Media in China

Chinese media and government. Xinhua (the China News Agency) and People's Daily, the two most important print media. Internet censorship in China. Central Television, talk Radio, cable TV and satellites. The role of "internal" media. Market competition.

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Moscow State University

Faculty of Journalism


Term paper by English language

made by third-year student of 304 group

Basina Maria Victorovna

Moscow, 2005


Introduction. Chinese media and government

China's media network: Xinhua and People's Daily

China Youth Daily

China Youth Online

Beijing Today

Subsidiary Newspapers and Magazines


Internet censorship in China



China Central Television

Talk Radio

Cable TV and satellites

The role of “internal” media

Market competition

Sources of information


Within the People's Republic of China there is heavy government involvement in the media, with many of the largest media organizations (namely CCTV, the People's Daily, and Xinhua) being agencies of the Chinese government. There are certain taboos and red lines in the Chinese media, such as a taboo against questioning the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China. Yet within those restrictions, there is a vibrance and diversity of the media and fairly open discussion of social issues and policy options within the parameters set by the Party.

Much of the surprising diversity in the Chinese media is attributable to the fact that most state media outlets no longer receive large government subsidies and are expected to largely pay for themselves through commercial advertising. As a result, they can no longer serve solely as mouthpieces for the government but must also produce programming that people find attractive and interested so that money can be generated through advertising revenue. In addition, while the government does issue directives defining what can and cannot be published, it does not prevent, and in fact actively encourages state media outlets to compete with each other for viewers and commercial advertising.

Government control of information can also be ineffective in other ways. Despite government restrictions, much information is gathered either at the local level or from foreign sources and passed on through personal conversations and text messaging. The withdrawal of government media subsidies has caused many newspapers (including some owned by the Communist Party) in tabloids to take bold editorial stands critical of the government, as the necessity to attract readers and avoid bankruptcy has been a more pressing fear than government repression.

In addition, the traditional means of media control have proven extremely ineffective against newer forms of communication, most notably text messaging.

Although the government can and does use laws against state secrets to censor press reports about social and political conditions, these laws have not prevented the press from all discussion of Chinese social issues. Chinese newspapers have been particularly affected by the loss of government subsidies, and have been especially active at gaining readership though must engaging in hard hitting investigative reporting and muckraking. As a result even papers which are nominally owned by the Communist Party are sometimes very bold at reporting social issues. However both commercial pressures and government restrictions have tended to cause newspapers to focus on lurid scandals often involving local officials who have relatively little political cover, and Chinese newspapers tend to lack in depth analysis of political events as this tends to be more political sensitive.

Among social issues first reported in the Chinese press include the AIDS epidemic in Henan province, the unsafe state of Chinese mines. In addition, the SARS coverup was first revealed by a fax to CCTV which was forwarded to Western news media.


Xinhua (the New China News Agency) and People's Daily, the two most important print media, have status as separate government ministries; their directors sit on the party's Central Committee. Just below, hierarchically, are the two national newspapers under the control of the Propaganda Department -- the Guangming Daily and the English-language China Daily. These entities have the rank of vice ministries, as does the State Council-controlled Economic Daily. The National Propaganda Department appoints publishers, chief editors, and other key officials of the above-mentioned newspapers -- plus a few others -- while provincial and local party leaders make similar appointments for party papers in their jurisdictions.

In many ways, Xinhua is the fuel propelling China's print media. Perhaps unique in the world because of its role, size, and reach, Xinhua reports directly to the party's Propaganda Department; employs more than 10,000 people -- as compared to about 1,300 for the UK's Reuters, for example; has 107 bureaus worldwide both collecting information on other countries and dispensing information about China; and maintains 31 bureaus in China -- one for each province plus a military bureau. In as much as most of the newspapers in China cannot afford to station correspondents abroad -- or even in every Chinese province -- they rely on Xinhua feeds to fill their pages. People's Daily, for example, uses Xinhua material for approximately 25 percent of its stories.

Xinhua is a publisher as well as a news agency -- it owns more than 20 newspapers and a dozen magazines, and it prints in Chinese, English, and four other languages.

