Search Results for: cankao xiaoxi

Newsweek via Cankao Xiaoxi: The Tibetans Have Never Had it So Good

In the run-up to Obama’s White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, Isaac Stone Fish (Newsweek’s Beijing correspondent) penned an interesting piece that argues that China’s rule has indeed brought indisputable benefits to the Tibetans. It’s all part of a grand “bargain”:

It’s true that, so far, all the money has failed to buy Tibetan loyalty. Beijing won’t deal with the Dalai Lama, even though Tibetans revere him, nor will it let his monastic followers build any power or voice any nationalist sympathy. Instead, the government is offering Tibetans the same bargain it has offered the rest of the country: in exchange for an astronomical rise in living standards, the government requires citizens to relinquish the right to free worship and free speech. The Chinese government has kept its end of the deal. Even if Tibetan residents never signed the contract, they have benefited from its enforcement—a fact Obama might keep in mind when he meets the Dalai Lama.

Newsweek’s report has now—just one day after Obama met with the Dalai Lama—been translated by Cankao Xiaoxi (参 考消息). Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many cities across China it sells out every day before noon. As noted in my past pieces, virtually no English is used and little or no content is added. But references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often deleted or reshaped.

To show you how censorship works in the People’s Republic,  the original article from Newsweek is fully reproduced below. Words that have been crossed out are those that were deleted from the Chinese version published in Cankao Xiaoxi, while words that have been added are noted [in brackets]. Tellingly, the description of the tit-for-tat bargain—economic prosperity in lieu of free speech and worship—has been radically “repackaged” in Cankao Xiaoxi’s version for China’s masses. [Read more…]

Xinjiang according to Cankao Xiaoxi

What’s more convincing to the masses than propaganda out of Beijing? Discreetly massaged copy from the New York Times, evidently.

The New York Times‘ Howard W. French recently visited Korla, discovering that despite the oil boom in this “sleepy oasis” in Xinjiang, “not everyone is enjoying the benefits of the town’s new wealth.”

And just who might “not everyone” be? Well, you would have to have read the English article, ‘cuz the Chinese version ain’t gonna tell ya…

NYT on Revival of “The White-Haired Girl”: Chinese Version Deletes Madame Mao & Erstwhile Starring Role of Mrs. Xi Jinping

"The White-Haired Girl" is back: But can she compete with the likes of Taylor Swift?

“The White-Haired Girl” is back: But can she compete with the likes of Taylor Swift?

Back in October 2014 when Xi Jinping delivered his closed-door speech to a gathering of the nation’s artists and scribes in Beijing — essentially a souped-up, 21st-century rendition of Mao Zedong’s infamous pronouncements at the 1942 Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art — many wondered just what it signified. It took one year, but the speech was recently released to the public in full (see Xi Jinping’s ‘Little Red Book’ for Art Workers of the Nation).

To quote briefly from it:

“Our modern art and literature needs to take patriotism as its muse, guiding the people to establish and adhere to correct views of history, the nation, the country and culture.”

I think you get the picture.

On November 10, Chris Buckley at the New York Times ran a piece on the revival of a Culture Revolutionary model opera, ‘White-Haired Girl,’ Opera Created Under Mao, Returns to Stage. Apparently it is time for an updated version of this Mao-era classic too, and you might be surprised to learn that Peng Liyuan (彭丽媛), who just happens to be Xi Jinping’s wife, is serving as its artistic director.

In fact, Madame Xi played the starring role on stage in the 1980s version. But readers of the Chinese won’t learn about that in the Cankao Xiaoxi translation of the NYT article that came out just two days later (新版《白毛女》), nor will they be reminded — though Buckley reminded us in English — of the key role that Jiang Qing played in overseeing ballet adaptations of certain operas. This paragraph, for instance, has been expunged from the Chinese version of Buckley’s article:

For some Chinese, the entanglement of a party leader and his spouse in determining artistic values through a “model opera” is likely to bring disquieting echoes of the past.

