Monday, July 25

Epoch Times vs Xinhua News Agency

On Thursday last week in the early hours I was tired and rushing to get a post up; I had one eye on the clock, knowing I would only have a few hours sleep that day. Within minutes of the post's publication, which I'd titled Strange Days in China: return to the Mao Zedong era..., I received a comment from a reader whose opinion I'd solicited:

"...beware of using Epoch Times [as a source]. It's owned by the Falun Gong and virulently anti-Communist, to the point they can bend the truth to their cause."

I already knew the paper was strongly anti-communist and I had a vague recollection of hearing before of an association between the newspaper and Falun Gong, so I hastily added a footnote to post:

"The Epoch Times is owned by the Falun Gong, which with some understatement is not very fond of the CCP."

Then I republished the post, switched off the computer and fell into bed. Just before sleep overtook me I remembered I'd broken my cardinal rule: Always check Wikipedia first. I told myself I'd do that later in the day. But "later" was a round of meetings and the news of the second attack in London....

Wikipedia itself is controversial; some consider it anarchist and decry the lack of footnotes in many articles. But the encyclopedia, which has overtaken Encylopedia Brittanica as a reference source, carries information about many more subjects than traditional encyclopedias -- information that can be constantly updated. And because it's interactive, it relies on interested scholars and citizen journalists to correct or flag articles that are cause for dispute. Thus, Wikipedia is the force of democracy meeting with a field that was always the province of academia.

If you know nothing about a topic and don't know where to start looking for a summary Wikipedia is the first place to try. At least you'll be oriented for research at traditional search engines with a basic Wiki article as your guide.

According to Wikipedia, the Chinese Communist Party has accused The Epoch Times of being owned by the Falun Gong. That is not saying the paper is owned by the Falun Gong.

As to whether The Epoch Times reporting can "bend the truth to their cause" -- that's a very interesting question, which the Wiki article deals with at some length.

So, in penance for my hasty footnote (which I am deleting today), I have decided to publish the entire Wikipedia article about The Epoch Times. And for good measure I have tossed in the Wikipedia introduction about The Epoch Times' archenemy -- the huge, CCP-controlled Xinhua News Agency, which is the Chinese government's official press agency.

(You'll have to visit the Wikipedia pages in question to follow the many links provided in the articles, which I have not highlighted here.)

I note that one of the most fascinating points in a fascinating article is that The Epoch Times editorial board, which represents a conservative Chinese view, interprets communism as an evil force from the West and specifically from Europe.

Another point of note: The Epoch Times claims there have been 3 million Internet-published defections from the CCP in direct response to Chinese reading the "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" published by their paper. And the paper has reported "severe unrest" in China from Chinese learning what the commentaries have to say about the CCP.

The latter comment is particularly interesting in light of the severe recent unrest in China that the government has not been able to tamp down. The unrest has been portrayed to the Western media as anger against businesses (often, Western businesses) that are polluting, forcing Chinese off their land, and so on. That is surely the case with regard to specific news items that have surfaced in recent weeks. However, The Epoch Times claim may point to a contributing factor in at least some of the riots.

In any case, it's no wonder the CCP is gunning for The Epoch Times and cracking down on the Internet! That's one scrappy newspaper.


"The Epoch Times is a conservative Chinese newspaper, which is freely distributed in eight languages and in roughly 30 countries worldwide. Its frequency of publishing depends on the city and the language in which it is published.

1 History
2 Focus
3 Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party
4 Criticism
5 External links

The Epoch Times was founded by a small circle of journalists in China in 2000. The journalists relayed stories overseas of human rights abuses, infringements on civil liberties, and alleged corruption in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), among other things.

In the summer of 2000, it was discovered that all twenty journalists had been arrested and detained, their offices raided. Some have allegedly died in prison (the Epoch Times says that 90 of their Chinese journalists remain in prison today).

However, the Chinese authorities claim that The Epoch Times was founded and controlled by Falun Gong, which China banned and labelled an "evil cult" in 1999, and accuses it of political propaganda to overseas Chinese in order to gain their support of Falun Gong and create distrust of the Chinese Government.

Despite crackdowns by authorities inside China, the Epoch Times continued to grow overseas and has since become one of the largest Chinese newspapers serving the Chinese diaspora. It also claims to be the only major Chinese newspaper that is not directly or indirectly controlled by China's communist party, and was the first newspaper to carry in-depth coverage of SARS well before the Chinese government publicly admitted that there was an epidemic that went on to cause some three hundred and fifty deaths.

It now has a weekly print distribution of over 1 million copies in 30 countries worldwide.

In August 2004, an English-language edition of the Epoch Times was launched in Manhattan. It has since grown to be distributed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Regina and Ottawa, as well as in the UK and Australia. German and French editions were launched in late 2004, and more recently Russian, Spanish and Japanese editions have started up in print.[edit]

The Epoch Times was originally created for Chinese readers living abroad in order to report the alleged persecutions, abuses, and inner workings of the CCP. It has since grown to report on civil rights issues worldwide in a conservative view, and now appeals to a somewhat wider audience.

The English edition represents itself as a general-interest newspaper that, although it maintains a large amount of China-related content, offers 12 other sections, including travel, science, sports, and regional and international news.

