The Screaming Pen

Providing Global Insight, Context, and Perspective

The China Counter

A Survey of Media Portrayal of America in the Middle Kingdom

People’s Daily, From May 9th, 2006
Favorable: 14
Unfavorable: 10
Neutral: 53

China View, From May 9th, 2006
Favorable: 4
Unfavorable: 3
Neutral: 9

During Chinese President Hu Jintao’s April 2006 tour of Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey, Chinese media coverage of the trip was overwhelmingly favorable, and not only of Hu himself but of the United States in general. This stood in stark contrast to the oft-perpetuated image of a belligerent, power-hungry America inimical to the P.R.C.’s interests. Indeed, beginning in late 2004, throughout 2005, and into 2006 The Screaming Pen observed that Chinese media coverage of the United States appeared to become more conciliatory. Yet this was an admittedly subjective conclusion.

Wo hen gaoxing renshi ni!

The Method

The China Counter is thus forged out of a desire to quantify the accuracy of this hypothesis. The Counter monitors and classifies articles published in the People’s Daily (“the National Voice of the Party;” Beijing) and China View (a direct arm of the State, published by the Xinhua News Agency; Beijing), two large newspapers with national readership. Only original pieces are counted (not those pulled from a wire service such as the AP or Reuters), and when an article appears on both sites (as the news agencies sometimes share material) it will be counted once.

The scope of The China Counter includes only those articles whose main focus is either the United States or U.S.-China relations. From these there are four main kinds of articles. The first consists of those stories about cultural, social, athletic or other events and trends in the United States. These tend to focus on “soft” issues and are usually favorable or neutral. The second discusses U.S. domestic politics or international relations, often with no explicit mention of the effects these have on China, but these are usually only a short logical leap away. The third deals directly with U.S.-China relations. The fourth are opinion pages, op-eds, or blogs linked to the two sites’ homepages.

The articles are marked as favorable, unfavorable, or neutral/balanced. Favorable articles are those that focus on cooperation, admiration, or friendly relations between the two countries. Unfavorable articles are those that center on disagreement or are intended to highlight tensions. Neutral articles are those that are balanced and impartial, providing analysis without conclusion.


The correlation of the media’s tone to the thinking of Chinese leaders – a relationship made plausible due to heavy government censorship and even control of the press – might thus, through quantifiable measurement, contribute to the currently ubiquitous debate in America: Will China be peaceful or hostile? This assumption must nonetheless be presented along with a caveat: because news articles are inherently public, the ideas presented may be merely a product of China’s obligatory, or declared, policy. Put simply, it may represent what officials “want us to see,” not the leadership’s true thoughts and motivations. The relevance of The China Counter should accordingly be taken at face value.


 2006. All rights reserved.

More on the People’s Daily
More on the Xinhua News Agency
China Media Guide


May 10, 2006 - Posted by | Asia, Author: DML, China, Country Profiles, International Relations, The Media, United States

1 Comment »

  1. I will say this for Xinhua, as a former foreign editor for a TV News network in Asia. They, Xinhua, have improved a lot.
    Ok the coverage by the standards of AP, Reuters, and UPI all of whom I’ve been a ‘stringer’ for in my two decades in media.
    Is still a little bland- but speed wise- in areas where these agenceis go head to head- Xinhua is as fast with breaking news as the ‘big three’ ok big two UPI is about 1/4 of what it used to be… But accuracy, content, and speed- albeit from a editorial prespective of china – I must say has been as fast or at times faster.
    Perhaps it is because in many markets they have common bureau space with france’s AFP in other areas with the German DPA.
    Also they have been more ‘fair’ to larger extent of the Iraq coverage – not glorifying either side. While Xinhua still needs to do lot in greater domestic output and openess… overseas… they have improved by leaps and bounds.

    Comment by mikeinmanila | May 16, 2006 | Reply

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