One other thing worthy of mention here is how several quote marks in the original have been deleted in Chinese. I’ve been reading Cankao Xiaoxi for several years, and I can’t recall when I last saw that sort of deletion; quoted comments are often deleted outright, but rendering direct speech indirectly — albeit commonplace in China’s media — is not generally done in this publication. So I can only assume that the content of this article is considered rather sensitive.

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many newsstands across the mainland the 8- (weekends, holidays) or standard 16-page edition — black-and-white, almost no graphics, on cheap paper that smudges easily over breakfast — sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little content is added to the text proper. Packaging elements like headlines, sub-heads and captions, however, are totally refurbished, and references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version, I cross out the specific words that were deleted when the article was translated, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can see just how Cankao’s editors “re-package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

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[New Version of “White-Haired Girl” Returns to China’s Stage]

Original headline:  ‘White-Haired Girl,’ Opera Created under Mao, Returns to Stage

 By Chris Buckley, [US-based New York Times report,] November 10, 2015

Mao Zedong was said to have been moved to tears when he watched an early performance of “The White-Haired Girl,” an opera created to meet his call for rousing revolutionary art. [Today it has returned to the stage.] And under President Xi Jinping, a revival is on the road, reinvented once more to appeal to a Communist Party leader’s stringently ideological tastes. [Read more…]

Matrilineal Mosuo Cultural Decline: Allure of Modernization, Impact of Tourism and Conveniently Customized History

In the 1950s, many of China’s policies towards its ethnic minorities were inspired by those of the Soviet Union. In the northeast near the Sino-Russian border, for instance, the Oroqen (鄂伦春) found their animistic faith banned and their shamans forced to burn their sacred attire and renounce their “spirit dances” (Last Shaman). Many peoples like the Evenki (鄂温克) were forced to hand ownership of their livestock to the state and form politically correct “people’s communes” or the like. Never mind that the reindeer-herding Evenki, who speak a language related to Manchu and resided deep within the Greater Khingan mountains where they had little contact with the Han, had been living a collective lifestyle for centuries without any guidance from Marxist cadres, Russian or Chinese.

Things got even uglier for many minority ethnicities during the Cultural Revolution, when many customs of minority groups were seen as backward, even dangerous superstition that needed to be annihilated.

Inconveniently, these policies and actions do not fit the current narrative of the government — that relations among all 56 officially recognized peoples of the PRC have been and are quite harmonious, thank you — and they are therefore rarely cited or discussed in Chinese media. When they occur in news items written in the West and translated for consumption in China, they must be judiciously packaged.

In the case of ‘Kingdom of Daughters’ in China Draws Tourists to Its Matrilineal Society published recently in the New York Times, and subsequently translated and published in Cankao Xiaoxi (女儿国), this has meant deleting just about all the text (near the end of the original article) that implies that the decline of Mosuo traditions is partly due to 1) Infrastructure projects that are feeding the Lugu Lake tourism boom, and/or 2) Earlier government policies that stigmatized the Mosuo’s “backward marriage customs” and forced the Mosuo to practice “one husband, one wife.”

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many newsstands across the mainland the 8- (weekends, holidays) or standard 16-page edition — black-and-white, almost no graphics, on cheap paper that smudges easily over breakfast — sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little content is added to the text proper. Packaging elements like headlines, sub-heads and captions, however, are totally refurbished, and references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version, I cross out the specific words that were deleted when the article was translated, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can see just how Cankao’s editors “re-package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

 

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LUGU LAKE JOURNAL

‘Kingdom of Daughters’ in China Draws Tourists to Its Matrilineal Society

[Lugu Lake’s Culture of ‘Kingdom of Daughters’ Under Threat]

By AMY QIN October 26, 2015 [US-based New York Times web site. Original headline: China’s ‘Kingdom of Daughters’ Draws Tourists to Visit Matrilineal Society (Dispatch by reporter Amy Qin from Lugu Lake, China) ]

LUGU LAKE, China — A young man clad in a white shirt, black pants and red belt suddenly scrambled up the side of a log house and slid feet first into a second-story latticed window.

“This is how Mosuo men would climb into the `flower room’ of the women,” Ke Mu explained to visitors [just] as the triumphant swain [gleeful suitor] stuck his head out the window of the flower room, or private bedroom, and waved his hat.

