Xinhua News Agency
(English pronunciation: /
The news agency has faced criticism of spreading propaganda and criticising people or movements critical of the CCP.
Xinhua is a publisher as well as a news agency—it owns more than 20 newspapers
and a dozen magazines
and it publishes in several languages, besides Chinese, including English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Korean.
Scholars have noted that Xinhua tailors its pro-CCP message to the nuances of each audience.
Building of Red China News Agency in 1937
During the Pacific War
the agency developed overseas broadcasting capabilities and established its first overseas branches.
It began broadcasting to foreign countries in English from 1944. In 1949, Xinhua followed a subscription model instead of its previous limited distribution model.
In the direct aftermath of the Chinese Civil War
, the agency represented the People's Republic of China
in countries and territories with which it had no diplomatic representation
, such as British Hong Kong
In 1956, Xinhua began reporting on anti-Marxist and other opinions critical of the party. In 1957, Xinhua switched from a journal format to a newspaper format.
The agency was described by media scholars as the "eyes and tongue" of the Party, observing what is important for the masses and passing on the information.
A former Xinhua director, Zheng Tao, noted that the agency was a bridge between the Party, the government and the people, communicating both the demands of the people and the policies of the Party. People's Daily
, for example, uses Xinhua material for about a quarter of its stories.
Xinhua delivers its news across the world in eight languages: Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Japanese, as well as news pictures and other kinds of news. It has made contracts to exchange news and news pictures with more than eighty foreign news agencies or political news departments. Xinhua is also responsible for handling, and in some cases, censoring reports from foreign media destined for release in China.
By 2010, the agency had begun converging its news and electronic media coverage and increasing its English coverage through its wire service. The same year, Xinhua acquired commercial real estate on New York's Times Square and started an English-language satellite news network.
The Chinese media's internal publication system
, in which certain journals are published exclusively for government and party officials, provides information and analysis which are 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 produces reports for the "internal" journals. Informed observers note that journalists generally like to write for the internal publications because they can write less polemical and more comprehensive stories without making the omissions of unwelcome details commonly made in the media directed to the general public. The internal reports, written from a large number of countries, typically consist of in-depth analyses of international situations and domestic attitudes towards regional issues and perceptions of China.
The Chinese government's internal media publication system follows a strict hierarchical pattern designed to facilitate party control. A publication called Reference News
—which includes translated articles from abroad as well as news and commentary by 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. One example was the first reports on the SARS
outbreak by Xinhua which only government officials were allowed to see.
The most classified Xinhua internal reports are issued to the top dozen or so party and government officials.
Headquarters and regional sectors
The Xinhua headquarters is located in Beijing
, strategically located in close proximity to Zhongnanhai, which houses the headquarters of the CCP, the General Secretary, and the State Council. The Xinhua News Agency established its first overseas affiliate in 1947 in London, with Samuel Chinque
as publisher. Now it distributes its news in Asia, Middle East, Latin America, Africa through more than 150 affiliates,
with regional headquarters in Hong Kong
, New York City
, Mexico City
, plus a United Nations
Xinhua's branch in Hong Kong was not just a press office, but served as the de facto embassy
of the PRC in the territory when it was under British administration
. It was named a news agency under the special historic conditions before the territory's sovereignty was transferred from Britain to China
, because the People's Republic did not recognise British sovereignty over the colony, and could not set up a consulate on what it considered to be its soil.
Xinhua opened its Middle East Regional Bureau in Cairo, Egypt
in 1985. In November 2005, Xinhua News Agency opened a new office building alongside the Nile River
in Cairo's Maadi
Xinhua opened a bureau in Vientiane
, in 2010. It is the only foreign news bureau permitted to permanently operate in the country.
Criticisms and controversies
Political bias, censorship, and disinformation
In 2005, Reporters Sans Frontieres
called Xinhua "The World's Biggest Propaganda Machine", pointing out that Xinhua's president held the rank of a minister in the government. The report further stated that the news agency was “at the heart of censorship and disinformation put in place” by the government.
In a 2007 interview with the Times of India
, then Xinhua president Tian Congming affirmed the problem of "historical setbacks and popular perceptions". Newsweek
criticized Xinhua as "being best known for its blind spots" regarding controversial news in China, although the article acknowledges that "Xinhua's spin diminishes when the news doesn't involve China".
During the 2003 SARS outbreak, Xinhua was slow to release reports of the incident to the public. However, its reporting in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake
was seen as more transparent and credible as Xinhua journalists operated more freely.
After the Beijing Television Cultural Center fire
, cognizant of Xinhua's "tardy" reporting in contrast to bloggers, China announced the investment of 20 billion yuan to Xinhua.
The vice president of the CCP's China International Publishing Group
commented on this, saying that quantity of media exposure would not necessarily help perceptions of China. Rather, he said, media should focus on emphasizing Chinese culture
"to convey the message that China is a friend, not an enemy".
