A case study : The coverage of the Yue Yuen strike (China) in April 2014
a very interesting analysis of the media coverage of the April 2014 Yue Yuen strike in China
by Hervé Fuyet, journalist active with l”Humanité in English
Internet and checking sources
With the internet, journalists’ sources have multiplied, but checking the reliability of information sources is often difficult (1] However, the internet can be part of the solution more than it is part of the problem. To test this hypothesis, let us do a case study. Let us choose as a subject, for example, the media coverage of the Yue Yuen strike in Dongguan (China) that took place in April 2014. The originality of this approach is that it is initiating this case study in the hope that it will be enriched and deepened by research and comments from readers, just as one can enrich a Wikipedia article. If you would like to contribute to the enrichment of this collaborative article, please send your contribution by mail to the following address: email@example.com the subject header: “Media coverage of the Yue Yuen strike ( April 2014).” These contributions will be used later in a larger study of the subject and contributors will be cited if they so wish. The basis of this collaborative article in its current form is itself already the synthesis of contributions from China, the United States of America and France.
The China Labour Bulletin (CLB) and the China Labor Watch (CLW): media monopolies on China
In most “Western” newspapers, two sources clearly dominate the media coverage of the Yue Yuen strike. They are the China Labour Bulletin (CLB) and the China Labour Watch (CLW). At the same time, news agencies, official Chinese trade unions, information on the ground from sources other than the CLB or CLW, etc.. are almost always ignored, sidelined or excluded.
First let us take a look at coverage of the Yue Yuen strike in various francophone and anglophone newspapers.
Le Figaro, a French right-wing daily, quotes: “The organization China Labor Watch, specialist in Chinese industry’s social movements…” as having provided the newspaper with a video showing striking workers in Dongguan (2] «Nike, Adidas, Puma : grève géante en Chine», Le Figaro, 17 avril 2014).
The French daily Le Monde wrote that
“Mr. Liu lends little credibility to statements made by union officials (the only union tolerated by the party-state in China) who promise in future to defend the workers’ cause. According to China Labor Watch, several strikers were temporarily detained last Friday, notably for having taken photographs”
Le Parisien, another French newspaper with a wide circulation, writes:
“China Labor Watch, an NGO specializing in social movements in the Chinese industrial sector, has released a series of photos showing the deployment of hundreds of police around the factory, some equipped with anti-riot equipment and others holding German shepherds on leashes.” The article continues: “ ‘The workers continue to strike, and their numbers have no doubt increased,’” commented Dong Lin, a member of a rights movement based in Shenzhen that is close to the workers.” The article also highlights what it calls “the absence of independent trade unions” (
If we turn to the specialist press, in the business magazine Challenges we find:
“Indeed, according to China Labor Watch, a Chinese NGO that has been following the strike since its start, the three brands have moved manufacture of their shoes from the Dongguan factory to another site based in Fujian Province” ( 
In the English press, the New York Times has written that
“Chinese workers now have greater bargaining power, and they know how to use this power,” said Geoffrey Crothall, communications director at China Labor Bulletin, an advocacy group based in Hong Kong… Independent trade unions are illegal in China, and government-backed unions are more interested in quickly defusing labor disputes than delivering on worker grievances” ( New York Times Plying Social Media…, 2 mai 2014)
Curiously, in a section of the “leftist” press, we also sometimes find exclusive use of the same sources. For example, according to International Solidarity
“Again, according to the China Labour Bulletin, a third of the strikes in the industrial sector relate to the payment of salary arrears, a quarter to maintaining jobs and obtaining redundancy payments – which shows the extent of closures/relocations of factories in China – and less than a tenth deal specifically with wage increases” (
« Grève massive en Chine : 40 000 ouvriers paralysent la plus grande usine de chaussures au monde, fournisseur d’Adidas et Nike », Solidarité Internationale PCF, 17 avril 2014).
The following article from the newspaper L’Humanité unfortunately also leaves much to be desired concerning the issue, amongst others, of sources. In fact, the sole source of this brief article by Pierric Marissal, including the video, is none other than the China Labor Watch ( « Grève dans la plus grande usine de chaussures du monde », L’Humanité, 19 avril 2014).
