CHINESE NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES AND THEIR BATTLE AGAINST CORRUPTION AND CENSORSHIP

CHINESE NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

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Newspaper and magazine kiosk
In 2005, there were roughly 2,200 national and provincial newspapers, 40 newspapers for national minorities. and 9,000 magazines, By contrast there were only 186 newspapers in 1978. Technically all Chinese periodicals are produced by the Chinese government. All are required to have a government-affiliated sponsor. China’s Post Office is a major newsstand provider.

In 2003, the Chinese government stipulated that newspapers and magazines had to earn at least half of their revenue from voluntary subscriptions. In the months that followed, 673 publication that did not comply were shut down. After that newspapers and magazines had to effectively become financially independent. Many adopted a tabloid style to attract readers and advertisers. As newspapers have become independent and commercialized and reliant on advertising and subscription revenues they have also become more free and responsive to what people want to read.

China's major newspapers are Southern Weekend, the People's Daily, Beijing Daily, Guangming Daily, and the Liberation Daily. About 400 million people read newspapers (2002). Daily newspaper circulation: 23 per 1,000 persons (compared to 15 per 1,000 in Pakistan and 579 per 1,000 people in Japan).

Good Websites and Sources on the Chinese Media: Council of Foreign Relations on Media Censorship in China cfr.org ; Danwei.org, an English-language blog on the Chinese media danwei.org ; China Media Blog chinamediablog.com ; China Today chinatoday.com ; Freedom House Report freedomhouse.org ; List of Media in China media.mychinastart.com ; Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Media Bibliography Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) ; News About China chinanews.bfn.org ; China Media Project cmp.hku.hk ; China Digital Times chinadigitaltimes.net

Links in this Website: CHINESE MEDIA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE TELEVISION AND RADIO Factsanddetails.com/China ; TELEVISION PROGRAMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES Factsanddetails.com/China ; COMMUNICATIONS AND CELL PHONES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; INTERNET IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; GOVERNMENT CONTROL OF THE INTERNET Factsanddetails.com/China ; INTERNET COMPANIES AND WEBSITES Factsanddetails.com/China

Recent History of Chinese Newspapers

In 1987 China had two news agencies, the Xinhua (New China) News Agency and the China News Service (Zhongguo Xinwenshe). Xinhua was the major source of news and photographs for central and local newspapers. The party's newspapers Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) and Guangming Ribao (Enlightenment Daily), and the People's Liberation Army's Jiefangjun Bao (Liberation Army Daily) continued to have the largest circulation. [Ibid]

“In addition to these major party and army organs, most professional and scientific organizations published newspapers or journals containing specialized information in fields as varied as astronomy and entomology. Local morning and evening newspapers concentrating on news and feature stories about local people and events were extremely popular, selling out each day shortly after they arrived at the newsstands. [Ibid]

“In June 1981 the English-language China Daily began publication. This newspaper, which was provided for foreigners living or traveling in China but which also was read by a large number of Chinese literate in English, offered international news and sports from the major foreign wire services as well as interesting domestic news and feature articles. [Ibid]

“Cankao Xiaoxi (Reference News), an official news organ that carried foreign news items in Chinese translation, was available to cadres and their families. In 1980 it enjoyed a circulation of 11 million, but, with the subsequent proliferation of other news sources, its circulation dropped to 4 million in 1985, causing the subscription policy to be changed to make it available to all Chinese. Another source of foreign reporting was Cankao Ziliao (Reference Information), a more restricted Chinese reprint of foreign reportage available only to middle- and upper-level cadres. Both of these publications often included foreign reports critical of China. [Ibid]

Communist Party Newspapers in China

Major Communist Party newspapers include the People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, People’s Liberation Army Daily and Beijing Daily. China Youth Daily is the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League. The Global Times has traditionally been a propagandist tabloid with stories about Japanese atrocities and American hegemony.

The China Daily is official state-run English-language paper. The China Daily is printed mainly for a foreign audience and often covers delicate issues in China that receive little or no coverage in the Chinese-language media. Nanfang Dushi Bao is the most liberal of the Chinese dailies. In April 2009, the Chinese government began printing a new English-language newspaper: the Global Times.

