Surely the move has Chairman Mao rolling in his mausoleum. The great defender of China’s ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily newspaper, has announced plans to take its Web version public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
The move, subject to review by China's securities regulatory commission on Friday, is intended to raise as much as 527 million yuan, or just over $83-million (U.S.), to help the People’s Daily Online Co. expand and improve its technology. With that, the People’s Daily is thought to be trying to improve its reputation as state apologist and keep pace with massive expansions by other Chinese news portals including sina.com and 163.com.
The People’s Daily, known in Chinese as Renmin Ribao, has been the chief publicity tool of the Communist Party since its founding in 1948, and today publishes editions in English and five other languages.
“Its purpose was to encourage people to struggle, to sacrifice themselves for the foundation of New China,” said Zhang Zhi An, an associate professor of journalism at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou.
But the paper, which in the era of the Cultural Revolution implored citizens to turn in the “bourgeois rightists,” is now trying to change its image in a modern China well versed in the delights of unbridled capitalism.
In recent years, and particularly since the website was founded in 2005, the newspaper has begun including more factual reporting among the praise for government programs, and has even taken on some ever-so-slightly edgy topics including food safety in its editorials, though those efforts have not stopped it becoming the butt of jokes from the wider population.
Still, a stronger online presence contributes to efforts to have a cultural influence that matches the state of China’s economy, the world’s second-largest. Xinhua, the state news agency, is expanding its operations abroad, as is state broadcaster China Central Television, or CCTV, which is opening broadcasting centres for English-language programming in Washington and Nairobi.
“We want to make our cultural industry bigger, so we must give these kinds of priorities to new media,” Prof. Zhang said.