Xinhua for its own part has criticized perceived foreign media bias and inaccurate reporting, citing an incident during the 2008 Tibetan unrest
when media outlets used scenes of Nepalese police
arresting Tibetan protesters as evidence of Chinese state brutality
with commentary from CNN'
s Jack Cafferty
calling the Chinese "goons and thugs". CNN later apologized for the comments,
but Richard Spencer of The Sunday Telegraph
defended what he conceded was "biased" media coverage of the riots, blaming Chinese authorities for not allowing foreign media access to Tibet during the conflict.
1968 industrial espionage allegations
During the May 68
events in France, Xinhua and PRC embassy press office staff were accused of exploiting civil unrest to undertake industrial espionage
at French factories.
1989 student movement
Xinhua staff struggled to find the "right line" to use in covering the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. 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 and then ongoing demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere – Xinhua gave some favorable coverage to demonstrators and intellectuals supportive of the movement. Conflict between journalists and top editors over the censorship of stories about the Tiananmen Square crackdown lasted for several days after the military's dispersal of demonstrators on June 4, with some journalists going on strike and demonstrating inside the agency's Beijing headquarters. Government oversight of the media increased after the protests – top editors at the agency's bureaux in Hong Kong
were replaced with appointees who were pro-Beijing
2011 Bob Dechert emails
In 2011, CBC
reported on leaked "flirtatious" emails sent by Canada's Conservative MP
and parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice Bob Dechert
to married Xinhua Toronto
correspondent Shi Rong, which prompted both sexual harassment and security breach allegations from opposition members. Dechert apologized, while the Chinese embassy in Ottawa responded to the matter by saying that it is "in no position to comment on domestic disputes and privacy of those involved."
2012 Mark Bourrie resignation and espionage allegations
In 2012, Xinhua's Ottawa
correspondent Mark Bourrie
resigned after Ottawa bureau chief Zhang Dacheng allegedly requested him to report on the Dalai Lama
for Xinhua's internal media
, which Bourrie felt amounted to gathering intelligence for China.
Zhang denied the allegation, telling the Canadian Press
that Xinhua's policy is to "cover public events by public means" and his bureau's job is to cover news events and file the stories to Xinhua's editing rooms, who would then decide which stories would be published.
Bourrie, who had a press pass providing him access to the Parliament of Canada
, had previously tried to consult the Canadian Security Intelligence Service
(CSIS) in 2009 on the matter of writing for Xinhua, but was ignored by CSIS.
2014 Song Bin suicide
On 7 pm, April 28, 2014, vice-president and chief editor of Xinhua's Anhui
provincial branch Song Bin was found dead in the newsroom in an apparent suicide
. The author for some award-winning reports on social and economic issues, the senior editor had been battling depression
before ending his own life by hanging himself.
2017 Doklam standoff
During the 2017 China–India border standoff
, Xinhua's English-language new media
program The Spark
released a satirical
video named the "Seven Sins of India
" on August 16, 2017, where presenter Di'er Wang spoke of Indians having "thick skin" and "pretending to sleep" on the matter of the border dispute. Wang went on to claim India was physically threatening Bhutan
, and compared India to a "robber who breaks into a house and does not leave". An actor in the video portraying "India" with a turban
and accent sparked allegations of racism
and anti-Indian sentiment
. The video has received strong backlash on Twitter as well as from Indian and Western media.
2018 Devumi allegations
In January 2018, The New York Times
published an investigative report on social media promotions, alleging that the US-based company Devumi
was providing "Twitter
followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online." The article goes on to allege an unnamed Xinhua editor was among the many celebrities and organizations implicated in a transaction with Devumi, in which the company boosted the news agency's English-language Twitter account with followers and retweets.
2019 Hong Kong protests
In 2019, Xinhua was criticized for perceived bias in its portrayal of the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests as violent and illegitimate, which led Twitter
to ban it and other state-sponsored media outlets from ad purchases.
U.S. regulatory status
Cooperation with Associated Press
In November 2018, Xinhua News Agency and the Associated Press
(AP) of the United States signed an memorandum of understanding to expand cooperation with the U.S. news service, which worried some lawmakers in the US congress, demanding AP to release the text of its memorandum of understanding with Xinhua. In response, AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said to the Washington Post
that AP's agreement with Xinhua is to allow it to operate inside China and has no bearing on AP's independence. Xinhua has no access to AP's sensitive information and no influence over AP's editorial products.
In 2020, Xinhua was one of several Chinese state media agencies reported to have been propagating propaganda, targeted advertisements, and news that showed China in a better light through targeted Facebook and Instagram ads and Twitter posts.
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Last edited on 14 April 2021, at 17:26
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