Media Blog

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Chinese State Newspapers vs. the NYT


Last week, the New York Times published an amazing, if not exactly surprising, exposé of the wealth of China’s current prime minister (and head of government), Wen Jiabao; his and his family’s holdings are supposedly worth a total of $2.7 billion. This comes after a similar report from this past spring that detailed the stupendous riches of the members of the People’s Congress. In response to last week’s story, China shut down access to the New York Times’ website, and has now published an editorial in the People’s Daily attacking the credibility of the Grey Lady. Only problem? In assailing the Times’ journalistic integrity, China’s top state newspaper plagiarized itself and other state-run papers. The FT explains:

The opinion piece was authored by ‘Lao Ren’, which is likely to be a pseudonym. It begins with a preamble about how reporting standards at the Times have gone downhill: “This venerable media brand proclaims that its news is accurate and reliable. But in recent years, there has been an explosion in plagiarism and fabrication by its journalists.”

It then describes the 2010 case of plagiarism by Zachery Kouwe, a business reporter, and the infamous 2003 outing of Jayson Blair’s fabrications. Next, the People’s Daily shifts its focus to a book, “Journalistic Fraud”, which argued on its publication in 2003 that the New York Times was guilty of distorting the news.

Finally, it closes with a long quote from a self-declared once-loyal reader who said that the Times coverage from the Iraq war to climate change had led him to give up on the paper.

What the People’s Daily failed to mention was that virtually every last sentence in its opinion piece had previously been published. A quick search revealed the following:

The opening criticism of the Times’ fallen standards and the description of the Kouwe case? From a 2010 report by China News Agency.

The description of the Blair case? Lifted straight from two People’s Daily articles in 2003 (at least it is copying itself).

The account of “Journalistic Fraud”, the book? From a 2003 article by China News Agency.

And that final quote from the once-loyal reader? A translation by Dongxi (a now-defunct translation website) of a 2011 article that appeared on

If they’re looking for other Sinophilic prose that they might be able to plagiarize, might I suggest the Times’ op-ed page?


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