Like other government entities, Xinhua is feeling the pinch of reduced State financial subsidies. Beijing has been cutting funding to the news agency by an average of seven percent per year over the past three years, and State funds currently cover only about 40 percent of Xinhua's costs. As a result, the agency is raising revenues through involvement in public relations, construction, and information service businesses.

In the past, Xinhua was able to attract the top young journalists emerging from the universities or otherwise newly entering the field, but it can no longer do so as easily because of the appeal and resources of other newspapers and periodicals and the greater glamour of television and radio jobs. For example, midlevel reporters for the Xinmin Evening News often are given an apartment, whereas at Xinhua and People's Daily this benefit is reserved for the most senior journalists.

Like many other media organizations, Xinhua struggled to find the "right line" to use in covering the Tiananmen Square events of April-June 1989. Although more cautious than People's Daily in its treatment of sensitive topics during that period -- such as how to commemorate reformist Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang's April 1989 death, the then ongoing demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere, and basic questions of press freedom and individual rights -- Xinhua gave some favorable coverage to demonstrators and intellectuals who were questioning top party leaders. Even so, many Xinhua reporters were angry with top editors for not going far enough and for suppressing stories about the Tiananmen Square crackdown. For several days after the violence on 4 June, almost no one at Xinhua did any work, and journalists demonstrated inside the Agency's Beijing compound


The China Youth Daily is one of the most important daily official newspapers and is the first independently operated central government news media portal in the China. It is operated by the Communist Youth League since 1951. The chief editor is Li Xueqian.

China Youth Daily was established in 1951, six years before the Chinese Socialist Youth League decided to change its name to Communist Youth League of China (CYL).

China Youth Daily resolutely supports the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) due to its subordination to the CYL. As the mission of CYL at the present stage is to unite and lead the young people in the country, hoping to tranfuse new blood to the CPC and bringing about young personnel for the country, China Youth Daily also tries to bring news, ideas and informations through the nationwide circulations which follow the CYL principles. Thus, China Youth Daily has in fact given advantages to the CPC to project their voice to a wider public in China. In another perspective, the content of the paper is to some extent regulated by the CPC.

Although China youth Daily is run by the CYL, it is also the first marketized official paper in China. The profit enables the paper to support its own running and it also welcomes individuals and companies to advertise in the paper.

Administrative structure of China Youth Daily can be divided into two parts. First, it is the upper part and the main power of the hierarchy which includes the president and the chief editor. Second, there are the vice president, the vice chief editor and the secretary. But like all other papers with a CPC background, China Youth Daily is ultimately directed by the Propaganda Department of the CPC. Although it does not mean that the Propaganda Department often affects the direction and the content of the paper, it is authorized and has the right to do so.

Apart from the central hierarchy, there are six other departments which help the daily running of the paper, they include the office, editorial board, management department, business developmental department, human resources department and the party office. Yet, under the editorial board, management department and business developmental department, many branchs are developed to handle the daily work.

People working for the paper are required to have a good understanding of the CPC and all the concepts involved such as Dengxaoping's theories, Communism, Socialism, etc. Most of the employees, including journalists working for the paper are the members of the Communist Party.

The paper has a circulation of around 500,000 a day. As it is an integrated nationwide newspaper which targets the young generation in China, it covers political, social, and economic news which particularly concerns both the young personnel of the country and the CPC.

Following its goal, China Youth Daily is able to attract a primary readership among professionals between the age of 21 to 48. And to maintain such readership, the paper has established an online version of the paper in 2000, the China Youth Online (CYOL).

During approximately 3 years of establishment, CYOL has generated 31 different channels to increase diversity to different users. Both China Youth Daily and CYOL are now besides having the hardcore political, social and economic news, also include news for public examinations, overseas study opportunities, career planning, fashion, entertainment, etc.

As it is the first marketized official newspaper in China, it welcomes advertisements from individuals, local and foreign companies. In order to multiply the number of advertisements, CYOL provide an easy assess to users especially for the users overseas.

According to an official research conducted by China Youth Daily and CYOL, readers of the newspaper and online users are within the age of 18 to 48. The majority of readers are of the age of 19-25 (50%)and 26-35 (32%). Around 75% of the readers are male and around only 25% of them are female. Most readers attain a tertiary education background and more than 60% of them have an income of 1000RMB or less.