The People's Daily was reportedly founded in the caves of Yennan after the Long March (but really it was founded in the Hebei Province) and later moved to Beijing, where it became the main Communist party in 1949. Estimates of total readership have traditionally been difficult because the newspaper is read over loudspeakers, broadcast on trains and radio station, and placed in glass cases for people on the streets to read.

The Global Times began as a Chinese-language tabloid known for vociferously defending Chinese interests. It is part of the People’s Daily media group. The English edition was created in April 2009 in part to compete with The China Daily, the country’s official English-language paper, which has recently added a version in Chinese and proven a financial success. Since starting, Global Times has investigated the grievances of parents whose children died last year in schools that crumbled in the Sichuan earthquake. It also has written critically of China’s ties to North Korea and broached the subject of the Tianamnen Square crackdown.” [ Source: Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, June 4 2009]

Up until recently the print media was dominated by “party newspapers” and “party magazines”---namely the ones listed above. Newspapers were propaganda vehicles of the Communist Party. They generally only had a few pages and no advertising. They contained harvest and factory reports; announcements about government policies; and long ponderous analysis about Socialist philosophy and Western decadence.

Editors and reporters were hired by and controlled by the government. The emphasis was not on selling newspapers and making money but rather on doing as the government ordered and avoiding mistakes. Circulation was guaranteed by a government that urged people to “study the party newspapers” and forced work units to buy them. For 30 years no media outlet ran a single advertisement.

Most of the major newspaper in China remain controlled by the government. Often its seems that their only duty is to reprint articles handed to them by the Propaganda department, who often spells out how articles should be laid out as well as what they contain. "They give us the material and we put it in," one editor told the New York Times.

Occasionally all of the major Communist newspapers have front pages that look almost exactly alike. This was the case on one day in August 2007 when editions of the People’s Daily, Guangdming Daily, People’s Liberation Army Daily and Beijing Daily announced the dates for 17th Communist Party Congress and had identical articles about efforts to rescue trapped miners and the same picture of Chinese President Hu Jintao meeting the President of Kazakhstan.

Content of Chinese Communist Party Newspapers

In the Maoist era, newspapers ran stories about grain harvests, ball bearing factories and aging leaders and ignored major international stories. In 1969, the People's Daily mentioned nothing of the Apollo Moon landing because. One editor was quoted by the People's Almanac as saying, "In our view, there are a lot of more important things happening on earth." Typical newspaper stories run at time included "How to Transform Oneself into Believing in the Masses Instead of Oneself" and "Let's All Learn Revolutionary Theory and Get Rid of Experimentationism."

People at that time often said the that the only thing you can believe in People's Daily is the date. Many Chinese told the writer Paul Theroux, "you could regard nothing as true until it had been denied. Anything officially denied was probably a fact."

The Chinese have traditionally been very good at reading between the lines of articles in their newspapers to find out their real meaning. Great attention, for example, has been paid to who is and isn’t invited to important events, the order people stand in photographs and whether they are smiling or frowning, Deng Xiaoping return from political exile after the Cultural Revolution was expressed by the listing of his name on a guest list for a reception for Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia.

In the mid-1990s, the Chinese still prominently featured stories on model citizens and workers such as Li Suli, a bus conductor who arrived at work before punch in time to clean her bus, and Xu Hu, a plumber who unclogged sinks for free. Party newspapers still run these kinds of stories. "With China changing so rapidly in business and society," Seth Faison wrote in the New York Times, "it is striking how torpid and old-fashioned the news outlets remain...The more modern China becomes with each year, the more its official coverage of political events stands out for seeming to be stuck in another time."

These days the Communist Party newspapers are trying a little harder to be more topical and lively. The People’s Daily runs weird stories about people who have had their savings eaten by rats, a women who only walk backwards, factories that run “unpopular” contest to decide who to lay off, chickens that have been taught how to goose-step, myna birds that read poetry and the man on death row who was allowed to talk for 15 minutes with his parrot before he was put to death. Even so they have been steadily losing readers through the 1990s and 2000s. Circulation of the Liberation Daily fell from 910,000 in 1984 to 500,000 in 1997. The People’s Daily’s readership shrunk by 7 percent in 2000 from the previous year to 1.55 million.

