A guide to navigating Chinese media

In Chinese newsrooms, editors refer to a certain late-night text they’ll often receive, just before going to print, as “the rooster crowing at midnight.” These are the messages from higher-ups informing them that a story, usually some sort of breaking news, has to be canned. There’s no arguing with the rooster.

It’s not easy doing journalism in China. But it’s important to know that the media landscape is not just Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily, and People’s Daily — the five outlets recently designated by the U.S. State Department as operatives of the state. In order to discern real news from government talking points, we need to first understand how the Chinese state regulates its media industry, and how certain players find ways around the restrictions.