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Is Chinese English-language Journalism Credible?

The JMSC’s Director, Ying Chan, the Director of the JMSC’s Broadcasting Programme, Jim Laurie, and Hu Shuli, editor of Caixin Media have been debating the credibility of Chinese state-run English-language media in the New York Times‘ online blog Room for Debate.

The Chinese government is trying to expand the global reach of its state-owned media with CNC World, a new 24 hour English-language channel. The channel is run by the state-owned media agency, Xinhua. China wants to step up further onto the world stage and have an international voice.

It promises that CNC World will be “an unbiased global news network that offers objective, comprehensive, in-depth and multi-dimensional news coverage and an alternative source of information for the global audience.”

However, in the past state-owned media has been highly restrictive of what journalists are allowed to write, sacking ‘wayward’ editors and banning publications that contain views it doesn’t like.

Professor Ying Chan

Professor Chan writes in the New York Times blog that this is a time to test whether the Chinese state will allow more open journalism.

“China faces tough decisions in starting a news network on the world stage,” writes Chan.

“It could allow its international journalists to do their professional job. Or it could expand its draconian control of the news media overseas.”

Professor Jim Laurie

Professor Laurie advises the Chinese government’s existing state TV station, CCTV (China Central Television). He thinks that Chinese run English-language news channels will only be successful if they meet three criteria.

“The Central Propaganda Bureau must relax its daily list of “no report” directives,” writes Laurie.

“The Chinese channels must be funded properly so as to introduce international level news presenters and reporters as well as advanced level production teams and technology. And the news channels must find greater cable and satellite distribution beyond online availability.”

Laurie says his experience of CCTV’s English channel, which is ten years old, is that the editorial teams struggle with interference from above. Laurie feels that the goals of the state media conflict – it wants “a platform that can more aggressively present Beijing’s perspective on issues ranging from Xinjiang and Tibet to the the revaluation of its currency” while also wanting state control and international credibility.

“If Chinese TV wants to gain international credibility, it will have to have freedom from media censorship,” says Laurie. “That day is still very far off.”

Hu Shuli

Hu Shuli, founder and editor of Caixin Media – the only media company in China owned by journalists themselves – is optimistic about the internationalisation of Chinese media.

“What I hope for is that Chinese media organizations can go abroad more often, and sooner,” says Hu.

“I believe there is a market for news about China, offered by Chinese journalists working for independent organizations. It might be small and scattered right now, but that audience is certain to grow larger in the future.”

Hu’s company already runs an English-language website. She is set on expanding her business further and cites her own example as a step in the right direction for Chinese media: “With all the dramatic changes going on in China, there is actually more opportunity in the country for independent journalism than you might imagine. Just see what we have done — and will do.”