Although the paper is circulated nationwide, it gains more popularity in the east(31%), the central part(18%) and the north(16%) comparatively to the other parts of China.

Two online versions of China Youth Daily is established since 2000. The first one is CYOL, the Chinese version of China Youth Daily Online and Beijing Today, the English of CYOL. As mentioned before, websites are established for different reasons and needs, for examples, it is to attract and maintain readership and to make it more asseccible to foreign users.


China Youth Online is China's first independently operated central government news media website which has started its operation since 15th February, 2000. The portal is targeted towards the youth community in Mainland China. It offers the online version of China Youth Daily and distributes content, souvenirs, books and magazines published by China Youth Daily.

Like China Youth Daily, CYOL basically channels for education, people, military, networks, life, and service information.

During early 2004, China Youth Daily together with CYOL have a daily circulation of 2 million in China, CYOL has successfully created new readership and profit since its establishment.


Beijing Today is the first English newspaper of Beijing. It is supported by the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China and the State Press and Publication Administration. It is a 16-page chromatic weekly off press in four parts: Beijing News, Beijing View, Capital Culture and Capital Service. It aims to introduce Beijing's modernization construction, new success, developments, and changes made through reform and opening up in recent years.

Subsidiary Newspapers and Magazines
Few newspapers and magazines are produced under the leading of the China Youth Daily. These subsidiary newspapers and magazines are designed to suit the taste of special users and to provide news for current hot topics.
Elite Reference (
Sports Youth Weekly (
It covers sports news in China and worldwide. It reports the news of many kinds of ball games (mainly soccer), the hot topics of the sports field, and provides leisure and health information.
Its primary readers are college students, officers and professionals, aged between 18-35, who are interested in sports.
The chief editor is Hua Xidung who is an experienced sports reporter and soccer critic.
It is distributed on Mondays, via retail outlets and subscription.
Digital Youth
Digital Youth is a daily paper which concerns with IT, providing knowledge and news about IT (Information Technology).
It provides information of IT services, the activities of the IT field and the IT experts.
But it also concerns about youth problem and hot social issues.
It is established for about 50 years.
The distribution is about 1 million, mainly in Beijing.
Its distribution is Beijing is around 100,000, attached in China Youth Daily, which mainly go to the government units, education departments and the army.
Some of them can be found in news stand, and some are freely distributed to few IT companies etc.
Youth Times (
Youth Times is a leisure weekly with city youth entertainment.
"Entertainment is a power in the new century" is what the paper believes in.

Topics include visual and international news, creativity, sales, health, travel, fashion, studying abroad, tastes and home. It is distributed on Thursdays.


Widening Chinese use of the Internet also is undercutting government efforts to control the flow of information. More than 90,000,000 people in China now have Internet access, and the figure is likely to surpass one billion within four years, according to a Chinese specialist on the subject.

Through the Internet, residents of China can get uncensored news from the Chinese News Digest, an on-line service created by Chinese volunteers in the United States and Australia. This service carries information on such issues as trials of prominent dissidents, developments in Taiwan, and divisions among the party's top leaders. A Western specialist on Internet in China has noted that about one-fifth of the more than 500,000 personal computers sold there in 1994 were designated for installation in residences, where it is especially difficult for the State to limit Internet use.

Since the beginning of 1996, the State has suspended all new applications from Internet service providers seeking to commence operations in China; moved to put all existing Internet services under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Electronics Industry, and the State Education Commission; and attempted -- without much success -- to establish firewalls, limit the contents of home pages, and block access to certain Internet sites through routing filters. Government officials are worried that, as the number of Chinese homes with telephone lines grows from the present level of less than four percent, the State will become totally unable to monitor Internet access at residences.


The government of the People's Republic of China has set up a system of Internet censorship in mainland China. This system is not applied in Hong Kong and Macau; some Hong Kong websites are in fact blocked or filtered from within mainland China.

One part of this system is known outside mainland China as the Great Firewall of China (in reference both to its role as a network firewall and to the ancient Great Wall of China). The system blocks content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through and consists of standard firewall and proxy servers at the Internet gateways. The system also selectively engages in DNS poisoning when particularly objectionable sites (such as the BBC) are requested. The government does not appear to be systematically examining Internet content, as this appears to be technically impractical.