It was morning in the lakeside village of Luoshui here in southwestern China. On a narrow side street, dusty from hotel construction nearby, a group of young [Chinese] workers, including Ke, 18, was preparing for another day of cultural pageantry at the Mosuo Folk Museum.

Their task [job] is to showcase the traditions of the Mosuo, a minority ethnic group said to be the country’s last matrilineal society, where children take their mothers’ surnames and daughters are preferred to sons.

A fascination with such traditions has led to a booming  [prosperous] tourism industry in this once-isolated region.

Lured by the promise of spectacular natural beauty and exotic  [unique] cultural experiences, hundreds of thousands [large bevies] of visitors , mostly Chinese, are making the journey to Lugu Lake , nestled on a plateau in the mountains between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

Those numbers are expected to rise with the opening of a local airport this month and later an expressway connecting Lugu Lake to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.

In response, a number of family-run hotels have popped up along the lake’s pristine blue waters. Visitors can watch residents perform traditional dances in colorful costumes and can take boat rides on the lake as young Mosuo men serenade them with love songs in Naru, the Mosuo language. [Read more…]

China’s Online Courses for the World: Tweaking International Media Coverage for Chinese Eyes

 

On Oct 21, the New York Times ran an interesting article entitled China Turns to Online Courses, and Mao, in Pursuit of Soft Power.  Sure enough, Xinhua’s Cankao Xiaoxi picked it up and translated it for the masses just two days later, with an enhanced title that focuses on capturing foreign eyeballs (中文原文):

中国借网络课程吸引外国受众

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many newsstands across the mainland the 8- or 16-page edition — black-and-white, almost no graphics, on cheap paper that smudges easily over breakfast — sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little content is added to the text proper. Packaging elements like headlines, sub-heads and captions, however, are totally refurbished, and references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version, I cross out the specific words that were deleted when the article was translated, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can see just how Cankao’s editors “re-package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

 

China Turns to Online Courses, and Mao, in Pursuit of Soft Power

[China Making Use of Online Courses to Attract Foreign Audiences]

By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ [US New York Times online ] Oct. 21, 2015 [report] [Original headline: China Using Online Courses and Mao Zedong Thought to Promote Soft Power] [(Reporter Hernandez’s Hong Kong dispatch)]

HONG KONG — Karla Cabrera, a 29-year-old lawyer in Mexico City, was excited when she came across “Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought,” an online course about the Chinese revolutionary leader. She has a passion for Chinese history, and she hoped the class would shed light on the brutal political battles that took place under Mao’s rule.

But when Ms. Cabrera began watching the lectures on edX, a popular online education platform owned and administered by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was disappointed.

Each class opened with a patriotic video montage. Talk of Mao’s errors was minimal, restricted to the Communist Party line. The professor, a faculty member at Tsinghua, one of China’s most prestigious universities, seemed eager to mimic Mao himself, dressing in a tunic suit and referring to Maoism as a “magic bullet” for the party.

“It was like watching propaganda,” Ms. Cabrera said in a telephone interview. “They just told you what they wanted you to know.”

As China seeks to extend its global clout [influence], it has gone to great lengths [made an effort] in recent years to promote its culture and values abroad, building vast media operations overseas and opening hundreds of language and cultural outposts [centers].

Now it is turning  [getting help from] to a new tool: online education, a rapidly growing industry that promises access to  [to attract] millions of students and the endorsement of some of the world’s most renowned institutions. [Read more…]

Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Laureate: China Media’s Initial Reactions

Oct 20 Update

Booming Sales of Alexievich’s Works:

State Media Attributes them to China’s “Nobel Complex”

Oct 12 Update

Man Asian Literary Prize winner Bi Feiyu praises Alexievich and her brand of non-fiction in an interview with Yangzi Evening News毕飞宇:今年的诺奖不是一个冷门 . But he does not cite any current practitioners of oral history or investigative journalism in China.

Oct 10 Post

Given China’s Nobel complex, it’s always interesting to see how the media reports on the newest winners. Year afterSvetlana Alexievich year, those trouble-makers in Stockholm put the spotlight on the wrong sort of people, such as China’s own Liu Xiaobo (now serving time in a Chinese prison), Gao Xingjian — the China-born-and-raised author the state refuses to recognize as Chinese — and foreigners such as dissident writer Herta Müller, who wrote about the gulags.

