The state-owned English language newspaper that claims an independent editorial policy wants ‘to introduce China to the world'

China's biggest English-language newspaper is to publish a weekly African edition with bureau in at least two countries on the continent.

The African operation of the state-run China Daily will generate a range of Africa-specific content. It is to be based in Johannesburg, South Africa, with another office pencilled in for Nairobi, Kenya, reports said. The aim is to promote China's interests in Africa, particularly mineral exploitation and easy immigration policies, and to counter what is seen in some countries as a negative reputation, a source said. “This is a massive thing,” the source said. “China sees Africa as the ultimate source of the minerals it needs for economic growth.” China's state media has been given hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen the country's voice in the world. At the forefront is the recent opening of a CCTV (China Central Television) operation in New York.

Symbolic move

It is not clear how widely China Daily's African edition will be published or who its target readership is. “I don't think that is the priority now,” the source added. “This is a symbolic move. They are working it out as they go along.” In Johannesburg there will be a bureau chief and two staff, relying heavily on freelancers for content. China Daily has reportedly sent some staff from its Beijing office to work on stories for the launch issue. South Africa's City Press newspaper said the paper will be aimed at South Africans and focus mainly on business news. It quoted Gao Anming, China Daily's deputy chief editor, as saying: “It will aim to introduce China to the world and present news with a Chinese angle.” Although the paper is state-owned, Gao said the paper had an independent editorial policy and its editorial board members were not government officials. “We do run reports criticising government and suggesting measures on how it should improve.” China Daily sells 250,000 copies at home each day, City Press reported, with weekly editions selling 170,000 copies in America and 150,000 in Europe. Gao said the paper initially expected to sell 10,000 copies in Africa. An estimated one million Chinese people have moved to work in Africa in the past decade as economic ties deepen. Bilateral trade grew from $10.6bn in 2000 to $160bn in 2011, according to Chinese state media.

But the country has faced fierce criticism for propping up dictators and trampling human rights.

Jinghao Lu, an analyst on China-Africa desk at the Johannesburg consultancy Frontier Advisory, welcomed the arrival of China Daily. “Chinese journalists on this continent are currently relatively small in number,” he noted.

“It's good for more Chinese to understand what's going on in Africa because of China's increasing involvement in the continent. It's such a diverse continent with so many languages and cultures. China wants to improve African news coverage.” Many of the new paper's readers would be African rather than Chinese, he added. “China Daily having a special African focus will allow people to see more of what China thinks about Africa and what China understands about Africa. It will be useful for the whole world.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

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