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How to Read The News About China

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China NEWS SOURCES Evaluated

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China NEWS SOURCES Evaluated

Agence France Presse

Although growing in importance and respectability as a news service, AFP has very low standards and often reports outright fabrications supplied by splinter groups and propagandists the world over, the more outlandish, the better. AFP has bureaus in Beijing and Hong Kong. Any report from AFP is suspect.

American Television ABC, CBS, NBC (and all its permutations), PBS, FOX, CNN, etc.

Profit driven television news in the USA reports on China infrequently and when it does it blindly broadcasts every tired visual cliché known to the impressionable minds of Americans - goose-stepping soldiers, the Tiananmen Square tank man, muddy peasants with water buffalos, etc., images of destruction, fear, and death. The editorial slant of all American television is anti-Beijing in particular and anti-China generally. Although there is no complete consensus that China is the new threat (a la the Soviet Union) when it comes to China TV can get quite hysterical.

BBC (British Broadcasting Corp)
Asia-Pacific coverage

State-owned BBC does plenty of reporting on China much of it in a subtle anti-China voice that may be a leftover from the days when British Hong Kong was a foil to Communist China.


Contrary to news reports, blogging is booming in China (check out Bokee the successor to blog-China) and just as many blogs on China are feverishly typed each day.

While there are many intelligent and original blogs that expose print and broadcast media for sloppy reporting and spreading lies and propaganda most blogs are opinion writing at best and sophomoric rants at worst.

The majority of blogs are the harangues of young mostly male navel-gazers that write (to each other) in secret acronyms and neologisms to validate their firmly held opinions about how the world should be run. More often than not, they hide behind anonymous identities and privately registered domains.

The list of China themed blogs is long and of relatively little value, as most belong to a corps of bores whose expertise on China is that they live or did live there and hate it and/or have a Chinese wife. The blogs on China that don't provide useless information are listed separately in the review of China news sources.

China Digital Times

A news aggregator in blog format that is part of the Berkeley China Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley, the brain child of resident China expert Orville Schell. The news is from the usual sources — the New York Times, Voice of America, Daily Telegraph, AP, Reuters, etc., hence biased against the Chinese government. Moreover, Chief Editor Xiao Qiang was formerly director of New York City based Human Rights In China group, a high profile successful fundraiser for programs harshly critical of China and a recurrent recipient of large grants of USA federal government money via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

China News Digest

A news aggregator that originated as a USENET newsgroup and claims to be "independent" and impartial and run by a "community" of "volunteers." In reality the Washington, DC area based organization is a cover for the NED and its dated anti-Communist crusade against China's government. The site is aimed primarily at a Chinese audience in keeping with the NED's intent. More than half of its budget is spent on "editorial fees."

The Drudge Report

Internet entrepreneur pioneer Matt Drudge's one page collection of news headline links and news sources is deliberately sensationalist and strictly conservative. Drudge is quick to throw up any anti-Beijing link no matter how dubious and is an important first step in the dissemination of often fake and scurrilous news stories on China (or just about any other topic).

The Economist
Asia coverage

Despite ancient (dating back to early 19th Century) anti-China editorial bias and extreme "public school boy" condescension in its writing overall, the Economist delivers plenty of news about China in the following order of reliability: economy & business, popular culture, way of life, and politics. Generally offers one or more special reports on China per year that are usually excellent.

The Epoch Times

Anti-China propaganda broadsheet that is distributed free throughout the USA (mostly in the downtowns of major cities) and numerous other countries by its private publishers. The Epoch Times officers are known Falun Gong practitioners. It is a tool of Chinese dissident Li Hongzhi's Falun Dafa cult and the recipient of USA taxpayers' money via the National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House.

Far Eastern Economic Review [$]

Once a weekly newsmagazine based out of Hong Kong covering nearly all topics - almost an Asian Time Magazine - FEER is now a monthly business focused mag out of Beijing. Like Time it was firmly anti-mainland China in editorial slant but its business and economic coverage excellent. FEER is Dow Jones/WSJ publication and requires paid subscription.

Financial Times
China coverage

A mixed bag - overall excellent quality reliable news reporting on all matters financial and economic. Editorial policy is split — Martin Wolf is Beijing positive but the rest of the board is harshly critical of China. Despite this, the FT is probably the single best source, along with the non-editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, for daily news on China. And it's available in a Chinese edition.


Forbes features frequent business news stories on China despite a condescending tone. Forbes publishes an annual list of the richest people in China as well as a list of world's largest companies that now includes several Chinese firms.


