Xinhua News Agency: Wikis


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Xinhua News Agency
Xinhua News Agency.JPG
Front gate of Xinhua News Agency's main building in Beijing
Traditional Chinese 新華通訊社
(abbrev. 新華社)
Simplified Chinese 新华通讯社
(abbrev. 新华社)
Literal meaning new China news agency

The Xinhua News Agency (simplified Chinese: 新华通讯社traditional Chinese: 新華通訊社pinyin: Xīnhuá tōngxùnshè) is the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the biggest center for collecting information and press conferences in the PRC. It is one of the two news agencies in the PRC, the other being the China News Service. Xinhua is an institution of the State Council of China. Xinhua reports directly to the Communist Party of China's Publicity Department and Public Information Department.

Xinhua employs more than 10,000 people — as compared to about 1,300 for Reuters; has 107 bureaus worldwide both collecting information on other countries and dispensing information about China; and maintains 31 bureaus in China — one for each province plus a military bureau. As most of the newspapers in China cannot afford to station correspondents abroad, or even in every Chinese province, they rely on Xinhua feeds to fill their pages. People's Daily, for example, uses Xinhua material for approximately 25 percent of its stories. Xinhua is a publisher as well as a news agency — it owns more than 20 newspapers and a dozen magazines, and it prints in eight languages: Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, Arabic and Japanese.

Beijing has been cutting funding to the news agency by an average of seven percent per year over the past three years, and state funds currently cover only about 40 percent of Xinhua's costs. As a result, the agency is raising revenues through involvement in public relations, construction, and information service businesses.

In the past, Xinhua was able to attract the top young journalists emerging from the universities or otherwise newly entering the field, but it can no longer do so as easily because of the appeal and resources of other newspapers and periodicals and the greater glamour of television and radio jobs. For example, mid-level reporters for the Xinmin Evening News in Shanghai often are given an apartment, whereas at Xinhua and People's Daily this benefit is reserved for the most senior journalists.



The Xinhua press agency was started in November 1931 as the Red China News Agency and changed to its current name in 1937.[1] During the Pacific War the agency developed overseas broadcasting capabilities and established its first overseas branches.[1] It began broadcasting to foreign countries in English from 1944. When the communists took power in China, the agency represented the Chinese Communist Party in countries and territories with which it had no diplomatic representation, such as Hong Kong.[1]

The Xinhua headquarters is located in Beijing. The Xinhua News Agency established its first overseas affiliate in 1947 in London, with Samuel Chinque as publisher.[2] Now it distributes its news in Asia, Middle East, Latin America, Africa where run the superior offices; in Hong Kong, Macau and many foreign countries and districts. There are more than one hundred Xinhua affiliates.

Today, Xinhua News Agency delivers its news across the world in six languages: Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic, 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.[3]

The agency has been described as the "eyes and tongue" of the Party, observing what is important for the masses and passing on the information.[4] 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.[5]

Unlike the People's Daily, which is an organization of the Communist Party of China rather than of the PRC government, Xinhua rarely offers editorials, but rather passes through speeches by government officials. Its position set as a platform of receiving and distributing the information all over the world and thus it covers the world news, live news and exclusive reports.[6]

Like many other media organizations, Xinhua struggled to find the "right line" to use in covering the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. 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, the then ongoing demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere, and basic questions of press freedom and individual rights — Xinhua gave some favorable coverage to demonstrators and intellectuals who were questioning top party leaders. Even so, many Xinhua reporters were angry with top editors for not going far enough and for suppressing stories about the Tiananmen Square crackdown. For several days after the violence on 4 June, almost no-one at Xinhua did any work, and journalists demonstrated inside the Agency's Beijing compound. Government control of the media increased after the protests — top editors at the agency's bureaux in Hong Kong and Macau were replaced with appointees who were "loyal to the mainland" rather than those with ties to either Hong Kong or Macau.[7]

In 2001, Hong Kong-listed media company Sing Tao News Corporation Limited invested in joint ventures with Xinhua News Agency to set up a market information Web site and offer audio and visual services planning and consulting.

Xinhua and the internal media

The Chinese media's internal publication system, in which certain journals are published exclusively for government and party officials, provides information and analysis 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 and many other Chinese media organizations produce reports for the "internal" journals. Informed observers note that journalists generally like to write for the internal publications — typically, only the most senior or most capable print and broadcast reporters are given such opportunities — because they can write less polemical and more comprehensive stories without having to omit unwelcome details as is commonly done in the print 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 a certain country's perception of China.[8]

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 senior 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. The most highly classified Xinhua internal reports, known as "redhead reference" (Hong Tou Cankao) reports, are issued occasionally to the top dozen or so party and government officials.

