Changing China

Giant on the move

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Surely I won’t get nominated to the Central Committee too?

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People's Daily2008081117_brief.jpgI’ve been a China watcher for much longer than I’ve been a journalist — Chinese language, literature, history and politics were my passions and the objects of my academic study before I ever found my vocation. And for a watcher of modern Chinese politics, few texts in my 30 years in the field have been as important as the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party.

With a circulation of three to four million, it is one of the world’s biggest papers; with its direct ties to the top Party leaders, it has long been the way official policy shifts have been announced or hinted at.

When I was Reuters China bureau chief¬† from 1991-94, the unalterable start of every day’s routine was to study the newspaper from front to back, trying to piece together the hints contained in an article, an editorial, in the choice¬†of words or in the selection and placement of pictures.

This was the practice of journalists and scholars from the very founding of the newspaper in 1948, a year before the People’s Republic of China was formally established.

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