A sad shadow of its former self, Fortune generally has good news reporting on business matters in China. Chinese companies now figure prominently in the Global 500 lists.

The Guardian

Plenty of China news reports and there is a reporter in Beijing (Jonathan Watts) but the Guardian has a well known anti-China editorial bias. The Guardian is one of the chief purveyors of news stories on China often found to be false or exaggerated. Most egregious: the lie that Osama Bin Laden is in China.

The Independent

Another British "quality" paper (as opposed to the more commercially successful tabloids) with a strong anti-China editorial bias and known to spread China news reports that are at times un-researched if not unsubstantiated. Clifford Coonan, the Independent's man in Beijing, is quick to report any rumour about Chinese political activists for example.

The Los Angeles Times

Considering its Pacific Rim location and large population with Asian roots, LA's main newspaper rarely reports scoops on China and is anti-China in its editorial policy.

The New York Times
Asia-Pacific coverage

Frequent reports on China but a long history of anti-China editorial bias. As with the Wall Street Journal the business reporting is often more reliable and less judgmental.


As it has throughout its history Newsweek follows Time's lead and its China coverage is no exception. Generally its China coverage is reliable but that does not stop Newsweek from a good anti-China rant or inflammatory cover story. Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post.

Reporters Without Borders / Reporters Sans Frontiers

Paris based RSF was founded by Robert Menard, the self-styled "General Secretary" of the supposedly independent non-governmental group. RSF is anything but unbiased however and receives its funding from a variety of government sources including the US State Department and Ronald Reagan's National Endowment for Democracy, whose officers read like a who's who of neoconservatism and include nearly all of the signers of the "Project for a new American Century." RSF was banned by the United Nations in 2003 and kept away from its sessions on "human rights" because of its political activities. Through its financial contributer, TECRO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office), RSF is organizing a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. RSF is a font of anti-China news stories of dubious credibility.


The ghost of Henry Luce continues to guide Time magazine coverage of China. Always conservative in viewpoint (Time's "liberal" slant of the '60s is more akin to today's neoconservative thought), Time continues to pound away at Red China and prop up the dream of a Christian China. Most reporting is heavily biased against the Beijing government.

The Wall Street Journal [$]
Asia coverage

Extremely anti-China in its editorial board, the WSJ nevertheless is a prolific reporter on business news and information on China and a very valuable source in that regard. The WSJ requires paid subscription. The WSJ also publishes the Asian Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review.

The Washington Post

At times excellent coverage of China but anti-China editorial policy influences reporting. Former Beijing Bureau Chief John Pomfret's aloof reporting for years made sweeping generalizations about China based on Zhongnanhai dramas.

The Washington Times
Bill Gertz

Owned by China hater and Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Washington Times is unabashedly anti-China. Its "Pentagon Reporter" Bill Gertz is one of the principle anti-China propagandists in America basing entire reports on "anonymous Pentagon sources" with rarely any substantiation or research. The Washington Times and Bill Gertz were instrumental in several anti-China witch hunts of recent memory - the framing of Wen Ho Lee, for example.

More News Source reviews coming soon!

- more from Financial Times (London)
- more from People's Daily - Business (Beijing)
- more from China Knowledge (Singapore)

How to Read the News about China


Every minute of every hour of every day news stories are reported and broadcast about what's going on in and around China. Many of the sources are reliable but many are not. Many news reports on China are from reporters or commentators who are located far from China. Some have never been to China and know nothing about the country. Whenever you read the news about China it is essential to stop and evaluate the source before you can believe what you've read.

Print Media Dominates China News

Despite all the advances in modern technology most news about China comes to us from the oldest media – the printed page. Newspapers and magazines (including specialized and "scholarly" journals) spread most of the news about China. The exception is business and financial news where some online services (usually requiring paid subscription) are also a primary source.

Prevalence of Anti-China Bias

Many of these newspapers and magazines have long-standing anti-China editorial biases. Often this bias is subtle and reflected only in the "voice" of the source. For example, a story about a Chinese government agency shutting down some illegal Internet "café's because they are unlicensed businesses prompts an editor to pen the headline "China Bans Internet Access". This voice shapes and warps our understanding of China and is based on an elitist view deeply and often unconsciously ingrained in many Westerners that China is a brutal and backward place and in need of betterment.

While most major print media and broadcast/satellite television now have reporters in China, they are usually only in the capital Beijing. Thus reports on events outside the capital in the vast expanse of mainland China are often based on hearsay and not researched or investigated. Most major newsrooms still get their information on what's going on in China from the Chinese media itself and from translating and analyzing such things as government reports and the minutes of party meetings. These methods have changed little over the past half century.

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