The following article is a good example of a particularly biased media coverage. Le Figaro recounts the end of the strike as follows:
“The 40,000 Yue Yuen Chinese workers on strike since April 14 were ordered on Friday to resume work. The Ministry of Labour has ordered the subcontractor for Nike, Adidas and Converse to pay salary arrears due to employees, the basis of the strike action. However, the NGO China Labour Bulletin, which advocates for the rights of workers, says the workers were forced to accept these measures, and have no assurance that they will be respected. Police and several brigades of militia were posted on the premises of Yue Yuen to prevent any further action ( « Chine: fin forcée de la grève géante », Le Figaro, 26 avril 2014).
We come across a more balanced media coverage in La Presse, a widely circulated Quebec newspaper:
“The social movement in Yue Yuen factory – the world’s largest in this domain according to management – began in early April and since the 14th of the month has taken the form of a strike, bringing together tens of thousands of workers and triggering a massive deployment of security forces. The workers – labor is predominantly female – complain about low salaries, incomplete employment contracts and insufficient social insurance. On the last issue, they are right to do so, a formal investigation has since ruled. ‘According to preliminary investigations, Yue Yuen factory in the southern city of Dongguan is guilty of not having made social security payments,’ said Zhong Li, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security at a press conference in Beijing. The authorities have instructed the management of the factory, which produces Nike and Adidas shoes, to make the ‘legally required’ payments. The organization China Labor Watch, specializing in the social movements of the Chinese manufacturing sector, reported that equipment used to make Adidas shoes was being moved out of the factory and transferred to other plants in the region. ‘China Labor Watch has urged Adidas to reverse its decision to leave the Yue Yuen factory, and to work towards an equitable solution between Yue Yuen and its employees’, the NGO said in a statement” ( « La Chine exige de la direction d’une usine la fin d’une grève prolongée », La Presse, 25 avril 2014).
We see that the Montreal daily La Presse also cites the China Labor Watch, but at least does not exclude trade union or Chinese governmental sources.
However, can we be sure that the China Labour Bulletin and China Labor Watch are reliable sources? Is it ethical, from a journalistic point of view, to use the China Labour Bulletin or China Labor Watch (and indeed all NGOs or similar pseudo-academic sites that are constantly increasing) as reliable sources?
The true nature of China Labour Bulletin and China Labor Watch
Let us now see what is the nature of these two media sources and the origin of their funding.
China Labour Bulletin has a well-made and informative website: China Labour Bulletin ( China Labour Bulletin).
From this site, we learn that “the activities of the CLB are funded by grants from a wide range of foundations, public and private organizations and unions.”
For example, one such organization funding CLB is the Sigrid Rausing Trust (SRT). On its website it says that the
“SRT has been financing the China Labour Bulletin since 2002. The total funds received to date are £1,872,000; Current grant: £ 125,000 over 1 year; Beginning of the current grant: 1st November 2012” ( Sigrid Rausing Trust, http://www.sigrid-rausing-trust.org/Grantees/China-Labour-Bulletin).
The trust, founded in 1995 by Sigrid Rausing, claims on its website to be politically non-partisan, whose objective is to maintain human rights in repressive societies. From 1993 to 1994 Sigrid Rausing lived on a collective farm in Estonia, preparing his doctorate in social anthropology for University College London.
Another member of the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Jonathan Cooper, has developed, among other things, anti-terrorism and human rights training programs in the Balkans and Central Asia, etc.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose nature is not a secret, is another major source of funding for CLB.
“‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly by the CIA for 25 years,’ said Allen Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy, in an article published in 1991 by The Washington Post. Created in the early 80s, the NED ‘is governed by a team of independent non-partisan management’. Its objective is to support pro-democracy organizations in the world. However, historically, its agenda has been set by Washington’s foreign policy objectives.” ( « Comment les États-HYPERLINK “http://www.michelcollon.info/Comment-les-Etats-Unis-financent.html?lang=fr“Unis financent des organes de la presse mondiale pour acheter une influence médiatique », Investig’Action, 17 juin 2008).
Incidentally, the NED goes as far as funding an anti-Cuban radio in central France !
