Foreign Policy’s Christina Larson profiles state-owned yet controversy-courting tabloid Global Times and its editor, Hu Xijin. The newspaper revels in attacking corrupt officials at home as well as supposed meddlers abroad: in recent weeks, it has warned defiant neighbouring countries to “prepare for the sounds of cannons”, while also raising the subject of Chen Guangcheng for the first time in mainstream Chinese news media since 2004 (albeit largely to blame Western media and human rights organisations for backing his captives into a corner).
None of this attracted much notice in the West until 2009, when, in the midst of surging overseas interest in China following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hu founded Global Times’s English edition. Some of the news articles are translated directly from the Chinese edition, but most are distinct, with a focus on interpreting China’s domestic affairs. “Because many readers are foreigners, we have news about what happens in China,” Hu says. The English edition is somewhat tamer than the Chinese edition, but still more nationalistic than China Daily, the country’s other state-run national English language paper, founded in 1981 ….
How does fear-mongering about foreign policy mix with muckraking about outrageous official behavior? “I think Hu is opportunistic and trying to be sensational … in the vein of the New York Post,” says Richard Burger, a former PR professional based in China and former editor at Global Times’s English edition. According to Burger, shortly after the English edition launched, Hu announced in an editorial meeting that he was determined to publish an article at least referencing the June 4, 1989 massacre — a date on which, according to China’s official media, nothing happened. Global Times did manage to twice break that taboo, albeit in passing references in articles devoted to the development of Chinese intellectual thought. “He’s out to win attention for his newspaper,” says Burger, “he relishes controversy.”
See also Foreign Policy’s collection of The Top 10 Screeds in China’s Global Times.