So what is China’s media saying about Belarus’ 斯韦特兰娜·阿列克谢耶维奇 (Svetlana Alexievich)? It’s still early days, and we can expect more coverage and commentary soon. But that’s what makes the initial pronouncements such good fun; the state’s cultural spin doctors aren’t yet sure how politically correct — or incorrect — she is.

Cankao Xiaoxi (参考消息), Xinhua’s popular daily digest of translated international news that generally sells out on newsstands all over China by early afternoon, takes a cautious “smorgasbord” approach: It has run short excerpts from four multinational press agencies (四篇的原文). This allows it to create an impression of variety while deleting the (potentially troubling) opinions that one generally finds in a longer essay from the New York Times or the Financial Times, for instance.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the exact same AFP piece on Alexievich’s award that appeared in the Oct 9 edition of Cankao Xiaoxi, but variations on it were widely published, such as here in the Singapore Times Everywhere I’ve seen it online in English, the AFP news item contains this sentence or something very similar:

But her books, controversially written in Russian, are not published in her home country, long ruled by authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, amid what the author has described as “a creeping censorship”.

Through a bit of judicious editing, the Cankao Xiaoxi version implies that her work has not been published in Belarus simply because she wrote it in Russian, rather than her critical approach to Soviet history. The Chinese reader sees only the words that I have not struck out: [Read more…]

The Fine Art of Selective News Translation

In Lost in Translation, veteran journalist Nailene Chou Wiest comments on how airbrushing foreign news articles in the name of China boosterism prevents serious discussion of real issues:

Translators in China are not neutral message conveyors but active censor-oriented rewriting hacks. Their job requires the sensitivity of knowing the parameter. Foreign news is not used as a means of national self-reflection, but an adjunct to domestic propaganda. Veteran translators are infuriated by the accusation that they are accomplices to an authoritarian regime. They point out that the core issue is not how to translate, but how to translate and get published. Publish or perish is the rub.

How the translators hew to the adaptation and rewriting is often an indicator of where the publication stands in the Communist Party-condoned ideological spectrum. Reference News (Cankao Xiaoxi) was founded in 1931 as an internal publication to provide the party leadership with an idea of how the world perceived China. When it turned into a mass circulation paper in 1985, translators were given the mandate of selecting passages from world press and adapting a propaganda agenda. Boasting a daily circulation of 3 million, Reference News is influential and profitable. Global Times, a tabloid subsidiary of the People’s Daily, routinely mangles foreign news articles to bolster its nationalistic stance. But when ThePaper.cn was launched this summer, hopes ran high that it would set itself apart to attract weary online readers. There is a sense of betrayal that it commits the same sin of translating only the positive while blocking passages critical of China.

I’ve been following Reference News (参考消息) now for five years or so. To see how it repackages foreign news reports to make China look better — and feel better about itself — please visit China Media.

Osnos, Vogel and China Censorship Percentage Stats

But when can I get my uncensored Chinese edition?

But when can I get my uncensored Chinese edition?

In what a publicist would judge a savvy approach to pre-launch marketing of one’s book, Evan Osnos recently wrote a much-discussed NY Times Op-ed in which he explained why he won’t be releasing his new Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China in Chinese in the People’s Republic any time soon.

In a word, because Osnos doesn’t want a “special edition” of it — with chunks of the original deleted — customized for Chinese readers. That would, he maintains, “endorse a false image of the past and present.”

In her June 20 piece about the brouhaha, Slippery Slope, Dinah Gardner cites two statistics several times: 10% and 25%. The 10% is a reference to the amount of text that Ezra Vogel claims was deleted from his Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China when published in Chinese. And 25% is an estimate of what one Chinese publishing agent proposed cutting from Osnos’ Age of Ambition.