Andrew Higgins wrote in the Washington Post, “The Chinese-language edition of the Global Times, a stridently nationalistic newspaper, features articles about America on nearly every page. Although mostly negative, they reflect an almost obsessive interest in the United States, which the paper paints as a spent force but also as the driving force behind turmoil in the Middle East and events elsewhere in the world.”

History of the People’s Daily

Leo Lewis wrote in The Times, “In its Maoist, doctrinaire prime, the People’s Daily newspaper of China railed against capitalists as the rapacious agents of all human misery. Since 1948, the People’s Daily has stood as the formal mouthpiece of the Communist Party: providing a dependably arid and propagandist read every morning even as Chinese society has been transformed under its gaze. It has never strayed far from its roots: the newspaper’s masthead was handwritten by Mao Zedong and it continues to channel the policies and theories of the party to its 2.45 million subscribers. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, January 12, 2012]

When it established its People.com.cn portal in 1997, the paper exported its turgid reports to a medium where the private sector rapidly began to produce far more attractive and commercially ambitious online fare. By turning to the very market mechanisms its parent newspaper once so despised, People.com.cn believes it can lay its hands on the sort of financing required to vie for attention in an age of microblogs, online social networks and the declining influence of the party’s theories. In the prospectus for the share sale, claimed level of traffic is 19,608 visitors for every one million people surfing the web in China. Sina, the privately owned portal whose Twitter-like Weibo platform commands huge participation, has nearly 250,000 visitors for every million online. The prospectus sparked numerous lines of speculation, not least the fact that the company’s listed status will force the media group to reveal something about its previously secretive finances.

Other state-owned Chinese newspapers are nervous about their declining influence. Last weekend, the Shaanxi Daily devoted a large portion of its front page to an article berating China Unicom, the telecoms company, for cancelling its subscription to the official provincial newspaper. The article cited a recent meeting at which all levels of government were called on to “”fulfil party newspaper and magazine distribution tasks 100 per cent”.

Censorship and Propaganda in China

See Media

Xinhua and It’s Efforts to Expand Abroad

China has two news agencies: Xinhua News Agency and the China News Service. The New China News Agency, the People's Daily, China News Agency and Guangming Daily are the main official news sources. Xinhua (pronounced Shin-wa) means New China News Agency. In 2007 Xinhua was given authority over foreign news agencies and was give the right to censor and edit the news of the foreign agencies. The move was widely seen as a blow to press freedom and an effort to help Xinhua dominated the Chinese news market.

“A lot of Chinese companies are coming, or getting ready to come, into this country with their own brands,” said Jeffrey Katz, the chief executive and principal owner of Sherwood Equities, a commercial real estate firm with properties that include 2 Times Square and 1 Times Square and that also owns the subsidiary Sherwood Outdoor, which oversees the spectaculars on both of those buildings. [Source: Stuart Elliott, New York Times, July 25, 2011]

In May 2011, Xinhua moved its North American headquarters from Woodside in Queens to a tower in Times Square, 1540 Broadway, at 45th Street. In 2010, Xinhua introduced a 24-hour English-language broadcast service, China Network Corporation, or CNC World, that seeks to reach 50 million viewers around the world. [Source: Stuart Elliott, New York Times, July 25, 2011]

Xinhua also recently began aggressively marketing its news wire service, particularly in the developing world, with a goal of competing with news agencies like The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters. (The Reuters building at 3 Times Square, on Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, is decorated with huge video ad screens.)

Stuart Elliott wrote in the New York Times, “The expansion efforts by Xinhua are driven partly by a desire to counter what officials in the ruling Chinese Communist Party say is widespread bias against China in Western media reporting. The idea, Chinese leaders said, is to burnish the country’s image and give China a voice to match its newfound economic might. Many media analysts, however, are skeptical that Xinhua will make much headway anytime soon in markets like North America and Europe, where residents are sophisticated and often look askance at information delivered by news agencies owned by governments---any governments.

