China Cuts Caixin From Approved Media, Curbing Influence
(Bloomberg) -- China has expelled Caixin Media from an official list of news outlets that can be republished, a move that curtails the influence of one of the nation’s most liberal sources of information.
The Cyberspace Administration of China announced an approved list of some 1,300 domestic media outlets, social media accounts and government agencies, banning internet news providers from using anything else.
Outlets were deleted because they “no longer fit the conditions, have poor performance or lack influence,” said the internet watchdog, which updated the list from 2016 and included mobile apps and Weibo and WeChat social media accounts run by official media sources for the first time.
Caixin didn’t respond to requests for comment.
China maintains a white-knuckle grip on its media landscape, and blocks many foreign news organizations, including the New York Times, British Broadcasting Corp. and Bloomberg News from the nation’s internet. Print media in the world’s second-largest economy is dominated by state-run giants, such as the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece.
“This goes to show that news outlets, premium or otherwise, will have to stay onside with the government to continue enjoying privileges,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore. “No outlet is above the party.”
Caixin occupies an unusual space among prominent Chinese media outlets because it receives private funding, said a longtime follower of the nation’s media who is familiar with the company and who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter. The main danger it faces now is some advertisers may see the government’s latest move as a signal about the company’s standing and reduce their support, the person said.
Caixin is among the few news outlets in China that criticize government officials for perceived shortcomings. In 2016, it took the unprecedented step of reporting on how one of its own articles had been deleted by the Cyberspace Administration of China, exposing a practice that the government has sought to keep out of the public eye.
Hu Shuli, Caixin’s founder, told the New York Times in 2005 when she led a different news organization that she would push the line of what was possible in Chinese journalism but not cross it.
One of Hu’s editors at Caixin, Xu Xiao, was briefly detained by police in 2014 on suspicion of “endangering national security” as President Xi Jinping stepped up a crackdown on civil society that also saw human rights lawyers arrested and non-governmental organizations shut. Xu had been involved in setting up libraries in rural areas.
As Beijing tightens its hold on the country’s media, nationalistic voices have been growing louder. The Global Times has carved out a bigger role for itself, especially as Xi has pushed for his nation to assume a more prominent role on the international stage.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalistic tabloid, is known for penning bombastic editorials critical of the U.S. and its society. He recently called on Washington to disclose the location of U.S. troops in Taiwan, tweeting: “See whether the PLA will launch a targeted air strike to eliminate those US invaders!”
Earlier this month, China proposed barring private capital from news gathering and distribution, a move that would weaken its influence versus state media. Also off-limits would be private investments in the establishment and operation of news outlets, including agencies, newspaper publishers and broadcasters.
Bloomberg News had reported in March that Beijing wants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to sell some of its media assets, including the South China Morning Post. Alibaba and co-founder Jack Ma had quietly built up a broad portfolio of media assets over the years, spanning online outlets, newspapers, television-production companies, social-media and advertising assets.
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