Based on my knowledge of editing and censorship in China, however, if Vogel actually believes that 90% of his work was faithfully transmitted via the final Chinese text, then he is deluding himself. Or, more charitably, he is much more knowledgeable about Deng Xiaoping than he is about publishing in China. [Read more…]

“Mosuo Culture Bonfire Parties”: Hamming it up for the Tourists, Attendance Required

Mosuo women on Lugu LakeCanada’s Globe and Mail recently ran a piece on the impact of modernity and tourism on the Mosuo (摩梭族), a matriarchal tribe that resides around Yunnan’s Luguhu Lake (泸沽湖). In China, a Matriarchy under Threat has now been translated, edited and published as 《云南摩梭人遭遇现代化挑战》in the August 17, 2011 edition of Cankao Xiaoxi (参考消息).

Cankao is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many cities across China it sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little or no content is added. But references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version published and distributed throughout China, I cross out the English words that were deleted when the article was translated into Chinese, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can better see how Cankao’s editors “package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

To summarize the deletions you’ll find below:

  • All mentions of the Communist Party, and government policy aimed at changing Mosuo behavior, have been deleted
  • References to “male lovers” have been heavily edited
  • Some phrases that imply that Han visitors treat the Mosuo as curiosities have been deleted
  • The writer’s explanation as to why the society evolved into a matriarchal one has been deleted   [Read more…]

Hakka and Minnan “tulou”: Former Residents Emigrate, Opt for Indoor Plumbing

The New York Times has just published Monuments to Clan Life Are Losing their Appeal, a marvelous look at the state of tulou (土楼) built by Hakka and Minnan in Fujian. These communal structures, usually but not always round, housed dozens of families from the same clan:

Yongding, China—The gargantuan buildings are so iconic that they appear on a Chinese stamp. The most famous have distinctive round shapes, appearing from a distance like flying saucers that have plopped down in the middle of farm fields. Some were reportedly mistaken for missile silos by American officials poring over satellite images.

But the thousands of “earthern buildings” here, built by the ethnic Hakka and Minnan people of rural Fujian Province, are the ultimate architectural expression of clan existence in China.

For centuries, each building, called a tulou in Mandarin Chinese, would house an entire clan, virtually a village. Everyone living inside would have the same surname, except for those who married into the clan. The tulou usually tower four floors and have up to hundreds of rooms that open out onto a vast central courtyard, like the Colosseum.

The outer walls, made of rammed earth, protected against bandits. The forms vary. Many are square, resembling medieval keeps. With stockpiles of food, people could live for months without setting foot outside the tulou.

But as the clan traditions of China dwindle today, more and more people are moving out of the tulou to live in modern apartments with conveniences absent from the earthen buildings—indoor toilets, for example.

Also of interest is a book by Huang Hanmin (黄汉民) published only in Chinese (I believe), 《福建土楼》(Fújiàn tǔ lóu).

You might think that China’s media minders would be fairly happy with this report, but when it was translated and published in Cankao Xiaoxi (参考消息) on March 24 (美报称福建土楼对居民失去吸引力), large chunks of it were deleted.

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many cities across China it sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little or no content is added. But references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.” For earlier coverage of how Cankao Xiaoxi repackages foreign newspaper reportage for domestic eyeballs, check out But where are Pederasty, Passion and the Dalai Lama? or Just Say “No” to Orgasms.

Here is some of the copy that appeared in the New York Times report but was deleted from the Chinese version:

  • “President Hu Jintao visited them [some tulou] during the 2010 Lunar New Year festivities”
  • “One afternoon, they [elderly residents] were moving firewood stacked outside the front entrance of the tulou to nearby storage sheds; the local government had asked them to do this to hide the messy stacks from tourists.”
  • “Chinese officials tried smashing the clan system during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Collectives built more and more tulou and randomly assigned people to live in the buildings, so each clan would have members spread among different collectives. When the Cultural Revolution ended, people drifted back to their clans.”
  • ” ‘People don’t clean it [Huan Xing tulou] anymore,’ said Jiang Qing, 28. . .’As long as people live here, the ecosystem thrives. Once people move out, then it all falls apart.’ “
  • “Mr. Huang, the scholar. . .’What they’ve preserved is just the structure, but the people have all moved out,’ he said. ‘So the living part has died. You’re just preserving a relic.’ “