Xinhua Sign in Time Square

Stuart Elliott wrote in the New York Times, “One of the most prominent advertising spaces in Times Square is soon to be occupied by a Chinese brand. Xinhua, the news agency operated by the Chinese government, is leasing a giant sign, known as a spectacular, on 2 Times Square, the building that is the northern anchor of the district. The new LED sign, 60 feet high by 40 feet wide, debuted in July 2011. [Source: Stuart Elliott, New York Times, July 25, 2011]

Xinhua, which has recently expanded its business presence in the United States, is taking over the space on 2 Times Square that had been occupied for the last decade by the HSBC bank. The HSBC lease expired and was not renewed. The sign for Xinhua, will be underneath the sign for Prudential, an American company, and above signs for Samsung (South Korean), Coca-Cola (American) and Hyundai (South Korean).

Chinese brands have previously occupied signs in Times Square. For instance, in the mid-1990s the 999 Pharmaceutical Company leased a painted vinyl sign atop two buildings at the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and 48th Street. And in January, the Chinese government ran promotional commercials on six oversize screens in Times Square featuring celebrities like the retired basketball star Yao Ming and the pianist Lang Lang. The campaign, deemed the biggest such effort by Beijing, was timed to coincide with the visit to the United States by the Chinese president, Hu Jintao. Also, Haier, a Chinese company that makes appliances, has its name on a building at 1356 Broadway, at 36th Street.

Still, the arrival of Xinhua on 2 Times Square is significant because of the building’s premier location in the so-called crossroads of the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese and South Korean marketers like Fuji, GoldStar, JVC, Sony and Samsung began leasing signs on Midtown Manhattan buildings like 2 Times Square and its sibling, 1 Times Square. It was considered a signal of their arrival in the global consumer marketplace.

Like the Japanese and South Korean brands that came to Times Square to better familiarize the United States with their products, the arrival of Xinhua is a prominent expression of its ambitions with Americans, many of whom are either unfamiliar with the state-owned news agency or associate it with relics like Tass, the official disseminator of government news releases in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Turner and Mr. Katz declined to discuss the financial terms of the lease for the Xinhua sign. However, signs in top-drawer locations in Times Square can rent for as much as $300,000 to $400,000 a month.

Newspapers and Magazines in China Today

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Women's magazines
Today, with there being so many newspapers and so many television and Internet sites where people get their news competition is fierce. Many newspapers have lost so many readers they have been forced to close.

Southern Weekend is regarded as China's most popular newspaper. It circulates beyond southern China and now outsells the People's Daily, which still has a lot of readers but only ranks 22nd in 1997 in advertising revenues, The leaders in advertising revenues are the Yancheng Evening News, Guangzhou Daily and Xinmin Evening News.

Xinmin Evening news was the largest newspaper after the People's Daily in the 1990s. It's circulation in 1997 was 1.75 million, up from 1.6 million in 1994. The newspaper has found success with a wide variety of short articles of social interest. It and other successful national papers have had success sending reporters to distant provinces to report on scandals and controversies that local newspapers are too afraid to report on.

Duzhe (“Reader”) is China’s most popular magazine, with a circulation of over 5 million Launched in 1981, it publishes reader submitted stories and essays, and is intended to be a Chinese version of Reader’s Digest.

The World Journal is a Chinese-language newspaper printed in the United States. It has 350,000 readers, more than the Detroit Free Press, Miami Herald and the Baltimore Sun. Other Chinese newspapers in the United States include the Sing Tai Daily (circulation 250,000); Chinese Daily; and Workers Journal (circulation 200,000)

Many of the dozens of new home publications in China have English names such as such as Residence, Home Idea Magazine and Home-My Living, but the headlines and articles are all in Mandarin or Cantonese. Chinese editors often look to the U.S. for ideas about how to decorate all the new homes in China. Though the U.S. may have a $25 billion trade deficit with China, one American export clearly is surging: modern California style."About six months ago the flood gates opened," West Hollywood interior designer Jamie Bush said. "We were on some international blogs, and then all of a sudden, the calls started coming in. Five separate Chinese publications have contacted me in just a few months, and many of them have featured my projects." [Source: Alexandria Abramian-Mott, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2011]

