China Launches Global Media Blitz

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Dissatisfied with Western media coverage of China news, China is launching several new foreign-language media outlets aimed at international audiences.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

NPR: a voice heard around the world. China's government is trying to fix that by creating media aimed at international audiences. Part of the challenge is convincing those audiences that these new media outlets have more to offer than just government propaganda. NPR's Anthony Kuhn visited China's newest English-language newspaper.

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ANTHONY KUHN: It's the 5:00 PM editorial meeting at the Global Times English edition. A handful of casually dressed young men sit down to discuss tomorrow's edition. The paper tries to maintain balance between articles that either criticize or defend China. One article in today's paper is headlined: Anti- Police Sentiment Spills Over Onto Streets of Gansu, a province in northwest China. Another report argues that Chinese hackers are not as capable of penetrating U.S. government computers as some critics think.

Managing editor Zhang Yong is a former Washington correspondent for the official People's Daily, which owns both the Chinese and English-language editions of the Global Times. He says what he thinks makes the English edition different.

ZHANG YONG: We have touched upon issues that other Chinese media won't touch. That is part of our popularity. We are going to adopt that style.

KUHN: He insists that his paper can win over English-language readers.

YONG: We will tell our readers a true China. We will speak only truth.

KUHN: Beijing has become increasingly dissatisfied with the way it's portrayed by Western media. So it's planning to spend billions of dollars on new foreign language television channels and other media. Several foreign editors helped to craft the Global Times content for foreign consumption. One of them is Richard Burger, a blogger who has previously been critical of China's government. He says that some of his blog's readers are not happy about his new job.

RICHARD BURGER: I'm telling them, look, I'm giving this a try. If a feel the paper crosses the line and is forcing me to compromise my own ethics, I'll leave. But for now, I'm impressed with what they're doing. I think they're going in the right direction. Frankly, I'm surprised they've been able to go as far as they have in so little time.

KUHN: Managing editor Zhang Yong says his paper's criticism of the government is meant to be constructive. And while he says the month-old paper hasn't yet gotten in trouble with authorities for its critical reporting, he knows that nobody's untouchable.

YONG: We will try to be critical. At the same time, we have to survive, you know. We have to make a balance. We are not, you know, idealists. We don't expect dramatic change overnight.



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KUHN: But change is certainly afoot. State-run radio, television and newspapers are all losing market share to metropolitan tabloids, provincial-level satellite television and the Internet.

Media scholar Zhan Jian of the China Youth University for Political Science in Beijing says China's leaders are beginning to realize that to amplify China's voice, they must learn to compete in the commercial media market.

ZHAN JIAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: They now know that they must follow the rules of journalism, he says. So while last year we were opposing and criticizing CNN for its China coverage, now we're saying we want to create a Chinese CNN. That's quite an irony. The other irony is that the Global Times Chinese edition is widely seen as a nationalistic tabloid which portrays China as an innocent victim of foreign powers. Zhan Jian says this is less about ideology than about sensationalism and selling newspapers. With a circulation of 1.8 million, the formula has been very successful, and now it's funding the launch of the English edition.

Editor Zhang Yong sees things differently. He says his paper's Chinese edition never launches any unprovoked attacks.

YONG: But sometime, we think China is under fire for some fabricated reasons, some China-threat fantasy. We don't agree with that, and we argue with some Western people. I don't think that is nationalism.

KUHN: Whether or not China's new foreign language media can establish their credibility, media analysts believe that China's growing influence ensures that one way or another, China's voice will be heard and its views will be known.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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