“At the request of the National Endowment for Democracy ( NED) – one of the CIA’s legal fronts whose official purpose is to help opposition to ‘non-friendly governments’ – TPG Capital got TDF to open a signal beam towards Cuba. TDF has become a technical tool of the CIA to beam to Cuba and one wonders if the ‘Service’ does not extend to other parts of the world” ( « TDF instrument de la CIA sans le savoir », L’Humanité, 15 mai 2014.
Employees, volunteers and leaders of China Labor Bulletin (CLB)
On its website CLB writes that it has 15 full-time employees at its offices on the Chinese island of Hong Kong, including lawyers, trade unionists, communication specialists, etc. It remains discreet about the number of employees in mainland China. Regarding volunteers, the CLB is actively recruiting, a bit like extreme right sites or “jihadists” in France ( http://www.clb.org.hk/en/node/110007). CLB is also working to establish communication channels with WeChat ( http://www.wechat.com/en/), a marvelous little means of communication used even in France. Too bad CLB is using it for a bad cause!
In this article, we will limit ourselves to considering the cases of Geoffrey Crothall and Han Dongfang.
Geoffrey Crothall received a Masters in “Propaganda and History” (You couldn’t make this stuff up!) in 1997 from the University of Kent. He is director of communications for the CLB. China is, of course, aware of the true nature of the CLB and Geoffrey Crothall. Hence, it was opposed to Geoffrey Crothall giving a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of China in 2011. According to the Club, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had indicated that
“his organization is hostile to China and ‘advocates the development of so-called independent unions’ representing a threat to the stability of economic development of China.” (http://www.fccchina.org/2011/09/20/why-china-labour-bulletins-geoff-crothall-will-not-be-speaking-to-the-fccc/).
Incidentally, and no doubt inadvertently, Lina Sankari, journalist at L’Humanité, cites Geoffrey Crothall in September 2012 as a reliable source in her article on the Foxconn strike (  « Une révolte à la Spartacus chez Foxconn », L’Humanité, 26 septembre 2012).
Let us now look at the emblematic case of Han Donfang, citing the article dedicated to him by the National Endowment for Democracy (which we previously identified as a front for the CIA), which in 1993 awarded him the “Democracy Award.” In this article, Han Dongfang, railway worker, 29 years old (as of 1993) is presented as the main dissident leader of the labor movement in China, sometimes called the Lech Walesa of China! Also according to the NED/CIA article he is the founder of the “Beijing Autonomous Workers Federation” and headed his “union” in the 1989 “pro-democracy” movement in Tiananmen… Sentenced to prison for his illegal activities, he was eventually released through “the intense efforts of the AFL-CIO and other labor and human rights organizations, the government and the Congress of the USA. At a press conference given in Hong Kong he predicted that China would one days be forced to allow “free unions”… (  « Han Dongfang », National Endowment for Democracy Democracy-award/1993).
The NED/CIA text speaks for itself! There is nothing like looking closely at the sources themselves. As the situation in mainland China is very different from that of Poland in the time of the “free” trade union Solidarnosc and its leader Lech Walesa, it is unlikely and undesirable that the prediction of “the Chinese Lech Walesa” should come true.
The other source that is often cited by the “Western” media is the China Labor Watch ( http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/). Its tactic is similar to that of the CLB. The CLW is defined as an independent NGO working in New York and also in Shenzhen for the “rights of Chinese workers.” As far as its “volunteer recruitment” and “training of trainers”, financing, etc., is concerned it looks like CLB’s twin brother! A visit to its site will convince you ( http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/aboutus.html).
Let’s boycott media sources linked by NGO intermediaries to the CIA and share reliable sources to write our articles
Common sense dictates that the progressive press should boycott and promote a boycott of sources directly or indirectly linked to the CIA, such as the China Labour Bulletin, China Labor Watch, not to mention Reporters sans frontières (  http://fr.rsf.org/) whose reputation in France is sullied now its former leader, Robert Ménard, has been elected with the support of the National Front in Béziers.
