History of International Newspapers: Jen-Min Jih-Pao in China

About the International newspaper Jen-Min Jih-Pao published in China, history and information.

JEN-MIN JIH-PAO (Peking, China)

The Past. Legend says the Jen-min Jih-pao ("People's Daily") was founded in the caves of Yenan province in 1948. In actuality, that paper was the Liberation Daily, later to become an important Communist party paper in Shanghai. Jen-min Jih-pao was born in Hopei province toward the end of the civil war, was established as the main party paper, and was moved to Peking in 1949.

The voice of Mao Tse-tung, the paper has always been considered an indicator of Chinese thinking. When the People's Daily showed pictures of Henry Kissinger with Chairman Mao in 1973, the Western world could be sure of a thaw in relations with Red China. During Nixon's visit to Peking that same year, Chou En-lai went off into a corner after a banquet to approve the paper's front-page layout of pictures of the Nixon trip.

However, before the thaw, the paper's coverage of Western matters was peculiar. There was no mention of the Apollo moon landing because, according to an editor, "In our view, there are a lot of more important things happening on earth."

The Present. The People's Daily is the official Chinese government mouthpiece, and it has been called "the ultimate voice of authority" in China. Because of the great distances and poor transportation in China, the paper is not disseminated everywhere and cannot, in some ways, be considered a national paper. However, its influence is felt everywhere.

It's circulation, like that of most communist papers, is somewhat secret. Even if it were known, the number would be deceptive, merely because each copy is often read by so many people. Issues are put in glass-enclosed boxes on city streets, and passersby stop to read. The paper is read aloud to workers in factories and on farms and over the radio. French correspondent Robert Guillain wrote: "I have seen the pedicab boy, the street sweeper, the mother of a family, stop in front of the famous paper in the public places where it is hung, and try laboriously to decipher its difficult texts. I have heard it read in public, for the benefit of college students; it comes over loudspeakers for train travelers. More often still a lecturer reads it to the illiterates who still abound among the adult population. . . ."

Only about 6 pages, the paper features long political editorials, official news releases, cultural material, articles by party leaders like Chou En-lai and Mao Tse-tung, some fiction and poetry, and political cartoons. It contains no light human-interest material, no comics, no gossip, no crime reports. Regional news is left to the provincial dailies.

Editorials are more thoughtful than timely. When asked how he would handle an assignment to produce an editorial on Chinese education, editor Chen Chun recently said, "We would send out dozens of our cadres all over the country to universities and middle schools to investigate the situation there. Then there would be an article written collectively." Such a procedure might take a month.


A People's Liberation Army soldier guards the offices of the paper, and there is little of the atmosphere of Western newspapers among the editorial staff, which numbers about 300.

The People's Daily has pioneered in urging the adoption of a simplified ideogram language for printed mass media and has sponsored programs requiring oral reading of the paper--in short, it has done everything to get the news to the people in spite of the high rate of illiteracy which still exists in China.

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