Stories Magazine on the Same Old Stories

Stories is a hugely-popular magazine devoted to fiction, anecdotes, and other short-form literature. Sort of like Readers Digest, it has a low cover price and mainstream content, which give it mass-market appeal. By some measures it is ranked No. 5 in the world in terms of monthly circulation. Many of its readers are also aspiring writers, and their work fills the editors' mailbox each month. [Source: Danwei.org, August 9, 2008]

Zhu Hong the editors of Stories provided the following list of shopworn subjects that gone way beyond over saturation: 1. “The Anti-Japanese War and the Cultural Revolution: Stories with these events as background have been written countless times over the last few decades, so it's difficult to break new ground in plot and theme. In addition, these subjects are fairly distant from the real lives of readers today, so it's hard to catch their interest or elicit their sympathy any longer.” 2. “Old, familiar subjects: the lottery, online chatting, SMS scams, gifts and bribes, collecting, kidnapping, car accidents, leukemia, kidney transplants, twins, extramarital affairs, pickpockets, teacher's assistants, crime investigation, mining, treasure hunting, hauntings...stories about these subjects, or whose plots that hinge on these subjects, make up the vast majority of submissions. If there's a sudden death, if it's not a car accident then it's leukemia; crime investigations always start with the scene of the crime; a woman dies and returns to life, and if she's not a ghost then she's a twin....so for old subjects like these that have been written thousands of times, unless you can dream up a ground-breaking plot that stands out from tradition, it's best to use them as little as possible.” 3. “Rural subjects: There are many unsophisticated rural authors in the ranks of our story writers, which means that rural subjects make up a large portion of submissions. However, our readers don't really enjoy reading stories depicting the poor, backward countryside and old customs and ideas. If a story begins: In such-and-such village, such-and-such town, so-and-so's family was very poor. His father had died, his mother was paralyzed, and his child had no money to go to school....how many readers are willing to continue reading material that starts off like this? Of course, if you can write a new story, one that reflects new ideas and the new face of new rural life, we might like it.” Sensitive political subjects and material that has a negative societal influence: These subjects will cause unwanted problems, so avoid them as much as possible.”

On choosing stories for each issue, Zhu wrote: “As editor, I consider how the subjects in each issue work together, and on a foundation of relative overall stylistic harmony, I try to make the content as varied and interesting as possible so that most readers will find the story of story they like in every issue... For example, “Wagon Love” is without a doubt a romance, with an unexpected ending sure to make readers sigh with emotion; “Stealing the Sun” is a fairly distinctive wuxia story whose character design and fight scenes are high points; “The Spiral Shave” is a folktale in the chuanqi mode that contains an exquisite description of the art of shaving heads and a shocking, unforgettable ending; “Mermaid in the Deep” an imaginative, bold fairy tale of the sort I'm sure middle school students will like; “Guest in the Bathhouse” is an inspirational story, short, poignant, and encouraging; “Outside the Window” is a legal story, and although the law is emotionless, people have emotions; “Angelo's Rich Woman is a richly-comic story from overseas, whose use of “sleeping under the bed” makes a significant impression....

Outspoken and Unhealthy Papers in China

Since the 1990s a number of independent-minded newspapers and journals have appeared. Some have made an impact by covering on corruption, exploitation of the poor and other social issues. Other have profited with tabloid journalism. Some have combined the two.

Bing Dian, or Freezing Point, is the muck-racking supplement to the China Youth Daily. Among other things it has revealed an internal Communist Party memo on the Internet that detailed how journalists were rewarded with cash and banned based on their approval rating by China’s leaders.

Bing Dian was shut down by the government in January 2006 after an essay appeared that criticized the nationalist content of school textbooks. No reason was given for the shut down. Bian Dian was allowed to reopen a month later with new editors and diluted content.

The Hong-Kong-based Apple Daily has been at the forefront of reporting about corruption and civil disturbances on the mainland.

"Unhealthy papers” with nude photos and alien abduction stories are sold at bus stations and on streets corners. Although they have often been criticized the government they are very popular.

