Television networks should be setting a higher standard of pronunciation and fulfilling their role of informing and educating the viewing public," he said. "Mispronunciations are misinformation. The casual attitude of the networks towards this matter is, at best, negligent and, at worst, bordering on disrespect for China and the Chinese."
This is absurd of course. No one is recommending we actually try to reproduce the Chinese pronunciation of "Beijing", in which nearly every sound would be foreign to us (I believe it begins with an unvoiced non-aspirated bilabial -- not a voiced bilabial like we use) and in which we'd have to make sure we got the tones right. In no way does not speaking Chinese border on disrespect for the Chinese.
This is a more widespread phenomenon. I see it when the NPR folks try to spanishify their pronunciations of Latin American countries, (saying "chee - lay" instead of "chilly" for "Chile", for example). Have they forgotten that they're speaking English? It also reminds me of a habit of a certain acquaintance-who-will-go-unnamed who always strikes me as terribly pretentious in pronouncing all foreign words with faux-correctness, taking care to avoid flapping the "t" in words like "risotto", for example.
It strikes me that the NPR version of this has something to do with not wanting to offend people, or with the belief that Americans generally are woefully, shamefully ignorant. But isn't it obvious that all over the world people speak a handful of languages at best, and frequently just one or two (as we do), and that when they refer to other people's words, they follow the sound patterns of their own languages? I of course can pronounce Spanish place names just fine when I speak Spanish, but I find it awkward to try to pronounce them in Spanish when I'm speaking English -- that's why we warp pronunciations to fit our own sound patterns in the first place.
All of this rant is premised on my assumption the Beijing is always pronounced [bejʒɪŋ]. That does the beg question of whether I'm wrong and [bejʒɪŋ] and [beʤɪŋ] have existed as variants for some time. Is that the case? Has anyone ever heard the [beʤɪŋ] pronunciation used commonly? Is it common in Britain or other English-speaking countries? (note: pronunciations by Chinese speakers and hyper-self-conscious broadcasters don't count as common use).