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A news weekly that believes in China

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China Weekly launch issue, May 5, 2009

A nearly brand-new newsweekly was launched this month. The Time-esque red-bordered covers of China Weekly (中国周刊) appeared on newsstands in China's major cities on May 5.

The new magazine was actually founded in 2002 as Chinaweek, an English-language magazine sponsored by the Communist Youth League's China Profiles (中华儿女) press agency. A subsequent redesign resulted in the bilingual China Weekly, which was heavy on advertorial/promotional content.

The latest incarnation retains the same publication registration (CN11-4717/F) but has restarted numbering its issues from #1. Perhaps in a nod to its earlier identity, it does include an abbreviated English-language table of contents, but otherwise the magazine is entirely in Chinese. Zhu Defu, who previously served as deputy executive editor of Southern Metropolis Daily and executive editor of the Beijing Times, is editor of the magazine, and Zhu Xuedong, formerly the executive editor of Window of the South, serves as managing editor.

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China Weekly, April 2008
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Chinaweek, August 2004

A promotional campaign built around the slogan "Believe in China" (相信中国) preceded the launch and is present throughout this issue, particularly in the lead editorial, which states as a goal, "We want our countrymen to hear our voice, and we want the people of the world to respect what we are saying."

So although in general the first issue of China Weekly is not much different from China's other major newsweeklies, it is distinguished by the sheer number of different voices it features:

  • Among the seven columnists at the back of the magazine are some familiar names: historian Zhang Lifan writes about the concept of "informants" in different cultures, cultural critic Zhu Dake discusses the political awakening of the May 4 era, PKU law professor Zhang Qianfan writes about bringing the rule of law to detention centers, and director Jia Zhangke looks back on how Shanghai has changed over the past decades;
  • An "Observation" section in the middle of the magazine features four more op-eds from Alibaba's Jack Ma, National Defense University professor Zhang Zhaozhong, and CASS researchers Yu Weibin and Zhang Guoqing;
  • And a "People" section profiles another four individuals, including interviewee of the moment Ai Weiwei.

The ambitious goal is backed up by a deliciously pretentious mission statement that treats the "Believe in China" slogan to a complete explication drawing on 150 years of Chinese history. Here's a translation:

Believe in China

Another red May has arrived. The sun shines brightly, flowers are blooming, and Spring has broken out all across the land. And like so many times before, we are filled with hope for the future.

Through a stormy thirty years of the reform era, the century-long dream to grow into a strong country is finally becoming a reality. A strong, confident China is increasingly holding the world's attention as a vibrant new character basking in history's spotlight. Today, with a financial crisis gripping the globe and bringing anxiety and huge changes to the whole world, one voice comforts us: believe in China.

"The Chinese economy will maintain fast, steady growth, and this itself is a great contribution to the world as it faces a financial crisis": common sense for informed people all across the globe. Not long ago, President Hu Jintao's trip to the G20 Summit in London and Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Europe were hailed as "Confidence Trips."

In areas beyond simply economics, the world has begun to pay close attention to China's voice. China's peaceful development efforts have gradually come to be accepted by the traditional powers of the west, and China is now assuming its rightful place. No one doubts that the world is entering a new era.

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Believe in China

"Believe in China" means a farewell to self-abasement. From the Ming and Qing dynasties, China enforced a maritime ban and closed itself off, gradually weakening the breadth and boldness of a magnificent country, to the point of collapse. In modern times, high-minded individuals sought a means of rescuing the nation, but domestic strife and foreign pressures made the decline difficult to reverse. Lu Xun's call to remould the "national character" became the century's major issue, for a long illness cannot be driven out by a single day's work.

"Believe in China" means utterly rejecting self-importance. "Attitude changes with wealth" is another chronic condition of the national character. In today's globalized world, we must be on our guard against stirring up various forms of populism. The success of today's China is a result of unwavering perseverance in reform and opening up. Its spiritual pulse can be traced back more than one hundred years, to our the thinkers and sages of old who opened up their eyes to look at the world, a process of integration that involved ceaselessly learning from and pursuing the west and absorbing the shared achievements of humanity. This process is never-ending: it goes on today and will continue into the future.

"Believe in China," not just that China's national strength will continue to grow, but that the soft power of Chinese culture is ready to take off. "Made in China" is but a material foundation for China's rise; "created by China" is the cultural source from which China's progress will flow.

After thirty years of trials and hardships, China has been reborn like a phoenix and stands on the cusp of a new period of history. Starting today, as we continue to look at economic development, let us turn our energies toward promoting a revival of Chinese culture. We want our countrymen to hear our voice, and we want the people of the world to respect what we are saying.

This is our motivation in reforging China Weekly: we are reborn because of China's rise, and we put pen to paper for the revival of the nation.