Southern Metropolitan News

The Southern Metropolitan News, a newspaper in Guangzhou, is known for its aggressive reporting on social problems and hard-hitting investigative pieces on corruption. Founded in the mid 1960s, it reported the first SARS cases in China and set off a series of protests that led to policy changes by the Chinese government with its coverage of a story about the fatal beating of a young, college graduate by police detained because he didn’t have proper identification.

Southern Metropolitan Daily is also a tabloid. It features half nude models and gossip stories about movie stars and singers and run long pieces about things like the death of Princess Diana. One of its biggest exclusives was a report on a police officer who killed his mistress after quarreling in public with her over a fur coat at a restaurant. It also gave extensive coverage to the World Cup and has popular consumer and cooking sections. Its circulation, advertising revenues and profits rose from 80,000, $970,00, and$1 million in 1997 to 1.3 million, $157 million and $20 million in 2003.

After the newspaper ran a story about a teh beating death of an imprisoned that stirred up a lot of contraversy, Cheng Yizhong, the controversial editor of the Southern Metropolis News, said, “We are responsible for the news we report, no matter what the news is and no matter what the responsibilities are we probe to get to the bottom of the news. We are responsible for all the news we report, including political responsibility, economic responsibility and social responsibility.” The statement was quite bold by Chinese standards,

Six weeks after making the statement, in January 2004, Cheng and 20 editors and business managers at the Southern Metropolitan Daily were detained and interrogated. In March Cheng and the newspaper’s general managers were given 8 and 12 year prison sentences on trumped up charges of embezzlement and accepting bribes. The sentences were largely seen as payback by local officials in Guangdong, angered by stories about corruption, AIDS and particularly reports that the officials covered up SARS cases even though they promised to be open about the disease. Later the sentences were reduced. Editor Yu Huanfend was released in February 2008.

Hu Shuli and Caijing

Hu Shuli, the five-foot-two editor of the biweekly magazine Caijing, is regarded as one of China’s most hardhitting journalist. David Ignatius of the Washington Post called her China’s “avenging angel.” She is skilled at getting out the real story on unpleasant subjects like the Sichuan earthquake, the SARS cover up and corporate fraud, and asking the tough questions but writing her stories in such a way that names are not named, emotions aren’t stirred unnecessarily so that authorities don’t shut her down and the articles get read. Some say her most useful skills are her tireless ability to navigate the system and find the people who really known what is going and playing powerful groups off one another.

Caijing has a readerships of only about 200,000 but it is read by many movers and shakers in Chinese government, business and academia. And because of this it is filled with advertising for companies like Cartier and Mercedes. The magazine made its reputation with its tough reportage of SARS in China and recorded a number of important scoops after that. But it knows the limits. Once when it went too far---when it ran a story about $10 billion conglomerate called Luneneg being purchased for only $550 million by unknown buyers with the assumption being that those unknown buyers were somehow connected to important party officials or other untouchables--- employees at Caijing had to tear up copies of the banned issue of the magazine by hand.

On why Caijing doesn’t name names, Hu told The New Yorker, “We try not to give any excuse to cadres who don’t want to get criticized.” In reference to the Sichuan earthquake she said, ultimately, the important question is not “which person didn’t use good quality bricks 15 years ago---but something deeper. “We need further reforms. We need checks and balances, We need transparency.”

On Caijing’s reputation for taking a non-emotional, analytic perspective she said, “We never say a word in a very emotional or causal way. Like “You lied.” We try to analyze the system and say why a good idea...cannot become reality.” Her approach appeals to reformers who want problems in government to be rooted out and addressed without compromising the Chinese Party’s power.

Hu Shuli Resigns from Caijing

In November 2009, Hu Shuli resigned as editor of Caijing. AP reported that insiders said Hu’s team had been trying without success to wrestle editorial and financial control from its Hong Kong publisher SEEC, which reportedly had become concerned over over coverage of sensitive current affairs stories. Although Caijing had become profitable as well as influential, the departing employee said its backers had wanted it to move away from investigative journalism towards straight coverage of business, in the mode of Fortune. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, November 9, 2009]

A spokeswoman for Caijing magazine said Hu would take up a senior academic role, but employees said she is also planning to launch a rival print and online publication and that almost all of them intend to join her. “We believe in her news judgment and dedication to journalism,” said a staff member planning to depart with Hu. “If you want to practice journalism in China, there has been no better place than Caijing to fulfil your dream.” [Ibid]