Obviously, we must first put our own house in order! Thus one can sometimes find even in our daily L’Humanité (close to the French Communist Party (PCF)) really surprising passages… One of the worst of its kind is a favorable review of a book published in France by none other than Han Dongfang whom we have discussed above. In this article published in L’Humanité the CIA through its mouthpiece NED, which finances the CLB, whose founder is Han Dongfang, states that “In China a real class consciousness is emerging” and the phrase is taken up by the pen of Dominique Bari to serve as his title ( « En Chine émerge une vraie conscience de classe », L’Humanité, 27 Janvier 2014).
In this article, Dominique Bari, who also writes really good pieces, nonetheless approvingly cites an assessment of Han Dongfang:
“He lives in Hong Kong where he founded the China Labour Bulletin, a key source for gauging workers’ demands in China.” And later, Han Dongfang is directly quoted: “As I say to the workers: ‘If the Communist Party left office, your life would be the same and you would be exploited in the same way by the same boss, who would be supported by different officials.’ Autonomy and freedom with respect to the Party are necessary.”
The comrades of the French Confédération générale du travail (General Confederatoin of Labor – CGT) know only too well that the right considers the CGT a prisoner of the Communist Party of France; they’ve heard it all before!
A collaborative solution to the problem?
It is not difficult to see the omnipresence of the China Labour Bulletin, the China Labor Watch and other related “NGOs” almost completely excluding other sources in the media coverage of the anglophone and francophone press. To complete the picture in the Spanish, Russian or other language press, we would like the help of our readers (who can write on this topic by email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Looking for sources other than those imposed by the “western” media
To turn once again to the 2014 Yue Yuen strike, a Chinese source such as the official news agency Xinhua below could be mentioned:
“Employees of a shoe factory in Guangdong have returned to work after going on strike to demand their social benefits, according to a statement released Monday from the factory. Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings) Ltd.., shoe factory based in Dongguan which produces major brands such as Nike, Adidas and Timberland, has reached an agreement with the strikers, the statement said. On Monday, more than 99% of the 45,000 workers had returned to work. The factory has agreed to backpay all social benefits, and pay a living allowance of 230 yuan (37 dollars) per month for each employee from 1 May. The strike began on 5 April, when 600 factory workers took to the streets to demand full payment of social insurance and housing allowance. After negotiations with the factory management failed, more workers went on strike on 14 April” ( « L’usine de chaussures en grève au Guangdong reprend la production », Xinhuanet, 28 avril 2014).
It is not easy to untangle the sources, because the Net in the “West” places countless secondary sources on the Yue Yuen strike at the head of the search list, all based on primary sources of CLB and CLW, fronts for the CIA. Regarding the Yue Yuen strike, all these sources explain the support of Chinese Trade Unions and Communist Party of China for the Yue Yuen strikers in a curious fashion: It was an opportunistic way to enhance the power of the Communist Party and at the same time improve the purchasing power of the Chinese to increase domestic demand for consumer goods. In fact, this interpretation is a kind of hidden compliment!
With a little patience and prudence, however, we can avoid the pitfalls of the CIA, and Chinese sources with French versions are becoming more numerous and varied as, for instance, Xinhua (  official Chinese news agency), Renmin Ribao (  People’s Daily, organ of the Central Committee of the CPC), CCTV (  Chinese National Television), China Radio International , etc.
We can then cross reference these sources with reports from journalists on the ground who have a good understanding of Chinese, or, if the newspaper does not have the means, by consulting various news agencies such as Chinese, Russian, Cuban ones, etc. (in their French versions).
In fact, this is just a matter of attitude vis-à-vis the PRC and vis-à-vis socialism with Chinese characteristics. The attitude of US imperialism and its “branch” the European Union is obviously hostile. For them, China is acting, in its own way, the role played by the Soviet Union before its defeat with Gorbachev.
For eurocommunists parties like the PCF and the press associated with them, the question is necessarily complex. Indeed, the international communist movement is alive and well, whether it is communist parties in power as in China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, South Africa, or in opposition as in Russia, Greece, Portugal, etc.
