For a good part of the last decade, China has been flexing its economic muscles.
But now it is ready to flex its journalism might.
A few days ago, Newsweek reported how Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese government’s propaganda wing, is setting up bureaux all over the world and making its presence felt.
Today, I can reveal that another government outfit, the China Daily, is readying itself to start publishing two international editions – one for Asia and one for Europe.
These new editions are intended to give the Chinese view to the news. For long, China has viewed the West’s interpretation of events with suspicion. And it believes the only way to counter western opinion is by publishing an English-language paper that has all the hallmarks of an international newspaper.
That was why China Daily recently hired a handful of westerners, including former SND board member and managing editor of the Las Vegas Sun, Bill Gaspard. Bill redesigned the English-language paper which is published out of Beijing, giving it an international, classier look.
Take a look at the Sept 7 edition:
A senior journalist, Ravi Shankar, who has worked for China Daily for about 10 years has been dispatched to London to head up the European operations. It is believed that the European edition of China Daily will hit the streets sometime towards the end of this year or early next year.
The Asian edition is still in the planning stages.
China now has the financial clout to publish what will certainly be loss-making newspaper operations, but profit is of the least importance to the authorities. Flipping through the current issue of the paper, you will notice that there are hardly any ads. Yet the paper employs more than 1,000 people including about 250 journalists.
The paper is headed by a senior Communist Party official with links to top government brass. Each day, journalists take instructions on how to play stories. Many subjects are taboo and will never see the light of day.
One journalist who has worked there for years tells me it is not easy coping with such a system, especially after having worked in a free press. “But the money is good,” he adds. “You just have to accept that this is the way the Chinese do things.”
And do things their way, the Chinese surely will. After all, money is of no object. It’s the war to win over minds that matters more to them.