College Daily: Misleading Chinese students in the U.S. since 2014 - SupChina
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College Daily: Misleading Chinese students in the U.S. since 2014

College Daily (北美留学生日报 běiměi liúxuéshēng rìbào) is a Chinese-language website aimed at Chinese students in the U.S. The New Yorker’s Han Zhang has written an illuminating profile of the company: The “post-truth” publication where Chinese students in America get their news. It’s well worth reading the whole piece. Here are some of the revelations:

  • Founded in 2014 by Lín Guǒyǔ 林果宇 in his Beijing apartment, College Daily now “has more than thirty staffers in Beijing and fifteen in New York.” Tencent, operator of WeChat, was the major investor in College Daily’s most recent funding round that injected three million dollars into the company. College Daily has “about 1.6 million followers on the social-media platform WeChat and more than a million active readers a day.”
  • “Today, it would be hard to find a Chinese student in America who doesn’t regularly encounter College Daily content, intentionally or not.” Even those who don’t subscribe are likely seeing College Daily content in WeChat groups, timelines, and chats.
  • Most of these students probably do not follow U.S. news sources and social media. Instead, they get news “on their phones, often from College Daily, in a stream of memes and Internet-speak.”
  • The site began as “a bare-bones survival guide for American campus life, with vaporous posts about boosting your G.P.A. and planning for finals week.” But it is now much more like a sensationalist newspaper which offers “Chinese news delivered with nationalistic overtones; tabloid tales of Chinese students living overseas (sex, drugs, murders, and missing women appear frequently); and news from the U.S. and the celebrity world.”
  • Some articles are simply made up: one of College Daily’s more popular writers describes how one article written in the first person about a Syrian classmate who cried after seeing video of Chinese New Year fireworks was written at the direction of Lin Guoyu. College Daily also “aggregates content sourced from Infowars and RT, the Russian government-backed news outlet.”
  • In 2017, Chinese social media users attacked a University of Maryland student named Yáng Shūpíng 杨舒平 who gave a commencement speech praising the fresh air and freedom of expression in the U.S. A College Daily story was the vector that made Yang’s speech go viral. Yang was hounded off the internet. The New Yorker points out that “‘Shaming China’ is something of a buzz phrase at College Daily: as of February, it had appeared on the site more than a hundred and forty-five times.”
  • “Lin said that College Daily’s stories accurately reflect its readership’s disillusionment with America, particularly when they compare the U.S. with China. ‘Especially after the 2016 election, our readers see how divided a society America is.’”

Fascinating stuff: go read the whole thing.

UPDATE: College Daily has replied in an article published today. It accused the New Yorker of bias, among other things. “We allowed [the author] to interview everyone on our editorial team. We gave her full access to our editorial archive. Unfortunately, our sincerity turned out to be unreciprocated. It’s a matter of fact that her reporting was intentionally biased. To put it in a more straightforward way, it was a trap.”

College Daily fires back at the New Yorker, accusing it of bias and fabrication

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

2 Comments

  1. Christian Hermann Reply

    Considering the close ties the government of the P.R.China mandates with (foreign based) Chinese individuals and organisations such as College Daily having a large reach in respect of media publicity or popularity, its no wonder that College Daily’s buzz or news clearly stand in favour of the PRC line of thought. In recent revealings there has been sufficient evidence of similar happenings, incrementally unfolding how far reaching the Party’s influence is from the US to New Zealand.

    Unfortunately, these mainland Chinese citizens basically infiltrate our value system and further harm our political discourse culture (some of what we are doing ourselves already). Instead of establishing or even accepting an open form of dialogue, a majority of mainland Chinese (not all!, i personally respect those people that seriously reflect) either follow their party officials’ instructions or crawl into a cocoon-like bubble, deflecting any kind of constructive discourse.

    Although I can understand, that you want to be careful as a mainland Chinese individual, when the Party is willing any time to threaten the livelihoods of your family, but someone needs start using their own words, and to stand up for their rights. To that end the ‘deflective’ or silent majority of Chinese mainlanders passively helps their unelected Chinese government to lose face in the world, to be judged as liars or ignorant lemmings – at the same time aiding to spur their nations economic stagnation.

    If mainland Chinese want to be truly respected in this world and contribute to a shared global future, they must get out of their cocoons and start to talk about solutions freely, which involve a discourse without the Party’s line of thought.

  2. A mainlander in the US Reply

    Christian, you seem to have the mentality that we are “liars or ignorant lemmings” and we must talk “without the Party’s line of thought”. This is a very biased view of mainlander Chinese and the CCP and puts youself in a higher moral stance. This patronizing mentality plus the language barrier will turn off many mainland Chinese’s interests in continuing the conversation with you.

    If you know how hard it is for the left and right in the US to be friends with each other, you can imagine how hard it is for people from two completely different countries with completely different values and languages. We (Chinese and non-Chinese) are all brainwashed, more or less, by different media, society, and education systems, and most of us only see a small part of the fact. Tens of thousands of Chinese students come to the US because they admire American culture and they long to fit in. They are free to watch any media and listen to different opinions. They can see several parts of the story. They have the freedom to choose what to believe in. If some of them still choose to believe in the CCP, why not let them? Nothing is completely wrong or completely right.

    It would be a lot easier for us to make friends if we take politics less seriously, stop trying to change other people’s views, and agree to disagree.

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