If you want to know how powerful Rupert Murdoch is, read the reviews of Bruce Dover’s book, Rupert’s Adventures in China. Well, go on, read them. You can’t find any? I rest my case. Dover was Murdoch’s vice-president in China, and took his orders directly from the boss. His book, which was published in February, is a fascinating study of power, and of a man who could not bring himself to believe that anyone would stand in his way. So why aren’t we reading about it?
Murdoch, Dover shows, began his assault on China with two strategic mistakes. The first was to pay a staggering price – $525m – for a majority stake in Star TV, a failing satellite broadcaster based in Hong Kong. The second was to make a speech in September 1993, a few months after he had bought the business, which he had neither written nor read very carefully. New telecommunications, he said, “have proved an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere … satellite broadcasting makes it possible for information-hungry residents of many closed societies to bypass state-controlled television channels”.