Date of this Version
November 23, 2009 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
In the past few weeks, the coverage of the fall of Caijing and the exodus of its staff has read almost like an obituary. During its eleven years in production, Caijingbenefitted from protection from patrons as well as the deft leadership of its editor, Hu Shuli, who has a sixth sense for knowing where the boundaries of permissibility sit and how to move them. The result was a record of breaking myriad stories of serious corruption and poor governance. Over the years, a couple issues were temporarily held up for “technical” reasons, but Caijing appeared to have regularly escaped the political storms. But this summer, the good run came to an end whenCaijing tried to report on the Xinjiang protests in early July. It sent three reporters 2,000 kilometers to cover a topic distant from finance and business, for which they received a great deal of grief. Against its original pledge, the publisher pushed Hu Shuli to stick to Caijing’s bread and butter, business news. Feeling the walls closing in, the editorial staff gradually abandoned ship, culminating with Hu Shuli’s own resignation.
For a scholar of Chinese politics and business, Caijing was a goldmine. Prior to its emergence, China had a very small number of newspapers and magazines I could look to for an independent take on events and trends. China Business Times (中华工商时报), the paper of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, where Hu Shuli worked for several years (and where I first met her), contained informative stories about private businesses and emerging industries, written by journalists who did good legwork, interviewing company executives and officials. But such outlets were the exception. For the most part, I used the domestic media as a way to understand the official positions of different parts of the bureaucracy.Caijing, along with Southern Weekender and a few others, provided in-depth reporting and uncovered highly valuable information about the economy, policies, and misbehavior not available elsewhere. For example, in late March this year it ran a story explaining how the Ministry of Commerce developed its rationale for denying Coca Cola’s attempted acquisition of Huiyuan. This type of story was just as important to me as uncovering the corrupt political machine in Shanghai. Although the foreign media do a very good job reporting on macro-economic policy, they rarely dig deeply into individual sectors or companies in the wayCaijing could.