Extent of block

This firewall is largely ineffective at preventing the flow of information and is rather easily circumvented by determined parties by using proxy servers outside the firewall. VPN and ssh connections to outside mainland China are not blocked, so circumventing all of the censorship and monitoring features of the Great Firewall of China is trivial for those who have these secure connection methods available to them. For a few weeks in 2002, the Chinese government attempted to block Google, but this block was quickly removed, though some features on Google (such as Google Cache) remain erratic.

Research into the Chinese Internet censorship has shown that blocked websites include:

-- Websites with pornographic content

-- News from many foreign sources, especially websites which include forums

-- Information about Tibet independence

-- Information about Falun Gong

-- Some websites based in Taiwan

-- Some websites based in Hong Kong, or with content about Hong Kong

-- Overseas Chinese websites such as


SOHU.COM is China's premier online brand and indispensable to the daily life of millions of Chinese who use the portal for their e-mail, SMS messaging, news, search, browsing and shopping. As China's most comprehensive web site, SOHU offers its users the broadest possible choices regarding information, commerce and community, and, equally important, how they access these products and services. Through its pioneering roll-out of wireless products since 2000, SOHU has become a frontrunner in making the Internet ubiquitously available, whether in the office, at home or on the road.

The web site's massive use base and strong brand presence in China make SOHU.COM, a household name throughout the country, the platform of choice for corporate clients to promote their business.

The Internet in China is an established medium particularly for the urban youth, who are spending more time online at the expense of watching television, making it the most effective marketing vehicle for companies to target this highly attractive segment in the Chinese market.

The Company is quickly realizing its goal of building a sustainable and diversified business model on two strong pillars: a steadfast home-market corporate advertising base and a massive, paying user population.

With over 50 million registered users at the end of September 2002, SOHU has the largest online user base in China. It is a household name among the 300 million people living in urban centers. For the second year in a row the Sinomonitor International survey - the largest Internet Survey in the country- ranked SOHU.COM as the most visited portal in China.

SOHU, with its exclusive focus on the China market, is operating in a high-growth industry under compelling market conditions. The Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (MII) predicts that the Internet sector will grow to 200 million users by 2005.China's economic growth is expected to remain robust in coming years as the country is opening up further under the terms of WTO membership and preparations intensify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World


In 1978, China had less than one television receiver per 100 people, and fewer than ten million Chinese had access to a television set. Current estimates indicate that there are now about 25 TV sets per 100 people and that roughly a billion Chinese have access to television. Similarly, in 1965 there were 12 television and 93 radio stations in China; today there are approximately 700 conventional television stations -- plus about 3,000 cable channels -- and 1,000 radio stations.

China Central Television

China Central Television or Chinese Central Television, or CCTV is the major broadcast television network in Mainland China. Organizationally it is a subministry of the China's central government within the State Administrator of Radio, Television, and Film and as such it does not have any editorial independence from the PRC government.

Its news reporting follows parameters directed by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China. Most of its programming, however, is a mix of comedy and dramatic programming, the majority of which consists of Chinese soap operas. Like many media outlets in China, CCTV has had its state subsidy reduced dramatically in the 1990s, and hence finds it necessary to balance its role as a government agency with the practical fact that it must attract viewers so that it can sell commercial advertising. In searching for viewers, CCTV has found itself in competition with local television stations (which are also state run) which have been creating increasingly large media groups in order to compete with CCTV.

CCTV first broadcast on September 2, 1958 under the name Beijing Television, after an experimental broadcast on May 1. The name was changed to CCTV on May 1, 1978.

CCTV has sixteen different channels of programming content and competes with television stations run by local governments (such as BTV and several regional channels) and foreign programming which can be readily received via satellite television. Unlike US channel naming conventions, but similar to the situation in many countries in Europe, CCTV channels are listed in sequential order with no discerning descriptions, e.g. CCTV-1, CCTV-2, etc.

Outside China, it is only possible to receive channels CCTV-4 (overseas channel) and CCTV-9 (overseas channel targeted at an English-speaking audience) via a Digital Video Broadcast signal. CCTV has just recently switched from analog to DVB primarily due to better signal quality and the ability to charge for reception (about 10 USD per year subscription). The aforementioned overseas channels are relayed off many different satellites around the world.

