Hu Shuli, China’s top muckraker, to lead new magazine

Two months after leaving Caijing magazine following a flap over editorial freedom, enterprising Chinese journalist Hu Shuli is at the helm of another magazine, New Century News. On January 4, the first trial issue under Hu’s direction will be released, with the next issue hitting newsstands and the web a week later. This is exciting ...

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Two months after leaving Caijing magazine following a flap over editorial freedom, enterprising Chinese journalist Hu Shuli is at the helm of another magazine, New Century News. On January 4, the first trial issue under Hu's direction will be released, with the next issue hitting newsstands and the web a week later.

This is exciting news, and Hu's track record of pioneering investigative journalism bodes well. (For her efforts promoting public accountability in China, Hu was recently ranked #84 on Foreign Policy's Top 100 Thinkers List.) However, the same concerns about editorial censorship within China remain.

While the finance magazine Caijing was based in Beijing, the general-interest New Century News will be published by an economics institute on the southern island province of Hainan. Media in south China has traditionally enjoyed greater editorial independence, as the region is wealthier and more closely linked, economically and otherwise, with the outside world. But at the same time, the decision to publish outside of the capital is not insignificant. While Hu's editorial staffers, many of whom followed her from Caijing, remain in Beijing, it's not clear to what extent Caijing's influential readership of Beijing financial big wigs will also pick up New Century News.

Two months after leaving Caijing magazine following a flap over editorial freedom, enterprising Chinese journalist Hu Shuli is at the helm of another magazine, New Century News. On January 4, the first trial issue under Hu’s direction will be released, with the next issue hitting newsstands and the web a week later.

This is exciting news, and Hu’s track record of pioneering investigative journalism bodes well. (For her efforts promoting public accountability in China, Hu was recently ranked #84 on Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Thinkers List.) However, the same concerns about editorial censorship within China remain.

While the finance magazine Caijing was based in Beijing, the general-interest New Century News will be published by an economics institute on the southern island province of Hainan. Media in south China has traditionally enjoyed greater editorial independence, as the region is wealthier and more closely linked, economically and otherwise, with the outside world. But at the same time, the decision to publish outside of the capital is not insignificant. While Hu’s editorial staffers, many of whom followed her from Caijing, remain in Beijing, it’s not clear to what extent Caijing’s influential readership of Beijing financial big wigs will also pick up New Century News.

Of course, much depends upon Hu’s ability to quickly transform a low-profile academic journal into a hard-hitting must-read magazine. My hunch is that Hu may focus more on cultivating a readership outside of China, as well as within. And for that, a relocation to a (perhaps) milder censorship climate and expanded news beat will be an advantage.

Meantime, although it’s less true in China than in America that all publicity is good publicity, Hu does now have a curious global audience watching closely her next move, and to a large extent, cheering her on.

Christina Larson is an award-winning foreign correspondent and science journalist based in Beijing, and a former Foreign Policy editor. She has reported from nearly a dozen countries in Asia. Her features have appeared in the New York Times, Wired, Science, Scientific American, the Atlantic, and other publications. In 2016, she won the Overseas Press Club of America’s Morton Frank Award for international magazine writing. Twitter: @larsonchristina

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