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Home  /  Inside China  /  Chinese and English versions of China's leading news portals – Two styles of journalism
Chinese and English versions of China's leading news portals – Two styles of journalism print version
Some of China's leading newspapers, particularly those with a developed online interface, present both Chinese and foreign language (mainly English) pages. Though some news items are naturally congruent in both languages, the editors seldom simply translate news from one language to another and rather create two distinct news pages in Chinese and English, with different sections, articles and points of emphasis. This article briefly examines the cases in the portal of China leading newspaper People's Daily renmin ribao 人民日报, and the more international oriented China Daily zhongguo ribao中国日报.

People's Daily is the newspaper mostly identified with the Chinese Communist Party. Managed by the Central Committee of the party and existing since the early days of the People's Republic of China, it had a major role in spreading the Mao ideas and stimulating the Cultural Revolution. Its internet portal contains a massive news section, including pages in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. Concerning China Daily the situation is quite the opposite; the paper is originally an English paper, directed at foreigners in China and around the globe. After the launching of its web portal in 1995, it provides also an online Chinese version, though foreigners are still its 'meat and bread'.

Except for the different layout styles between the more 'dense' Chinese page and the more spacey English version (see here for a recent ThinkingChinese article about different web layout styles East-West).

China Daily - Western journalism with patriotic agendas

As it aspires to have a more Western journalism style since its early days, China Daily is often considered to be less under severe Communist Party supervision compared to other major inland Chinese papers. However, the paper also aims to present an overall positive picture of China; a nation that doesn't lack challenges and weak points, but is constantly dealing with them in a sincere manner. China Daily currently has branches in some foreign capitals (such as Washington D.C, Brussels and London) and the attempt to present China in a positive manner is evident in many news items. The main reader groups of the paper include foreigners living in China, mainland Chinese who wish to improve their English, Chinese communities living overseas (huaqiao) and foreigners overseas (the newspaper prints reach about 500,000 readers per edition, including 200,000 outside China). As it can be assumed, most readers aren't naïve about China nor isolated from the outside world, so direct black-white propaganda isn't often seen in China Daily, though a fresh and optimistic angle is expressed.

Compared to the more Communist associated People's Daily or Xinhua news agency, China Daily less elaborates on long congress meeting, empty speeches or simply on 'every sneeze' of chairman Hu Jintao or premier Wen Jiabao. This is even more true in the English version of China Daily, where more revealing news are announced in the politics-macro level, not focusing on small clauses in internal policies.

Even if the China Daily is originally an English language paper, the Chinese internet version is still richer of articles, sections and is more frequently updated. The Chinese version also contains more entertainment section (including Fashion 时尚 and Stars 明星) and more 'tempting' linked photos of women's skin, like most other big Chinese language portals. Probably the China Daily editor staff assumes that foreign readers prefer to read about more 'important' news and don't choose China Daily for pure entertainment needs.

Still, the English news page is also colorful, as its pictures mainly reflect current news and the colorful side of Chinese life. A section which is published on the English page for a few months already is the 2011 Amazing China, where foreigners vote for their favorite Chinese city and also share some happy stories. In terms of presenting China's nice face, this approach has two sides. I find that articles discussing cases of official corruption, environmental and demographic problems are published quite often, not avoiding the problems that China is facing, yet showing that the top leaders aren't ignorant of the difficult challenges. In terms of governmental foreign policies, opinion articles about 'China helping to improve the life quality of Tibet residents' or 'China demonstrating a humanistic activity in Africa' are not rare, targeting at topics on which China is often criticized by the outside world.

zhongguoribao_788   chinadaily_734
                                  Two faces to the global-oriented 中国日报 or China Daily
 

People's Daily 人民日报- Know China, learn Chinese

As a paper and internet portal that attracts mainly Chinese, it is understandable that the English People's Daily is much more of a pale version of the Chinese one, unlike the situation described above in the case of China Daily. The top of the Chinese page presents numerous categories (in a similar fashion as seen in China Daily and most Chinese news portals) and underneath there are numerous titles under many sections (13 presses on the PgDn button lead to the bottom of the Chinese page, while 6 is enough to scroll down the English page).

However, the English People's Daily can still be seen as a paper of itself, as its format was thoughtfully designed. It lacks the numerous articles that deal with legislative and Party related topics which appear on the Chinese version and the top English sections are News, Opinions, China Military, Foreign Affairs, Learn Chinese, China Study and Forum. The issue of Chinese studies appears again throughout the page, through a dictionary, 'chengyu (idiom) of the day' and more, inviting the foreign reader to deepen the knowledge of China also in a language dimension.

When writing this article (15.8.2011), the main title of the English People's Daily page is China has no model, only its own path, leading to an opinion article discussing China's development path and the explaining why this process cannot harm international affairs (at the same time, the main title of the Chinese page deals with 'how to maintain stable prices for domestic products inland'). This choice of a headline article, which isn't a news item, reflects the editors desire to portray China in a friendly way. Another interesting box appearing in the front page is 'Netizens' comments'. Currently the titles appearing there are 'The West is always using the internet as the weapon, but today it turned against them' and 'For the benefit of personal health and heritage values of the martial arts, kungfu must be cherished', thus attributing patriotic sentiments to the self-expressing citizens. Articles defending China's position concerning freedom of speech are also often seen. Closer to the bottom of the page there is a box title 'Tibet', which leads to a special English page about the province, showing China as cherishing the local Tibetan culture and by by this, dealing with another sensitive spot, as it is seen by the international community.

renminribao_722  people_daily_745 
                                                              People's Daily Chinese vs. English
                                                                  Two sides to the same day

While it can be concluded that People's Daily emphasis on positive sides of China is less subtle compared to the approach seen in China Daily, both don't allow China to be badly interpreted and serve the foreign readers with topics that could interest them, as well as issues that China could be criticized upon. Foreigners reading through these pages can indeed read quality news and obtain a better understanding of China, but cannot sink deep into mainland social and political issues, as well as keep a distance from local entertainment, internet slang and hot debates. Further investigation is needed though. Readers are welcome to send their comments through the red line underneath.


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