On the other hand, according to many reliable polls, Gorbachev is reviled in Russia, because he is held responsible for the defeat of the Soviet Union, and eurocommunist parties are declining or have disappeared, as is the case with the Italian Communist Party. The majority currrents of the PCF leadership have not yet made the “overall very negative assessment of eurocommunism” that is moreover increasingly obvious to many leaders and grassroots members. The eurocommunist PCF, in negatively criticizing the real socialism that existed in the time of the USSR, thought that it could more easily ally itself with the Socialists in France and counter the US hostility towards the party, as Frederick Heurtebize’s book Le péril rouge. Washington face à l’eurocommunisme has shown using archive sources ( April 2014 Presses Universitaires de France). The decline of the PCF shows that this tactic has failed. Let us hope that the PCF will not repeat its mistake by adopting a hostile attitude to the actually existing socialism in China. This would only increase its internal divisions and accelerate its decline.
Under these conditions one can understand the difficulty the PCF and L’Humanité have in adopting a clear position vis-à-vis the PRC. Thankfully, at the base and in various sections of the PCF, we want to know and go to the sources. For example we should mention a worthy initiative taken in 2013 by the section in Vénissieux who invited Chinese comrades in order to see and understand more clearly.
Labor issues and policies were the basis for fraternal and profound exchanges, without any “double-speak”.
Below is a passage from the quarterly review “Faire vivre et Renforcer le PCF” ( No. 2) ( http://lepcf.fr/Unir-les-communistes-nr-2)
“The PCF section Vénissieux invites Communists and progressives in accordance with the views and experiences of each, but without hiding behind artifice (media). It is not ‘the left’ that unites people, but brotherhood, internationalism, openness in discussions, all parting from one certainty, that it is the interests of the people that guide us (…)
The arrival of a delegation from the Chinese Communist Party has been much discussed. Preparations with trades unions were difficult to organize. Several activists did not want to meet in this context a representative of their principal shareholder. The debates on the nature of the power of the CCP in China, on the place of capitalism, on the class struggle taking place were lively. But these discussions have allowed a lot to be learned about these issues. Chinese interventions and debate are an asset for those who do not wish to stop at the dominant discourse on China, or the analyses of the other political forces. We believe that no one has the right to lecture the Chinese Communists! They run a huge country and enhance the condition of their people’s lives, playing a positive role in the rejection of war. We are concerned about the rise of the bourgeoisie, and an integration in globalization that could give the upper hand to the same oligarchies that dominate us. But we choose to trust the Chinese people, the Chinese Communists, whose struggles must be known to us. Because obviously, the lessons of the Soviet collapse have been learned and the Chinese working class is living through the hard experience of capitalism. They have no illusions about the goals of the Western Chambers of Commerce who have contested the latest law on employment that makes mandatory a permanent contract after two fixed-term contracts thanks to two strikes in 2010 in the automobile industry. The Chinese Communists have shown their commitment to an honest exchange, without dodging questions, such as the possibility of a communist leader enriching himself with a private activity. The answer is clear, ‘yes it is possible, but it is controlled, since personal enrichment only makes sense if it reflects a beneficial activity for the company, for the general interest, otherwise sanctions must be strong.’ We must make an effort to discover China, just as our comrade the retired work inspector does in working with the equivalent bodies in development in China. These meetings were an important part of what will be an ongoing process.”
At this meeting, several workers sought clarification on the nature of Chinese trade unions and the role they play in a socialist country like China. The exchange was successful and the section Vénissieux PCF has made available all the text provided by the Chinese comrades: « Le Développement du syndicalisme en Chine » by ZHANG Wencheng, Central Compilation and Translation Bureau (CCTB) at Beijing ( http://www.cocowikipedia.org/index.php?titHYPERLINK “http://www.cocowikipedia.org/index.php?title=Le_Développement_du_syndicalisme_en_Chine“le=Le_D%C3%A9veloppement_du_syndicalisme_en_Chine)
This case study of the 2014 Yue Yuen strike highlights the importance of cross-referencing reliable media sources, and in particular of boycotting those sources linked to the CIA, that might be termed “media terrorism.” L’Humanité can play a vanguard role in this work of militancy which is that of verifying media sources. A first step would be a boycott of media sources indirectly funded by the CIA in its own columns. One might consider that the readers of L’Huma, its journalists, its translators in English or Russian, have the right to ask this as a minimum. This would allow the readership of L’Huma, among others, to have, little-by-little, a less distorted understanding of the People’s Republic of China, which seems essential to me in the present dangerous situation.