CCTV now has 16 channels. They are:

CCTV-1 Mixture

CCTV-2 Economy

CCTV-3 Arts

CCTV-4 International channel in Chinese

CCTV-5 Sports

CCTV-6 Movie

CCTV-7 Children's/Military/Agriculture

CCTV-8 TV drama

CCTV-9 International channel in English

CCTV-10 Science and Technology

CCTV-11 Opera

CCTV-12 Society and Law

CCTV-News -- 24-hour News

CCTV-Children -- Children's channel

CCTV-Music -- Music

CCTV-E&F -- International Broadcast in Spanish and French

Television broadcasting is controlled by Chinese Central Television (CCTV), the country's only national network. CCTV, which employs about 2,400 people, falls under the dual supervision of the Propaganda Department, responsible ultimately for media content, and the Ministry of Radio, Film, and Television, which oversees operations. A Vice Minister in the latter ministry serves as chairman of CCTV. The network's principal directors and other officers are appointed by the State. So are the top officials at local conventional television stations in China -- nearly all of which are restricted to broadcasting within their own province or municipality -- that receive CCTV broadcasts.

CCTV produces its own news broadcasts three times a day and is the country's most powerful and prolific television program producer. It also has a monopoly on purchases of programming from overseas. All local stations are required to carry CCTV's 7 p.m. main news broadcast; an internal CCTV survey indicates that nearly 500 million people countrywide regularly watch this program.


Talk radio in China allows a much freer exchange of views than other media formats. In effect, talk radio has shifted the paradigm from authorities addressing the people to people addressing the authorities. For example, until 1991 the 14 million inhabitants of Shanghai were served by only one radio station -- Radio Shanghai -- which primarily aired predictable, pro-government propaganda. In 1992, East Radio was established with a format that catered to citizens' individual concerns and deemphasized propaganda. Competition between the two Shanghai radio stations has resulted in much livelier coverage by both -- including call-in programs that air discussions of politics, lifestyle, and previously forbidden social subjects. Because callers usually are not required to identify themselves, such discussions are far more candid than would be possible on television. Party officials regularly give guidance to the hosts and producers of talk-radio programs, but such guidance is usually ignored without penalty because party officials do not want to create problems by moving against these highly popular programs.


Residents of the Chinese mainland now receive more than 20 outside television channels by satellite, including Chinese-language services of CNN, Star TV, and the United States Information Agency. In the southern province of Guangdong, 97 percent of the households have television sets, and all -- except those in a few parts of the city of Guangzhou where reception is poor -- have access to Hong Kong television through cable networks. Some local stations even intercept the signals and insert their own commercials. Beijing is unable to effectively monitor, let alone control, the illicit cable operators who have sprung up since the early 1990s. As of 1995, about 1,000 of the 3,000 cable stations in China, linked to perhaps 50 million homes, were unlicensed.

Satellite dishes in mainland China that pull in programs from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other places are regulated, but government entities such as the Ministry of Machinery Industry and the military services produce such dishes outside allowable quotas and guidelines and then sell them illicitly to eager customers. Efforts by the Ministry of Radio, Film, and Television to halt this practice have been ineffective, mostly because of the large profits involved -- up to 50 percent per dish. Indeed, the government has backtracked in its efforts to stop these practices -- moving from an outright ban on satellite dishes (1993), to requiring that they be licensed (1994), to specifying allowable programs and viewing hours (1995).


The Chinese media's internal publication system, in which certain journals are published exclusively for government and party officials, provides information and analysis not generally available to the public. The State values these internal reports because they contain much of China's most sensitive, controversial, and high-quality investigative journalism.

Xinhua and many other Chinese media organizations produce reports for the "internal" journals. Informed observers note that journalists generally like to write for the internal publications -- typically, only the most senior or most capable print and broadcast reporters are given such opportunities -- because they can write less polemical and more comprehensive stories without having to omit unwelcome details as is commonly done in the print media directed to the general public. A Chinese historian has noted, as an example of such self-censorship, that only a minority of China's population are aware 30 million people starved to death in the early 1960s, because the Party has never allowed the subject to be openly explored in the media.

