[This is a guest post courtesy of Joe Kamishiro, a writer specializing on security.]

The front pages of China's security-related media

The front pages of China's security-related media

As many might know, the military is paid higher attention in China compared to the coverage accorded to the military in many other countries. In bookstores and newsstands, we can find various military magazines and newspapers on sale. The “Military” section always sits next to the “Politics” section in the bookstore. CCTV (China Central Television) even has a special channel for the military (CCTV 7: Military and Agriculture).

As a paper specializing in military issues, the official paper of the People’s Liberation Army, 解放军報 (whose internet edition, 中国军網; is available in English as China Military Online) is probably the most famous and authoritative in China. However, this official paper, which functions as official organ of the military for specialists, and is not sold in stores any more. 环境时報 (whose internet version, 环境網, is known in English as the Global Times), is an official paper covering international politics, but does not specialize in security issues.

On the other hand, in the newsstands you can see 国防时報 (in English, the Defense Times, but not available online). This tabloid is looked down on by Chinese intellectuals for its sensational headlines (as a feature of commercialism), but is worth for checking: aside from its questionable accuracy, it is, after all, the only DAILY newspaper specializing in security issues. It has 24 pages with few advertisements. (Aside this paper, China has some other non-daily papers in the newsstands such as 环境时訪 (the Global Express) and 中国国防報 (the special edition of 解放军報). More surprisingly, it checks major foreign papers and magazines, and introduces important or China-related coverage of events and commentary, quoting articles from the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Times, the Financial Times, the India Times, 朝鮮日報 (Korea Daily News), The Economist, Jane’s Defence Weekly and others. Regarding the Japanese media, the Yomiuri, Asahi, Mainichi, Sankei, and NHK are checked daily (the Sankei in particular is regularly targeted). While the paper’s analysis is not necessarily particularly thoughtful, its range of coverage is an astonishing achievement.

A selection of articles from China covering Japanese security issues

A selection of articles from China covering Japanese security issues

Because of its commercialism, foreigners can understand the interests of the average Chinese citizen through its headlines and the size of the articles. For sales, the editorial staff are obliged to satisfy the readership’s (potential) needs. For instance, while Chinese wariness and hostility against India’s expansion is reflected in the papers, it is usually difficult for foreigners to understand this undercurrent from the restrained-tone of the official papers.

Even the most vigilant Japanese paper with regards to the Chinese military, the Sankei, has never even mentioned the existence of this kind of media, even though its articles, including those written by guest writers such as Chinese navy specialist, Shigeo Hiramatsu, are in 国防时報. That such articles are only part of a larger coverage of security issues in China, coverage that is easily and readily consumed by the general public, in stark comparison to the small market of such publications in Japan,  shows an asymmetry in military/security literacy that is rather surprising in this information age.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 9 post(s) on Asia Security Watch