Coverage of Climate Change in Chinese Media

2007/2008 Occasional Paper
By Tolan, Sandy

This study is an attempt to assess the scope and tenor of news coverage of climate change through analysis of the coverage in the most influential Chinese media – especially official news sources such as People's Daily, Global Times and Xinhua (New China News Service), which set the agenda for all other media outlets in China, and newer, more independent media such as Caijing magazine, whose articles carry tremendous weight with other Chinese media and thus are influential well beyond their numbers.7 (Many of the Xinhua and People's Daily articles cited in this report are archived on the websites of Sohu and Sina, China's largest news web portals, which each get hundreds of millions of hits per day.8 ) The focus on these influential organs of Chinese media thus has two purposes: first, the numbers themselves are significant; second, just as newspapers such as The New York Times influence U.S. media far beyond the newspaper's own circulation numbers, so do the aforementioned media bring great influence to other Chinese media, especially radio and television.9 In addition, interviews with environmental journalists in Beijing10 will help to underscore several key conclusions in this paper. The paper will assess overall focus and tone of Chinese media coverage; how, when, and why that focus has changed; and what are the limitations of coverage in state and state-controlled Chinese media.