Turn on to China— Beijing


As part of a soft-power drive, the Chinese media is learning to talk a new language. Monocle visits the studio of CNC World, a recently launched 24-hour English-language news channel owned by the state-run agency Xinhua.

Chinese, English, Television

In China, the number eight is considered so auspicious the government chose the date 8 August 2008 to commence what was to be the country’s biggest moment on the global stage – the Olympic Games. What preceded that day, however, was anything but lucky for the Chinese. Riots in Tibet that spring led to anti-China protests as the Olympic torch wound its way through San Francisco, Paris and London. The torch protests dominated the international media for days, much to the anger and embarrassment of China.

Following this PR disaster, China made boos…

  1. World News:
    Smart and serious, this international news programme is helped by its British and American editors and correspondents.

  2. Click on Today:
    A daily package of human-interest stories from around China tries for quirky but feels jumbled and PR-driven.

  3. Lifestyles:
    The lightweight mix of gossip and cultural stories scores points for reporting on Natalie Portman’s “blossoming baby bump”.

  4. Global Visitor:
    This travel programme lives up to the promise of “distinctive heritages” in the intro but suffers from low energy and amateur reporters.

  5. Green Voices:
    Co-produced by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, this weekly environment chat show avoids criticism of China – and has dull guests.

Africa connection

As America’s conservative Fox network has proven, there is a growing market around the world for television news with a spin. CNC might find that its biggest potential for viewers is in Africa, where China has been dogged in its pursuit of natural resources and western media outlets do not yet have a firm presence. African businesses have been sprouting up in China so there’s growing demand for news about the country.

With trade between China and Africa at $100bn (€75bn) a year – up from $10bn (€7.4bn) in 2000 – Xinhua has made the continent a cornerstone of its expansion. It has over 20 bureaux in sub-Saharan Africa – more than Reuters. CNC also plans to open regional TV stations in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania by 2012. Xinhua’s Nairobi bureau has a Chinese television crew to shoot footage for CNC while the ­­other bureaux hire local cameramen.

While many reports focus on Chinese companies in Africa, Xinhua is also trying to improve its breaking news. There’s been a push for education, health and cultural stories too, to give the audience “a more realistic understanding of Africa,” says Wang Lu, chief video editor for CNC in Nairobi.

Wang sees a market for CNC World in Africa, too. “CNC has just landed on the African continent and our audience is not large, but I believe that Africans will not refuse one more channel to receive world news – and especially more of China.”


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