The Chinese Government's internal media publication system follows a strict hierarchical pattern designed to facilitate party control. A publication called Reference Information (Cankao Ziliao) -- which includes translated articles from abroad as well as news and commentary by senior Xinhua reporters -- is delivered by Xinhua personnel, rather than by the national mail system, to officials at the working level and above. A three-to-ten-page report called Internal Reference (Neibu Cankao) is distributed to officials at the ministerial level and higher. The most highly classified Xinhua internal reports, known as "redhead reference" (Hong Tou Cankao) reports, are issued occasionally to the top dozen or so party and government officials.

There are signs the internal publication system is breaking down as more information becomes widely available in China. A Hong Kong-based political journal circulated on the Chinese mainland has questioned the need for such a system in light of China's modern telecommunications and expanding contacts with the outside world. Internal publications are becoming less exclusive; some are now being sold illegally on the street and are increasingly available to anyone with money.

Some of the internal publications have changed substantially in an effort to avoid becoming obsolete. For example, the publication News Front -- started in 1957 as a weekly tool for the Communist Party to instruct journalists on what to write -- no longer was limited to that function when it reappeared after the Cultural Revolution. It continued to change gradually and is now a monthly publication that serves as a professional rather than political guide for journalists.


Intense competition for the media market is among the most important factors behind the emergence of more diverse and autonomous media in China. As indicated earlier in this study, efforts by the Chinese media to respond to an increasingly demanding print and broadcast market have created an expanding spectrum of media products ranging from serious news journalism to purely entertainment stories. Monetary rewards for meeting such demands continue to grow, resulting in greater financial autonomy for Commercialization thus has been a major liberating force for the media in China. The regime is far less able than before to wield financial leverage over the media, which have increasingly become self-supporting through advertising revenues and circulation. According to one estimate, advertising in all media forms increased 35-fold between 1981 and 1992. Print ad revenues jumped ten times between 1990 and 1995 -- from 1.5 billion yuan to 15 billion yuan.

Television revenues also are growing dramatically: they totaled about $2 billion in 1995 and are expected to rise above $6 billion by 2005. In 1995, China Central Television earned nearly $150 million in advertising revenue, covering almost 90 percent of its total costs. In the past, Chinese radio and television tended to run well behind the print press in their news coverage. More recently, television has come under market pressure to be as timely, informative, and responsive as the print media.

Competition from outside mainland China has further impelled domestic media organizations to become more diverse, assertive, and skeptical of official authority. For example, in order to compete against higher quality Hong Kong radio stations that could be heard in Guangdong Province, Guangdong radio managers created Pearl River Economic Radio (PRER) in 1986. PRER, copying Hong Kong radio's approach, began to emphasize daily life, entertainment, "celebrity" deejays, and caller phone-in segments, while eliminating ideological, preachy formats that included little information beyond what was provided by government sources. By 1987, PRER had obtained 55 percent of the Guangdong market; previously, Hong Kong radio stations had held 90 percent of this market. Local party cadre in southern China reportedly are unhappy about PRER, mainly because some of the station's commentators, as well as its talk radio programs, highlight party failures and the misdeeds of individual party members in the region.

The top national Chinese Communist Party papers (People's Daily, Guangming Daily, and Economic Daily) -- which mostly feature party speeches, announcements, propaganda, and policy viewpoints -- are steadily losing circulation and much-sought advertising revenues to evening municipal papers that have far more diverse content. For example, People's Daily's circulation fell from 3.1 million copies a day in 1990 to 2.2 million in 1995; the paper's 1994 advertising revenues were down as well. Moreover, its subscriptions consist overwhelmingly of mandatory ones by party and government organizations. Similarly, the Liberation Army Daily has become almost entirely dependent on State subsidies. Its circulation has fallen from 1.7 million in 1981 to fewer than 500,000 at present.

By contrast, the circulation of the Xinmin Evening News, operated by the Shanghai Municipal Government, has risen from 1.3 million to 1.7 million over the same time period. The Guangzhou Daily, owned by the Guangzhou Municipal Government, doubled its circulation in six years to 600,000 in 1994, and its ad revenues also were up.






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