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Daily Mail deal with Communist mouthpiece raises few eyebrows in China

By Kerry Allen
BBC Monitoring

image copyrightMail Online\Getty Images
image captionThe deal between the two papers was first signalled in March 2015

A new partnership between conservative British newspaper Daily Mail and the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily has raised eyebrows in the UK, but barely registered in mainland China.

A 12 August article on the paper's MailOnline website containing the tag "This story was produced in partnership with The People's Daily" prompted comment worldwide about the outlet's intentions.

MailOnline is the most-visited English-language newspaper website in the world, with a reported 15.1 million visitors daily. The agreement enables it to boost its coverage of China to overseas audiences.

The deal is also set to enhance China's coverage of non-sensitive foreign stories.

What do Chinese readers make of it?

Curiously, no Chinese papers, including People's Daily, have reported on the agreement, which does not involve money, but enables both papers to swap up to 40 stories a week.

Because of the low level of press coverage, it has not been a talking point on Chinese social media either.

The only publication to report on the content-sharing deal is the Chinese-language version of Financial Times, which directly translated David Bond's 12 August article on the agreement.

The article impartially outlines the details, and says the Communist Party is seeking to "improve its image in the West".

image copyrightFinancial Times
image captionThe deal was originally reported by the Financial Times on 12 August

Why is the deal significant?

People's Daily is the official Communist Party mouthpiece of the Chinese government. It is also widely regarded as China's most influential newspaper.

Within mainland China, it is the key platform to disseminate Communist Party propaganda. However, its overseas English-language platforms tend to be less stodgy than their mainland counterparts.

As it is an official government paper, its journalists are given press card privileges, and it is consistently one of the first outlets to break news in China.

Consequently, Daily Mail's collaboration with the outlet potentially gives Mail Online the edge in reporting stories from China.

What do Chinese know about Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail has had a significant presence via Chinese media for a number of years.

On the popular Sina Weibo microblog, Chinese papers have long credited it as the source of a number of light-hearted or unusual international stories, meaning that Chinese readers do not regard it as having a particular political stance.

They see it as being credible, especially as it appears to have a verified account on the microblog, which has been active since August 2014. However, it is unclear whether the "ChineseDailyMail" account - which uses the MailOnline masthead as its avatar - has any allegiance with the Daily Mail Group.

The account's longevity suggests that it is affiliated, given that verified accounts on Sina Weibo are only granted to credible media. Overseas generalist media have often encountered problems operating such accounts on the microblog, meaning that verified accounts are limited to finance-focused media such as Financial Times or Wall Street Journal.

image copyrightWeibo
image captionA search of the Daily Mail brings up a verified account with over 10,000 fans

How long has this been in the pipeline?

The deal between the two papers was originally signalled in March 2015, when former People Daily's deputy editor Yan Xiaoming met publisher Jonathan Harmsworth, the fourth Viscount Rothermere, in Beijing.

People's Daily said that the paper "intended to establish a partnership with the Daily Mail Group, to promote mutual understanding, promote the development of better relations between the two countries, and create a healthy atmosphere of public opinion."

It added that People's Daily had launched a "foreign media channel, and planned to use [Daily Mail] as a carrier."

Since this article, it has not reported on the collaboration.

Will the deal compromise MailOnline content?

It is unlikely, given that the outlet tends not to carry content that China would deem politically sensitive.

Though overseas English-language news websites are not often fully-censored in China, MailOnline has seen some limited censorship in mainland China.

According to censorship-monitoring website, the site has only been knowingly censored twice since 2011 - both times in that year.

A 24 April 2011 article mentioning a Chinese student's murder in Canada, which was witnessed via webcam by her boyfriend 6,000 miles away, was censored.

The other article was a 17 December 2011 report by an unnamed reporter about major anti-corruption protests in the Guangdong port town of Wukan.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • BBC Monitoring
  • China

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