How Seriously Should You Take Global Times?

, a tabloid subsidiary of the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, has won a relatively high profile abroad with its deliberately provocative arguments and occasionally vivid English phrasing such as “rampant rascality.” At home, liberal critics label it the “Muddled Shit Times,” and pour scorn on its outspoken editor “Frisbee. Some celebrate its staff’s misfortunes, while others argue that it should be ignored and “quarantined.” CDT recently translated a flow chart by Weibo user MeiYouYangXiansheng (@没有羊先生) which satirically sums up the logic of a typical GT editorial.

On Saturday, the paper declared that “China must take revenge” on Australia for its “delirious” response to recent arbitration over the South China Sea. It added that the country “is not even a ‘paper tiger,’ it’s only a ‘paper cat’ at best,” and attacked an “inglorious history” including its emergence “through uncivilized means, in a process filled with the tears of the aboriginals.” In response, Peter Cai of the Sydney-based Lowy Interpreter asked the perennial question: “How seriously should we take China’s Global Times?

The Interpreter spoke to several senior Chinese editors and reporters about the influence of Global Times. One experienced reporter at a major state-owned media operations said Global Times is ‘a thermometer of public opinion’ for Chinese leaders on foreign policy issues; while it does not officially represent the government’s position. it provides a channel for Beijing to voice its displeasure and let off some nationalist steam. The reporter says one of the KPIs for Global Times is how many times it gets cited in foreign press, so editors often use colourful and outrageous language to attract foreign media’s attention.

[…] Another reporter from one of the three major state-owned media outlets says editorials from The People’s Daily and Xinhua more or less represent the Chinese government’s official position. In contrast, while Global Times is in line with more hawkish elements within the party, its boisterous editorials don’t necessarily represent Beijing’s official line.

It is understood that the Chinese Foreign Ministry representatives made a similar point to their Korean counterparts in Seoul after the Global Times launched a series of tirade against South Koreans.

[…] We should object to insulting editorials from the Global Times. But we should also be aware that any discussion of editorial positions which, in the end, lack real substance and are not the voice of government, also plays into the hands of the newspaper which prides itself on its ability to rile foreigners. [Source]

The wider latitude apparently granted to the newspaper has not spared it from criticism or censorship. In April, its coverage of foreign affairs was attacked as “very extreme and narrow-minded” by senior diplomat Wu Jianmin, since deceased. Managers were reportedly summoned by the Cyberspace Administration of China in May after “a serious violation of news discipline” involving a poll on whether to seize Taiwan by force, as well as commentaries on Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and the release of the last Tiananmen prisoner. In June, an editorial on the formerly detained Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee was the subject of a leaked censorship directive, perhaps because its refutation of his claims drew too much attention to them. Its occasional habit of highlighting sensitive information by rushing to attack its sources also arose last summer when it blasted an open letter on the June 4th crackdown by Chinese students overseas as a Western effort to undermine China. (Such arguments have not fallen out of favor, however.)

Read more on Global Times’ role in Beijing’s broader media strategy, and an argument that its reputation for hardline nationalism is not entirely deserved, via CDT.