As clearly stated by the Cuban newspaper Granma in a recent article, China
“could become this year ’s biggest economy in the world, according to statistical data from reliable sources, which would be a blow to the United States, currently bogged down in a dead-end recession.
Certainly a complex situation for President Barack Obama, who could go down in history as the precursor of the collapse of the ‘US empire’, or as the architect of a third World War, devastating for humanity. The USA is a ‘trapped hyena’: an extremely dangerous ‘beast’ … that needs to be calmed by intelligent and powerful tamers, a role currently being filled by the Russia–China duo” ( « Les États-Unis : une « bête en cage » face à la perte croissante de son hégémonie », Granma, 15 mai 2014).
 Joannès Alain, « Comment valider les sources d’information sur le web», INA, http://www.ina-expert.com/e-dossier-de-l-audiovisuel-journalisme-internet-libertes/comment-valider-les-sources-d-information-sur-le-web.html, octobre 2012.
 Le Figaro, « Nike, Adidas, Puma : grève géante en Chine », Le Figaro, http://www.lefigaro.fr/social/2014/04/17/09010-20140417ARTFIG00039-nike-adidas-puma-30000-ouvriers-chinois-font-greve.php, 17 avril 2014.
 Thibault Harold, « Grève massive chez un fournisseur chinois de Nike et Adidas », Le Monde,http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2014/04/22/greve-massive-chez-un-fournisseur-chinois-de-nike-et-adidas_4405176_3234.html, 22 avril 2014.
 Le Parisien, « Chine : grève de 30 000 ouvriers travaillant pour Nike et Adidas », Le Parisien,http://www.leparisien.fr/economie/chine-greve-de-30-000-ouvriers-travaillant-pour-nike-et-adidas-16-04-2014-3772835.php, 16 avril 2014.
 Buet Pierre-Eliott, « Cette grève en Chine qui menace Adidas, Nike et Reebok », Challenges,http://www.challenges.fr/entreprise/20140423.CHA2989/cette-greve-en-chine-qui-preoccupe-adidas-nike-et-reebok.html, 23 avril 2014.
 CLB, « New York Times Plying Social Media… »,http://www.clb.org.hk/en/content/new-york-times-plying-social-media-chinese-workers-grow-bolder-exerting-clout, 2 mai 2014.
 AC, « Grève massive en Chine : 40 000 ouvriers paralysent la plus grande usine de chaussures au monde, fournisseur d’Adidas et Nike », Solidarité Internationale PCF, http://solidarite-internationale-pcf.over-blog.net/article-greve-massive-en-chine-40-000-ouvriers-paralysent-la-plus-grande-usine-de-chaussures-au-monde-fou-123353066.html, 17 avril 2014.
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 Le Figaro, « Chine: fin forcée de la grève géante », Le Figaro, 26 avril 2014.
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 Fort José, « TDF instrument de la CIA sans le savoir », L’Humanité, 15 mai 2014.
 CLB, http://www.clb.org.hk/en/node/110007
 Wechat, http://www.wechat.com/en/
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 Sankari Lina, « Une révolte à la Spartacus chez Foxconn », L’Humanité, http://www.humanite.fr/monde/une-revolte-la-spartacus-chez-foxconn-504833, 26 septembre 2012.
 « Han Dongfang », National Endowment for Democracy Democracy-award/1993.
 Reporters Sans Frontières, http://fr.rsf.org/
 Bari Dominique, « En Chine émerge une vraie conscience de classe », L’Humanité, http://www.humanite.fr/tribunes/en-chine-emerge-une-vraie-conscience-de-classe-557777, 27 Janvier 2014.
 Xinhuanet, « L’usine de chaussures en grève au Guangdong reprend la production », Xinhuanet,http://french.xinhuanet.com/societe/2014-04/29/c_133296580.htm, 28 avril 2014.
 Agence de Presse Xinhuanet, http://french.news.cn/
 Quotidien du Peuple (Renmin Ribao),http://french.people.com.cn/
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 Montesinos Patricios, « Les États-Unis : une « bête en cage » face à la perte croissante de son hégémonie », Granma, 15 mai 2014.http://www.granma.cu/idiomas/frances/internationales/15may-Les%20Etats.html