Xinhua News Agency (English pronunciation: /ˌʃɪnˈhwɑː/) or New China News Agency is the official press agency of the People's Republic of China. Xinhua is the biggest and most influential media organization in China, as well as the largest news agency in the world in terms of correspondents worldwide. Xinhua is a ministry-level institution subordinate to the Chinese central government. Its president is a member of the Central Committee of China's Communist Party.
Xinhua operates more than 170 foreign bureaus worldwide, and maintains 31 bureaus in China—one for each province, autonomous region and directly-administered municipality plus a military bureau. Xinhua is the sole channel for the distribution of important news related to the Communist Party and Chinese central government.
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. Xinhua's online edition Xinhuanet provides news in six different languages.
|Type||Broadcast radio, television and online|
|Mainland China, Satellite, Internet|
|Owner||People's Republic of China (state-owned institution)|
|Red China News Agency (1931–1937)|
|Affiliation||State Council of the People's Republic of China|
|Xinhua News Agency (in English)|
|Xinhua News Agency|
|Literal meaning||New China News Agency|
|Literal meaning||New China Agency|
Xinhua was founded in November 1931 as the Red China News Agency and changed to its current name 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. Following the conclusion 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 Hong Kong.
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 approximately 25 percent 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 to release in China. The agency recently began to converge its news and electronic media coverage and has increased its English coverage through its wire service. Xinhua recently acquired commercial real estate on New York's Times Square and is developing a staff of top-tier English-language reporters. Xinhua has also 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 having to omit unwelcome details 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.
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 occasionally to the top dozen or so party and government officials.
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. Now it distributes its news in Asia, Middle East, Latin America, Africa through more than 150 affiliates, with regional headquarters in Hong Kong, Moscow, Cairo, Brussels, New York City, Mexico City and Nairobi.
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.
Despite its unofficial status, the directors of the Xinhua Hong Kong Branch included high-ranking former diplomats such as Zhou Nan, former Ambassador to the United Nations and Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, who later negotiated the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong. His predecessor, Xu Jiatun, was also vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee, before fleeing to the United States in response to the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests, where he went into exile.
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 January 18, 2000, retaining branch chief Jiang Enzhu as inaugural director. The State Council appointed Gao Siren (高祀仁) as the director in August 2002. After the Liaison Office was established, Xinhua Agency was reconstituted as a bona fide press office.
Western critics have routinely attacked Xinhua for being partisan to the Communist Party of China, as well as the agency's refusal to adopt the Western liberal model of journalistic objectivity. Reporters Sans Frontieres dubbed Xinhua as "The World's Biggest Propaganda Machine" in 2005, pointing out that Xinhua's head at the time, Tian Congming held the rank of a minister in the government. The report further asserted that the news agency was “at the heart of censorship and disinformation put in place” by the Communist party. Xinhua remains the major source for smaller news publications, illiciting a conflict of Interest between the Communist Party and the news agency.
In an interview with Indian media in 2007, the head of Xinhua, Tian Congmin, 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, and mentioned that its "coverage of the United States is hardly fair and balanced". Even so, "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 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 and the Chinese way of life "to convey the message that China is a friend, not an enemy".
Xinhua for its own part has criticized the perception of Western media objectivity, citing an incident during the 2008 Tibetan unrest when Western media outlets used a picture of Nepalese police beating Tibetan protesters, misleadingly labeling the pictures as of Chinese police, with commentary from CNN calling Chinese leaders "goons and thugs". CNN later apologized for the comments, but Richard Spencer of The Sunday Telegraph defended what he conceded was "biased" Western media coverage of the riots, blaming China for not allowing foreign media access to Tibet during the conflict.
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 June 4, 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 bureaus in Hong Kong and Macau were replaced with appointees who were "loyal to China" rather than those with ties to either Hong Kong or Macau.
During the 2017 China–India border standoff, Xinhua's new media program "The Spark" released a satirical video named the "Seven Sins of India" on 16 August 2017, which portrayed a stereotypical Indian with a turban and beard and a typical Indian accent. The segment spoke of Indians having "thick skin" and "pretending to sleep" on the matter of the border dispute. The video went on to claim India was physically threatening Bhutan, and compared India to a "robber who breaks into a house and does not leave". The content of the video were factually incorrect. The video has received strong backlash on Twitter as well as from Indian and Western media.