corp. and China's People's Daily. And I interviewed Bruce Dover, who told me that there were no "favors" involved in getting the deal done, and that he saw no contradiction in a news operation getting in bed with an organ of Chinese Communist government propaganda. (As they liked to joke at the time, "the only thing you can trust about the People's Daily is the date.")
"At the end of the day, it's a business decision," Dover told me, "We see it as access to a market."
Eleven years later, however, we're bordering on "the coldly amoral." What a difference a book deal makes!