Through devoted recording of China's glory and dream, China Weekly will strive to show off the depth China from a global perspective. In addition to our concern for the fate of our country, we are even more interested in the lives of individuals. We believe that a country's progress depends on the healthy growth of individuals. This progression is tightly bound to the lives of you and me.

Concern for systemic transformation and innovation is a central value for China Weekly. We believe that change and progress in every cell of the system forms the lifeline of the country and the happiness of each citizen. China Weekly cherishes each step forward made in Chinese society, large or small, glorious or shameful, up or down, successful or otherwise — when those taking the steps are the country or its people, we will actively support and encourage them.

Rooting out evil and promoting the good is the sworn duty of the mass media. Criticizing the fake, the bad, and the ugly is for the purpose of extolling the true, the beautiful, and the good. China Weekly is bound to this task and will carry it out to the full, exposing to the public the misdeeds of the lawless so that evil will have no place to hide from from the light of the sun.

The road ahead may be difficult, but so long as we have a cause in our hearts, we will not lose our bearings. General Secretary Hu Jintao pointed out: "Difficulties and challenges test us, responsibilities and missions inspire us." History tells us: the time is ripe for us to show off who we are.

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There are currently 8 Comments for A news weekly that believes in China.

Comments on A news weekly that believes in China

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I have to say I really hate all those "zhongguo" in those titles in China, from magazine/newspaper names to TV programs to cultural events to commercials. Hello, this is "zhongguo", why do you need to use the name so often. Can't people be a little more creative?

I don't believe in China, at least not in this china led by CCP(chinese corrupt part).

Good piece. I follow your writing on China media closely and find it very insightful, Joel.

In the future, please tell us where the magazine is based. That can be very telling. That it appeared "on newsstands in China's major cities" is not terribly important, and to foreigners who don't know the industry, might suggest the magazine is a "national" magazine like, say, "Time" in the US.

In fact, China has very few magazines with true national circulation. As a resident of Shenzhen, I can hardly read news weeklies that come out of Beijing; the politics is thick enough to cut with a knife. Beijing journalists (well, their editors at least) actually read and follow those directives from on high that instruct journalists to "report on abc" and "don't report on xyz." In Guangzhou, they obviously don't (thank god), partly because they have to compete with Hong Kong media which makes Beijing magazine copy read like nationalist drivel.

In my opinion, more independent views come out of the media in Guangzhou and Shanghai, to a lesser extent, and there are some neat magazines in out-of-the-way places like Hainan, Guizhou, etc. Magazines and web sites run/launched OUTSIDE Beijing are of more interest to me.


I usually mention the location of the magazine when it differs from where it's registered. In this case, the magazine's Chaoyang offices match its CN11 (Beijing) registration (I've added a link to an explanation of the codes).

I included "newsstands in China's major cities" because China Weekly is promoting itself as a national magazine in its launch campaign (it lists a whole slew of cities in its ads, and it's retailing in subways in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Nanjing). It's also national by virtue of the fact that it's put out by a national organization rather than a regional press agency. Plus, it's got China, a fairly exclusive term, right there in the title.

As to whether it's drivel, all I can say is that it'll be a welcome day when a national news weekly doesn't have to justify its existence by invoking the century of humiliation.

Here in Beijing, the Commerce Bureau has stopped approving company names with "中国" or “中华” in them, simply because they are too often abused, entity as small as an average restaurant would love to be called "Zhongguo something...".

中國周刊 sounds like a promising magazine. I just happened to have picked up a book while in Shenzhen- 大國模式- and I was reading the essay by Zhang Qianfan about Chinese scholars’ attempts to move towards a constitutional democracy over the past 100 years. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Zhang traces back liberal thought in China to one hundred years and beyond, to scholars who sought various theories and systems to limit unbridled imperial power, and other means of separation of powers. His essay certainly doesn’t qualify as an appeal to a nationalism based on humiliation and revenge, but rather on rationale thinking and objectiveness based in qualified confidence). So, my initial impression is that at least Zhang is “trustworthy”, and certainly the type of scholar one would want to have writing for a new magazine that hopes to attract readers by pitching itself as “credible”.

As for the magazine business, while living in the mainland, I was always a big fan of 鳳凰周刊, and while they certainly did run a fair share of articles that were seemed weak or too close to the Party line, they also ran quite a few articles that were as hard hitting as anything you’d see in the West (an investigative report about employment discrimination against Uyghurs in Urumqi comes to mind, as does an article about the grey area that NGO’s trying to help prostitutes in Kunming have to navigate in order to get their job done).

Anyway, I wonder to what extent magazines like 鳳凰 and newspapers like 南方周末 have pushed the bar forward. With the extent and ferocity of Internet debate making many traditional papers look outdated, and with six million new college students coming on line each year (many of which are readers of progressive media), I think there’s decent cause for hope.

I dunno, at least I prefer "May 4" over "harmonious society".

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