China’s state media Xinhua has lashed out at a recent documentary series by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Secrets of China, presented by 23-year-old Billie JD Porter, has been described as “stereotypical” and “prejudiced” by the Communist Party mouthpiece.

The three-part series. which premièred on BBC Three on August 25 and quickly drew attention in China by featuring the nation’s “number one eligible bachelor” Wang Sicong, claims to reveal “what it’s really like to grow up in the country with the highest population on Earth”—a place where “if you don’t fit in, you are often seen as a failure.”

Secrets of China. Photo: BBC.

“The quality of this documentary is a far cry from the BBC’s earlier excellent documentary programming,” Xinhua notes. “This series uses all means to shape the stereotype” that China is “a country that lacks freedom and [where] the people must obey the system.”

Xinhua opines that “from the purposeful selection and amplification of negative material” to the “one-sided choice of interview subjects,” the BBC has failed on all fronts with Secrets of China.

“Professional media practice,” the Xinhua commentary reads, “should be to interview sociologists… and education experts to give authoritative explanations; but the BBC has not done this.” Instead, they say the programme “selectively uses non-mainstream phenomena to give subjective judgements the impression of objectivity.”

Before trying to uncover the secrets of China, Xinhua concludes, the show’s producers should “first unpack the western filters at work in Secrets of China.”

The Xinhua commentary is unsparing; but it’s still not as harsh as some of the reviews back home.

British public affairs magazine The Spectator asks why the series is “fronted by someone who doesn’t know anything about China.” In a scathing review, the conservative weekly remarks that Porter shows “obvious disdain for Chinese culture” and “barely scratches the surface of the country, let alone uncovers its ‘secrets’.”

The third and final episode of Secrets of China aired on BBC Three on Thursday evening. All three episodes are currently available for UK-based users on BBC iPlayer.


Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.