There are signs that the internal publication system is breaking down as more information becomes widely available in China. A Hong Kong-based political journal circulated on the Chinese mainland has questioned the need for such a system in light of China's modern telecommunications and expanding contacts with the outside world. Internal publications are becoming less exclusive; some are now being sold illegally on the street and are increasingly available to anyone with money.

On some occasions, senior correspondents carry out semi-official duties and lobby on behalf of the Chinese government and its interests.[8]

Regional sectors

Xinhua in Hong Kong

Xinhua's branch in Hong Kong was not just a press office. It was named a news agency under the special historic conditions before the territory's sovereignty was transferred from Britain to the PRC, because the PRC did not recognise British sovereignty over the colony, and an embassy cannot be set up within what it considered its soil. Until 1997, it served as the de facto diplomatic mission of the PRC in the territory. It was authorized by the special administrative region government to continue to represent the central government after 1997, and it was renamed The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR on 18 January 2000. The State Council appointed Gao Siren (高祀仁) as the director in August 2002. After renaming as liaison office, a Xinhua Agency which is a true press office was set up.

As suggested by the name change, Xinhua's present role is mainly about liaison with the broad spectrum of groups and associations in Hong Kong, or what is known as "united front" work in the terminology of the Communist Party of China.

According to some press reports in Hong Kong, the Liaison Office was under pressure from Beijing after the 1 July mass protest in 2003. Beijing officials reportedly criticised the Liaison Office for its inaccurate assessment of the public sentiment in Hong Kong during that period.

The former Hong Kong headquarters of Xinhua in Wan Chai was vacated in 2001, when the office relocated to Sai Wan, and sold in September 2002. The 23-storey building will be converted back into a four-star hotel with 480 rooms. Located at 387 Queen's Road East, the 1970s building had been Xinhua's home for more than 20 years.

Previous directors of Hong Kong Xinhua

Xu Jiatun (許家屯) headed the Hong Kong branch of Xinhua until 1990, when he fled to the United States amid accusations that he sympathized with Beijing students during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Xu angered Beijing when he comforted Hong Kong students who staged a hunger strike outside the Xinhua office in support of the pro-democracy movement in Beijing in 1989. Years after, he joined to appeal for a reversal of the official verdict that the demonstrations were a "counter-revolutionary rebellion".

Zhou Nan (周南) succeeded exiled Xu Jiatun as the director of Xinhua in Hong Kong after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Crackdown. Zhou henceforth played a key role in the 13-year Sino-British argument on the handover in 1997.

During the hostile years, Zhou named Hong Kong's last governor Chris Patten as a 'sinner of a thousand years'. He said Patten had committed 'three violations', referring to Patten's political reforms, branded by Beijing as a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Hong Kong Basic Law, and understandings between the two sovereign nations.

Zhang Junsheng (張浚生), former Xinhua vice-director, was brought into the agency by its former Hong Kong director, Xu Jiatun, in 1985. He was one of the few pre-1989 staff to survive the post-Tiananmen purge. For 13 years, he was one of the few Xinhua officers who enjoy publicity by building up contacts in the film and arts world as the agency's cultural attaché.

His most famous manoeuvre was to repeat criticism of the Bill of Rights made in confidence by then-chief justice Sir Ti Liang Yang. Zhang also openly called Hong Kong's last governor Chris Patten a liar. He accused Patten of trying to create chaos in the civil service by undermining its neutrality.

Xinhua in Macau

A Xinhua News Agency branch was set up in Macau in the late 80s. The News Department of the Xinhua news Agency Macau Branch, a working organ sent by the central people's government of the PRC, is responsible for gathering news. The latter was renamed the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Macau SAR in 2000.[9]

Xinhua in Cairo

Xinhua opened its Middle East Regional Bureau in Cairo, Egypt in 1985. Later, on Novermber 26, 2005, Xinhua News Agency opened a new office building alongside the Nile River in Cairo's Maadi district.[10]

Xinhua online

The Xinhua News Agency runs the prominent news website, which provides news in six different languages. The domain attracted 430,000 unique visitors between February 2008 and February 2009 according to a survey.[11]. According to McAfee SiteAdvisor, the website may distribute adware including the Alexa toolbar.[12]



In an interview with Indian media in 2007, the head of Xinhua, Tian Congmin, acknowledged that the agency had a credibility problem, and that greater confidence and trust was needed.[13] Foreign media organisations note that, due to heavy government censorship, Xinhua will always "toe the party line".[14] During the 2003 SARS outbreak and Beijing Television Cultural Center fire, Xinhua was slow to report the incident and was beaten by Chinese citizen journalism. However reporting documenting the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake was seen in a positive light as more transparent and credible as Xinhua journalists operated relatively freely.[15][16]

