The Raw Data
Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.
China amends constitution: removes presidential term limits, adds ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ as guideline
China’s parliamentary body, the National People’s Congress (NPC), voted Sunday to adopt amendments to China’s Constitution, including a proposal to remove presidential term limits by eliminating a phrase that said the president and vice-president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.” The term limit clause had been put in place by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982.
Read the full Raw Data here.
8 candidates to run in Russia’s Mar. 18 presidential election
Russia’s presidential election is scheduled for March 18 with President Vladimir Putin running for his fourth term against seven other candidates. Polls cited by RT said Putin has approximately 70 percent public support.
Read the full Raw Data here.
The Knife’s analysis of how news outlets distort information. (This section may contain opinion.)
China’s Xi Jinping could stay in office beyond his second term, now that the country has amended its constitution. Russian President Vladimir Putin is running for his fourth term in the Mar. 18 election, and reportedly has 70 percent support, according to some polls. The Knife analyzed two media outlets that covered both stories, and they had one thing in common: a negative slant with little supporting data.
The term “slant” refers to when a news outlet emphasizes one point of view while excluding or downplaying others. The slant, or bias, is often supported by spin, which is dramatic, subjective or vague language. While the content of the stories in this analysis differed, the slant didn’t: they all imply the leaders’ continued rule will be detrimental to their countries, as well as the rest of the world. There are likely valid reasons to suggest such an outcome, but the outlets provided more opinion than data to back up their conclusions. This made the coverage superficial.
The Xi coverage
Here are a couple of examples from the China coverage (the spin is noted in red).
[China’s approving the constitutional amendments] passed during the communist country’s annual parliamentary session in Beijing, has raised concerns both inside China and internationally about 64-year-old Xi’s ever-growing personality cult and authoritarianism. (Deutsche Welle)
The slide toward one-man rule under Xi has fueled concern that Beijing is eroding efforts to guard against the excesses of autocratic leadership. (The Associated Press)
The language alludes to future problems or abuses, should Xi continue to lead. There may indeed be abuses, yet the outlets aren’t precise about what they may be. Both outlets covered the basic facts of the story. But beyond that, they used the information as a springboard to imply dark days lie ahead, rather than providing readers with a comprehensive and nuanced understanding that could foster critical evaluation.
AP’s article, for example, did provide some information about China’s past and present leaders, although it was vague. It said Deng Xiaoping changed the constitution in 1982 to prevent “a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.” AP also said Xi’s “tough attitude toward corruption” has garnered him support. But it didn’t give specific data about this “attitude” or about the “excesses.”
Giving forecasts can be useful, but it’s important that they be based on fact, and not opinion or drama. In China’s case, it would be helpful to know which Xi policies have been problematic and which have been beneficial — and to whom and based on what standards. Do some of his policies compare to Mao’s and, if so, how? What specifically do experts cite as possible concerns regarding future Xi policies socially, economically and with respect to foreign policy? Having that data would provide a more comprehensive understanding and more distinctions.
Again, speculation can be valuable, especially as it concerns countries in which the West has identified diminished personal freedoms. But it’s better if readers can evaluate data-based information than having to take an outlet’s word for it.
AP offered little balance to the prevailing slant. For instance, is it possible that Xi staying in power could benefit the country in any way? AP included a couple lines on this at the end of its article, paraphrasing a Beijing investor saying Xi acquiring greater power will help him “carry out his ambitious vision of raising living standards.” This too was vague.
The Putin coverage
The coverage of Russia was more distorted than that of China. AP’s article on Xi received a total 51 percent integrity rating, compared to 23 percent for its Russia article. Deutsche Welle earned integrity ratings of 48 and 41 percent, respectively. Why did the Russia stories rate lower? That’s due, in part, to the added opinion.
For instance, the outlet referred to Russia as a “basket case” in its headline. Before you take in the rest of the article, your perception may be already tainted by sensationalism. Here’s another example from AP that contains opinion.
Putin will overwhelmingly win re-election as president on March 18, again. So why bother holding a vote at all?
He disdains democracy as messy and dangerous — yet he craves the legitimacy conferred by an election. He needs tangible evidence that Russians need him and his great-power vision more than they worry about the freedoms he has muffled, the endemic corruption he has failed to eradicate, the sanctions he invited by his actions in Crimea and Ukraine.
It may be true that Putin views democracy this way, or that he needs these things, but this isn’t coming from him or an expert on his thinking. Here, AP is presenting its opinion as fact without backing it up with precise, well-sourced data. Moreover, it supports the idea that Putin winning the election will only make matters worse without specifying how, or providing alternative perspectives.
“In one swift vote, the rubber-stamp legislature opened up the possibility of Xi serving as president for life …”
China’s National People’s Congress voted on Sunday to implement changes to the constitution, including eliminating presidential term limits. Xi Jinping may choose to remain in office past 2023, when his second term ends.
“China’s President and Communist Party General Secretary, Xi Jinping, came to power in 2012 and since then has managed to tighten his hold over the party and state.”
Xi Jinping currently serves as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People’s Republic of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
“Putin’s Russia: From basket case to resurgent superpower”
Vladimir Putin is president of Russia. The Soviet Union was considered a “superpower” until the end of the Cold War.
“Some observers are warning that Russia may spin out of control after the elections or, at the latest, after the football World Cup this summer.”
Russia is scheduled to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.
Total Integrity: 51%
Total Integrity: 48%
Total Integrity: 23%
Total Integrity: 41%