Jeremy Goldkorn, editor-in-chief of Danwei, a website that covers Chinese media issues  and a partner of the Guardian  called Hu's resignation “a big loss for SEEC”. Caijing is its flagship publication and one of its biggest money makers. “No one will take Caijing seriously now,” he said. “Hu Shuli is almost half the brand, if not more.” [Ibid]

Since Hu Shuli founded Caijing in 1998 the magazine has tackled issues including pollution, political corruption and cover-ups, including: 1) revealing in 2001 that one of China's largest listed companies had falsified its profits  a deeply sensitive story, casting a shadow on senior politicians and resulting in an order to suspend the trading of the company’s stocks and jailing of its executives. 2) covering the SARS outbreak in 2003 and its cover-up; 3) producing a detailed 12-page investigation into shoddy school buildings and the Sichuan earthquake.

Watchdog Journalist Wang Keqin

Wang Keqin, a pioneering investigative journalist, has received death threats from criminals and the wrath of officials. He some unusual methods. For example, he carries a small, red-smudged, battered metal tin and compiles witness statements and then secures fingerprints at the bottom to confirm agreement. In May 2010, Wang’s boss was removed as the editor of China Economic Times following Wang's report linking mishandled vaccines to the deaths and serious illnesses of children in Shaanxi province. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, May 23, 2010]

Wang began his career as an official in western Gansu province writing propaganda stories “like accountants working under the leadership of the Communist party with a red heart” and how he cobbled together articles for local media for a bit of extra cash. But as residents sought him out with their problems, he found his conscience stirring. “They enthusiastically welcomed me into their homes, told me their stories and looked at me with high expectations. As a 20-year-old it was the first time I was paid so much attention and I felt a great responsibility. I had to tell their story.” [Ibid]

By 2001 he was “China's most expensive reporter”---a reference to the price put on his head for exposing illegal dealings in local financial markets. Soon afterwards another report enraged local officials and cost him his job. “I had problems with black society [gangs], and problems with red society [officials],” Wang said. “I heard there was a special investigation team, [with the target of] sending me to prison.” He was saved when Zhu Rongji, China's premier in to protect him. [Ibid]

Chinese Reporter- Spy

Ding Ke , a former reporter for Guangming Daily, a Chinese state-owned newspaper, revealed some of his responsibilities to the Epoch Times in 2005 when he shared his experience as a foreign correspondent stationed in Washington, D.C. Now living in the United States, Ke said his journalist moniker was a cover for his work as a spy. [Source: Matthew Little, Epoch Times, September 21, 2011]

“On one hand I was engaged in news reporting, on the other hand I collected information for the Ministry of State Security,” he said. “We were required to contact different groups of people to ferret out useful information, especially among the nearly 30 million overseas Chinese people.”

Ding said that after graduating from Beijing Language Institute in the 1980s, he was assigned to the Central Investigation Agency (later named National Security Department) for a month’s training. Then he was sent to work at the Daily and to “prepare for intelligence gathering for the future.” “At the time, we were asked to learn how to gather useful intelligence from the variety of people we came in contact with.”

Ding said that for intelligence gathering it was important to make friends with all kinds of people and establish long-term relationships, and when the conditions were right a steady stream of intelligence information would be easy to obtain. Other spies worked as diplomats, economic analysts, or within cultural organizations, he said.

Chinese Reporter- Spy Organization

At one time, Xinhua was almost synonymous with the CCP in some parts of the world, and top Xinhua positions were held by high-ranking Party cadres. Xu Jiatun was the head of Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong from 1983 to 1990 and the secretary of the Hong Kong and Macao Work Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

He left China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and revealed in 2010 how Xinhua was the functioning representative of the Party in Hong Kong during the 1980s when it was still a British colony. Xu spent a third of this time in China and a third wining and dining important figures in Hong Kong, sometimes, to the tune of five to six different meals a day. Xu’s successor, Zhou Nan, was Vice-Minister of the Foreign Affairs Department.