China has since announced it will invest 20 billion yuan in a media network to boost the credibility of Xinhua and other Chinese media through "soft power".[17] Huang Youyi, vice president of China International Publishing Group said the investment was "natural" as it was the "struggle between the East and West for the right to be heard". According to Yan Lieshan, a Chinese columnist for Southern Weekend newspaper, argues that a "great external propaganda" drive will not work if there are perceptions of Xinhua and other organisations not being able to report freely.[18]


According to Reporters Without Borders, Xinhua's journalists are hand-picked and indoctrinated to produce media reports that give the official point of view of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2006, Xinhua issued directives limiting foreign news agencies from directly selling news to other Chinese media outlets.[19] The non-governmental organization accuses the Xinhua of being "the world's biggest propaganda agency", and claims that it distorts its international reports to express disdain toward China's opponents nations while supporting other nations accused of human rights violations.[20]

In an editorial, Xinhua responded by citing a "credibility crisis" in the foreign media in its coverage of China, referring to misleading captions and making "groundless accusations against the Chinese government".[21] Frontline, an Indian magazine, alleges that Reporters Without Borders has "strong links" with Western intelligence agencies.[22]

False news report

A false news article appeared on Xinhua News Agency's website on 25 September 2008, reporting the Shenzhou 7 mission events dated 27 September 2008; the article was reported in several mainstream news sources.[23][24] The report described[25] in detail the launch, which had not yet occurred, as well as the process of tracking and data transfer by a tracking ship, and dialogue between the crew members in space. The report was taken down the same day, and when contacted by the Associated Press, a staffer who refused to give his name allegedly stated that it had been a "technical error by a technician."[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Pares, Susan. (2005). A political and economic dictionary of East Asia. Routledge. ISBN 978-1857432589
  2. ^ Samuel Chinque obituary, The Guardian, December 17, 2004
  3. ^ Glasser, Chris & Winkler, Matthew. (2009). International Libel and Privacy Handbook: A Global Reference for Journalists, Publishers, Webmasters, and Lawyers. Bloomberg Press. ISBN 978-1576603246
  4. ^ Malek, Abbas & Kavoori, Ananadam. (1999). The global dynamics of news: studies in international news coverage and news agenda. p. 346. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1567504620
  5. ^ Markham, James. (1967) Voices of the Red Giants. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press.
  6. ^ About us, Xinhuanet
  7. ^ Li, Jinquan & Lee, Chin-Chuan. (2000). Power, Money, and Media: Communication Patterns and Bureaucratic Control in Cultural China. p. 298. Northwestern University Press. ISBN 978-0810117877
  8. ^ a b Lampton, David (2001). The Making of Chinese Foreign and Security Policy in the Era of Reform, 1978-2000: 1978 - 2000. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804740562
  9. ^ Jiang Enzhu Briefs Media on Renaming of Xinhua Branches in HK, Macao, People's Daily Online, January 18, 2000
  10. ^
  11. ^ SnapShot of,
  12. ^ [1],
  13. ^ Q&A: 'Our credibility is doubted to a certain degree', Times of India, September 28, 2007.
  14. ^ Bloomberg, Reuters--and Xinhua?, BusinessWeek, February 17, 2003
  15. ^ Quake coverage 'testing China's media credibility', Radio Australia, May 16, 2008
  16. ^ Quake Moves Xinhua Past Propaganda, Newser, May 13, 2008
  17. ^ China to spend billions to boost media credibility, Radio86, March 10, 2009
  18. ^ Yan Lieshan (鄢烈山): When in Rome… – A Few Thoughts on “External Propaganda”, China Digital Times, March 26, 2009
  19. ^ "China reins in reach of foreign news", Christian Science Monitor, 13 September 2006
  20. ^ "Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency", Reporters Without Borders, 30 September 2005
  21. ^ Commentary: Biased Media Reports Reveal Credibility Crisis, Xinhua, March 26, 2008
  22. ^ Trouble in Tibet Frontline Volume 25 - Issue 7 Mar. 29-Apr. 11, 2008
  23. ^ "China fakes reports from space". 2008-09-26. Retrieved 2008-09-26.  
  24. ^ a b Associated Press (2008-09-25). "China space mission article hits Web before launch". Retrieved 2008-09-26.  
  25. ^ "Xinhua Caught Publishing Fake Chinese Spacecraft Article". 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2008-09-29.  

External links

Coordinates: 39°53′55.55″N 116°21′54.83″E / 39.8987639°N 116.3652306°E / 39.8987639; 116.3652306

Simple English

Xinhua News Agency is the official press agency of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It was first named Red China News Agency in 1931 but changed its name to the current one in 1937. It is a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party.[1][2]


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