Alibaba's acquisition of the SCMP
A libaba's acquisition of the SCMP
Alibaba's march in the media industry is growing ambitious. On Friday, the Chinese Internet giant announced it is to acquire the media assets of the SCMP Group, including one of the most influential English language newspapers based in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The SCMP is a daily newspaper that shares typical Western values and perspectives in media coverage.
The acquisition raised a debate about whether Alibaba, a Chinese mainland enterprise, will jeopardize the independence and objectivity of the newspaper. Alibaba confirmed that the Chinese government had no role in the deal, and Joseph Tsai, Alibaba's executive vice chairman, said the newspaper will continue to run "on principles," and "editors make their judgment on what to publish and not to publish."
However, Alibaba also admitted that the acquisition serves an important purpose of improving China's image, considering the fact that China is always observed by Western media through a biased lens. Some of their negative, exaggerated and even groundless reports about China have bred misconceptions, which have impacted Alibaba's interests.
From a business perspective, Alibaba's acquisition of the SCMP is no different from Amazon taking over the Washington Post. Through cooperation, Internet companies desire sustainable prosperity by using traditional media's established leverage and channels, while traditional media hope they could survive in its winter and reverse the downfall in a digital era.
Alibaba's advance in the media industry is part of the trend, and it could be anticipated that more Chinese companies will step into this market.
In the past decades, China has been requested by the Western hemisphere to be more open-minded and engaged in global competition. Now, confronted with more dynamic Chinese companies embracing the world in various dimensions, the West should focus on business-oriented competition, instead of conjuring up politically-driven schemes. Concerns with ulterior motives are disrespectful to the efforts of Chinese companies.
As Alibaba said, misunderstandings about China are rife in Western discourse. They can hardly be eliminated overnight. The blossoming of Chinese companies is related to China's multifaceted mode of development, which needs to be illustrated fairly to the outside. In this process, the media helps a lot.
It is perhaps more productive if the West could look at Alibaba's acquisition and future operation of the SCMP from a constructive angle. Alibaba will not only reinvigorate the newspaper without putting its reputation and survival in peril as it pledged, but also tailor it to be a window to more balanced and complicated portraits of what is happening in China. The rest of the world can benefit from a true understanding of China.
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