Xu said that in the 1980s, Xinhua reporters in Hong Kong were not allowed to wander the street alone and were isolated from the outside world to keep them from getting corrupted by the “big dye vat of capitalism.”

The Communication University of China (CUC) recently published a report on its website about how the Chinese regime prepared students for careers in overseas branches of major Chinese media agencies. In the article, titled “To Report a Strong China to the World: On How Communication University of China Trained Reserved Talents on International Communication,” the university detailed an important ritual done just before graduates began their overseas internships.

The article described the students being taken to Yan’an, the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party, to make oaths to the Party. “At three o’clock sharp in the afternoon of July 14, 2011, student representatives from Tsinghua University and Communication University of China stood on the peak of Qingliang of Yan’an City. Bathed in drizzling rain, they held their fists and made an oath: 'To carry on and promote the good traditions of the Party in journalism, holding the flag and considering the whole situation S try our best to satisfy the Party and satisfy our people as a journalist.'”

Blackmailing Reporters in China

Chinese reporters today routinely accept payments to run favorable stories on people, businesses or organizations that pay them. Payments range from red envelopes with “transportation money” for reporters that show up at news conferences to 300,000 yuan bribes to newspapers that run positive stories on the conduct of the local government [Source: Washington Post]

Some reporters even seek out black mail money in return for not printing unfavorable stories. The practice is said to be routine. There are many stories of reporters deliberately going after dirt so they can use it to blackmail businesses and government agencies and anyone else who has money.

The thinking behind the practice goes: if the government can distort the news for political reason then why can’t reporters do it the same for money. The Washington Post wrote a story about a reporter that accepted a $2,000 “shut-up fee” not publish a story about wrongdoing at a health clinic in the southern city of Shenzhen that allegedly performed operations, including abortions, it was not authorized to perform.

When word gets out about a mine disaster hordes of reporters and even people posing as reporters show up demanding money yo keep quiet. An official at a mine that suffered a devastating flood told the Washington Post he gave out $25,000 in shut-up money and still more people showed demanding more. Occasionally reporters get reprimanded or fired and newspapers get closed down and people get charged for impersonating reporters but it doesn’t happen very often.

Muckraking reporters can be hired for a fee to investigate corruption or some other problem and write their findings on the Internet. Farmers in one town paid a reporter a negotiated fee of $65 to uncover corruption among local officials who wanted to take their land and was posted on the website China’s Famous Reporter.

Foreign Newspapers and Magazines in China

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Sanmao comic
In Beijing it is hard to find the International Herald Tribune, Asian Wall Street Journal and Financial Times except at hotels like the Hilton or Sheraton. They are printed in Hong Kong and shipped to mainland A ban on printing foreign newspapers in mainland China was upheld in 2006. A surprisingly large number of foreign magazines are available uncensored at Chinese public libraries.

Some employees at Chinese hotels make a living fishing copies of foreign magazines and newspapers from the garbage and selling them to vendors who in turn sell them on the black market. A survey done by the Beijing Committee of material left behind at the Xinqiao Hotel determined that half of the magazines and newspapers left behind were alright but the other half contained "half-naked advertisements" and "partly erroneous" or "problematic" material.

Chinese-language versions of Cosmopolitan, Esquire and National Geographic are sold in China. Playboy is banned. Cosmopolitan had a circulation of 385,000 in 2002. The Chinese version of the magazine is thick and filled with glossy picturers of Western and Asian women. There are stories about dedication and working hard, lots of Western features and advise on how to look good, but little mention of sex.

A Chinese version of Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands in China in August 2006. A Chinese-language version of Rolling Stone magazine was launched in China in March 2006. A single issue was released before regulators shut it down and dissolved its publishing agreement with its local partner. The inaugural issue featured Chinese rock pioneer Cui Jian on the cover along with articles about U2, Taiwanese star Jay Chou and blogging. The first run of the magazine’s120,000 copies’sold out quickly.

Rupert Murdoch plans to introduce Chinese and Indian versions of the Wall Street Journal.

Jaime FlorCruz has lived and worked in China since 1971. He studied Chinese history at Peking University (1977-81) and served as TIME Magazine's Beijing correspondent and bureau chief (1982-2000). He now reports for CNN.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2012

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