Its reports on China are highly critical, focusing on human rights abuses and sometimes using language such as 'Evil Spirit from the West' or 'Anti-universal Force' in reference to Communism. Reports on other nations such as Taiwan or other democratic countries are generally more positive.

Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party
In November 2004, the Chinese version of the Epoch Times published a series of editorials entitled "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" ("Jiuping" in Chinese).

The editorials give an alternate, if conservative, view of the CCP through its history, from its ascent to power under Mao Zedong to its present-day form, as well as a condemnation of the moral and social philosophy of Communism in all of its forms.

Portions of the history given by the Commentaries are difficult to support using traditionally respected texts of 20th century Chinese history, a difficulty supporters often attribute to the CCP's need for control and tendency to try to cover up its more embarrassing actions.

This, they say, results in a wealth of information that is often hard to come by and difficult to report on. The prevailing tone of the editorials is solidly anti-communist with no consideration given to other viewpoints. This attitude is intended for the audience of Chinese readers who already know the other side of the story and do not need to be reminded.

Readers of the English version often find the Commentaries to be rather one-sided, and its language, over-blown and unbelievable, making the Commentaries difficult to take seriously and leading to much of the current criticism against it.

Much of this is the result of a more literal translation from the original Chinese text [emphasis mine].

The editorial uses many strong words to condemn the CCP, calling it 'an anti-universal force' and 'an evil spirit from Europe', and that the CCP is 'an evil cult' itself, comparable to the very image in which the CCP try to portray Falun Gong.

The tone is said to be geared towards the communication style to which mainland Chinese readers would be accustomed, and it was said that such readers have usually been exposed to years of government propaganda, rarely gaining access to alternative information about their government, although that is not corrobated by actual readers from mainland China, as the Epoch Times is not widely circulated in China itself.

While praised by some Chinese dissidents as 'the book that is breaking up the CCP', its contents are somewhat controversial and disputed, and has been accused of historical revisionism by other Chinese.

The Epoch Times has made the "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" a primary focus of the newspaper; almost every issue contains an article relating to the "Commentaries" or its reception in China.

The Epoch Times claims that the publication of the "Commentaries," in presenting what they believe to be a truthful exposé of the Chinese Communist Party, has caused over 3 million Chinese citizens to quit from the CCP via anonymous, unchecked online signatures and public declarations (for people inside Mainland China unable to access the online website due to censorship. See: Internet censorship in mainland China), and reports of severe unrest in China as a direct result of the publication of the "Commentaries".

An article in the French version of the Epoch Times of a talk given by Michel Wu notes that an original Nine Commentaries was printed in 1963-64 during a theoretical review of government policies, although the effects were apparently not as profound as those many supporters say today's commentaries are having.

While many of the articles in the Epoch Times are corroborated by the mainstream media, few major news outlets have verified Epoch Times articles concerning the "Commentaries."

In the Chinese community, where The Epoch Times is widely distributed, reactions were mixed. While some Chinese commend it for providing alternative views of the China and the Communist government, others condemn it for its conservative pro-Falun Gong bias, and casting Chinese people, even overseas ones, in a negative light.

One of the biggest criticisms of The Epoch Times is that the paper always try to cast news stories from mainland China in a negative light, even the most positive ones, by using selective evidence and opinionated commentaries.

It should be noted that although a concentration of these articles may be published in the Epoch Times, many of these negative reports can also be found in neutral overseas Chinese newspapers.

In defence to this criticism, The Epoch Times claimed that pro-China articles need not to be reported, as they are not subject to censorship by China's state-owned media.

Other criticisms include that the paper's news reports are always mixed with conservative opinions, of which the paper deemed necessary to provide alternative views. [Pundita wonders what exactly is meant by 'conservative' in this context]

The Epoch Times is very vocal in supporting dissidents, Falun Gong practioners and pro-independence Taiwanese, and their opinions can often be seen in the opinion page.

The paper rarely publishes letters and opinions that do not suit its cause, such as pro-communist and anti-Falun Gong comments, which the paper deems unnecessary. The Times argues that most, if not all government-censored Chinese news sources already contain opinions in agreement with Chinese governmental policies.

External links
The Epoch Times Website (English)
The Epoch Times Website (Chinese)
The Epoch Times Website (French)
Text of "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party"

"The Xinhua News Agency [...] or NCNA (New China News Agency), is the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China and the biggest center for collecting information and press conferences in the PRC.

It is one of the two news agencies in mainland China, the other being the China News Service, and is among the premier world news agencies.Xinhua is an institution of the State Council of China.

Critics of Xinhua therefore consider it to be an instrument of state-sponsored Communist propaganda.

In many ways, Xinhua is the fuel propelling China's print media. Perhaps unique in the world because of its role, size, and reach, Xinhua reports directly to the Chinese Communist Party's Propaganda Department; 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.

Inasmuch 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 Chinese, English, and four other languages.

Like other government entities, Xinhua is feeling the pinch of reduced state financial subsidies. 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, midlevel 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.

1 History
2 Xinhua and the internal media
3 Xinhua in Hong Kong
3.1 Previous directors of Hong Kong Xinhua
4 Xinhua in Macau
5 Xinhua online
6 See also
7 External links

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