Mail Online teams up with Chinese newspaper the People’s Daily – The Guardian

Mail Online has quietly gone into partnership with the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist party’s flagship newspaper, swapping up to 40 stories a week over the past year with an outlet expected to demonstrate “absolute loyalty” to Beijing.

A paper with a sevendecade history as China’s official mouthpiece might seem an unlikely partner for a conservative-leaning British tabloid, but as well as serving as messenger for edicts from Communist party technocrats in its stolid Chinese-language edition, the People’s Daily presides over a growing empire of publishing outlets.

They include an English-language edition that mixes politics with travel and lifestyle pieces, and English and Chinese editions of the aggressively nationalist tabloid Global Times.

The Mail Online editor, Martin Clarke, said no cash was involved in the deal, which allows the two news organisations to plunder each others’ archives for more than three dozen stories a week. “It’s basically a copy swap,” he said.

“We believe this relationship broadens our coverage [in China] and also helps us better understand the country’s social and political structures,” he said in an email to the Guardian, adding that it does not compromise the paper’s independence or restrict the use other sources and stories for China coverage.

“In the context of the British [and every other western] government’s official policy to foster closer cultural and trade ties with China this modest arrangement does not seem remotely odd, merely sensible.”

People’s Daily stories are selected and translated by a Mandarin-speaking staff member, Clarke said, and their origin is marked with the tag “This story was produced in partnership with The People’s Daily – people.cn”.

Despite Clarke’s nod to political coverage, the Mail seems more interested in picking up bizarre stories that might help drive traffic to its site.

Mail Online’s editor, Martin Clarke


Mail Online’s editor, Martin Clarke. Photograph: Francois G Durand/Getty Images

Recent examples include the story of a man who was accidentally wheeled off for a haemorrhoid operation while waiting for delivery of his baby, and one about thousands of tourists crammed into queues for a national park.

Clarke did not directly respond to questions about media freedom concerns in China, a country where journalists work under heavy state pressure.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, toured major state-run media this year, including the People’s Daily, and demanded absolute loyalty to the ruling Communist party.

“All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority and safeguard the party’s unity,” Xi said at a later meeting.

There are other collaborations between British and Chinese media, but they have taken the form of paid-for content.

The Telegraph has a lucrative sponsorship deal for the China Watch supplement, which carries articles from the government’s official English-language newspaper China Daily. It is also circulated with the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in the US and several other newspapers around the world.

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