February 25, 2021 - 9:42am

This was one of the items in the all-important 8am headlines on BBC Radio 4’s Today, the UK’s flagship news programme. This is the story, as read by the newsreader, in its entirety:

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared that China has scored a complete victory in its fight against poverty. President Xi made the announcement while addressing a grand gathering in the capital, Beijing. China credits President Xi’s leadership with lifting nearly 100 million people from rural poverty over the past 8 years. President Xi said that China had created another miracle that would go down in history.
- The Today Programme, 8am news bulletin

It’s almost beyond parody — no note of scepticism, only respectful repetition of the official language of the Communist leadership.

The claim of moving 100 million people out of poverty may well be technically true. Totalitarian regimes can force through technology in an underdeveloped country and achieve these kinds of numbers — look at the USSR in the 50s and 60s. But at what cost? Horrendous pollution, families separated by internal migration, poor working conditions, vast soulless cities devoid of beauty, mass surveillance. The list goes on.

Can you imagine the same kind of uncritical reporting of, say President Trump, or even our own UK politicians? It’s very odd. It doesn’t feel like too much to ask that pronouncements and propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party are subjected to at least the same level of scrutiny as our own elected representatives.