China’s first English-language newspaper, the state-owned China Daily, celebrates 30 years of publication this week with a series of functions to mark the milestone and acknowledge the paper’s growth from an 8-page black and white broadsheet to a global multimedia news group.
On Tuesday, May 31, there was an official function at Tiananmen Square’s Great Hall of the People, attended by more than 800 people, including Communist Party leaders, where congratulatory letters from several dignitaries, local and foreign, were read out.
In his letter, read at the event, Li Changchun, a representative of the Communist Party, acknowledged the vital part the news group has played in the opening up of China.
“The China Daily…has become the window for China to know the world and for the world to understand China,” he wrote in his letter, read at the event.
From further afield, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard sent her best wishes: “It is my pleasure to congratulate China Daily on its achievements over the three decades as China’s official English-language newspaper – a significant milestone.
It was a comparatively relaxed affair the following evening when a gala concert was held for Beijing-based staff and their families at a university auditorium close to the organisation’s head office in the city’s Chaoyang district.
In addition, the China Daily’s head office opened its doors to the public, and many ex-staff especially took the opportunity to peruse the information panels displaying a selection from three-decades worth of photos, front-pages and other achievements.
Published on the actual birthday, Wednesday, June 1, a commemorative edition of the paper selected 30 facets of changing China over the past three decades, including foreign trade, housing, the one-child family planning policy, and the Olympics, and examined how they were covered by the paper.
In his front-page editorial in this special edition of the paper, China Daily’s editor-in-chief Zhu Ling summarised the newspaper’s 30-year journey and said it is easy to forget how groundbreaking the paper’s conception was.
“It’s not often that the birth of a newspaper makes news around the world. But China Daily did,” said Zhu, who started his journalism career as a rookie reporter at the China Daily soon after its launch.
He said that at the time a steadily growing stream of tourists, businessmen, consultants and foreign experts were arriving in China and they were finding themselves isolated from the outside world and ignorant of much of what was happening inside the country as well.
“In today’s plugged-in world, it might be difficult to comprehend that news in English was then at such a premium.”
The editor-in-chief added that the China Daily “made China much more accessible to the rest of the world – facts and foibles, warts and all”.
Aside from reminiscing past accomplishments, the milestone birthday celebrations have provided opportunity for future focus on the challenges of delivering news in an ever-progressing digital world.
New media platforms
Alongside its 12 print publications, which include US and Europe editions, the China Daily has a number of new media news platforms including a cluster of websites with daily page views exceeding 31 million, iPad and iPhone applications, and a mobile news provider that sends bilingual news snippets to the mobile phones of more than 600,000 subscribers.
Zhu stressed that the China Daily must continue to build on these innovative news platforms in order to remain relevant to readers.
This push for modernism was echoed by others throughout the 30th birthday celebration events.
The head of the Communist Party’s publicity department, Liu Yunshan, delivered a keynote speech at Tuesday’s function, saying “In the face of serious media competition and increased audience selectivity, the China Daily needs to come up with more innovative content and formats to maintain its competitive edge and win audiences.”