The History of Chinese Journalism Since 1949

The following story is about the perils of the Chinese language system in which many of the characters look very similar to each other and can easily be mistaken.  In some cases, this has major political consquences for media outlets, as entire staff can be fired for a typographic mistake.  The media workers are under a great deal of pressure, not being helped by the language system.

(Anonymous author re-posted at Pro States in Flames blog)  The History of Chinese Journalism Since 1949.  July 18, 2007.

Around 1997, a certain newspaper in northeastern China misprinted a Xinhua article titled <Hong Kong will be better tomorrow 香港明天更美好> as <Hong Kong obviously will have nothing better 香港明无更美好>.

Around 1995, a certain northeastern newspaper misprinted "Mao Zedong 毛泽东" and "Mao Zeyue 毛泽乐".

In 2006, a Hunan newspaper made a mistake with the photograph of Li Changchun 李长春, who is the main man in charge of news propaganda.

<Jiujiang Daily News> misprinted "Jiang Zemin 江泽民" as "Jiang Guaimin 江怪民" and got into trouble.

During the Cultural Revolution era, publishing still relied on using the lead mould.  The design was such that each lead mould corresponds to one and only one Chinese character and the typesetter had to quickly pick the right mould for each letter.  But during the Cultural Revolution, there appeared certain special lead moulds of three Chinese characters.  Those three Chinese characters were "Chairman Mao 毛主席".  The reason for doing so was that everybody was afraid of making a political error.  According to Tan Guochao (谭国超), the three words "Chairman Mao 毛主席" had to appear on one line; if the words should ever be broken up into two lines (as in at the end of one line and 主席 at the beginning of the next line), it will be regarded as "chopping up Chairman Mao into half at the waist" and be punished.

During the Seventh National Sports Games, one newspaper published an article titled <Beijing applies to host the 20000 Olympic games>.  When people thought about it, there was still more more than 18,000 years to do and so what is the hurry?

A certain newspaper published a report that called State Council Prime Minister Li Peng as "State Council General Manager Li Peng 国务院总经理李鹏>.  Li Peng's secretary informed the newspaper's chief editor that if he were ever to demote Li Peng again, the newspaper will be terminated.

A certain newspaper in Southern China called State Chairman "Yang Shangkun 杨尚昆" as "Yang Shangpi 杨尚屁" (note: Pi means 'flatulence' or 'fart').  The leader almost lost his job.

A certain newpsaper published something about President George W. Bush and used the caption under the photograph: "Photo of little American president Bush 美国小总统布什." (Note: the correction usage is 美国总统小布什, or the American president Bush junior or young Bush).

Two days after September 11, 2001, Beijing Morning News had a huge photograph of the World Trade Center in flames next to a photograph of our great chairman Jiang lighting the torch at the Ninth National Sport Games.  This action was deemed to be a serious political mistake.

Nanchang Evening News caused two consecutive scandals.  On the front page on its June 18, 2006 issue, it reported the Shenzhen public security bureau director An Huijun was sentenced to 15 years in prison for taking bribes.  But the accompanying photograph was the late model public security heroine Ren Changxia of the Henan Dengfeng city.  The newspaper was suspended for five days for re-organization and several leaders ane editors were dimissed.  (According to Jiangxi Net, the Nanchang Evening News created a terrible impression on people and the Jianxi provincial party committee and the Nancheng city party committee paid attention to this major political incident.  The relevant department investigated quickly and issued severe sanctions: the editor Zhao Ting in charge of the front page was dismissed and prohibited from working for any media outlet in Jiangxi for the next three years).

On July 26, the second day after Nanchang Evening News resumed publication, the headline was supposed to be "National People's Congress reviews four laws, minors not appropriate for administrative detention."  But they made the mistake of using "adults 成年人" instead of "minors 未成年人".  So now the headline was "National People's Congress reviews four laws, adults not appropriate for administrative detention."

Around 2000, the Shanghai Youth Daily reported about Jiang Zemin with the big headline in which "win a victory 打赢" and that appeared as "beat Ying 打嬴" instead (note: Ying is a surname).

A certain newspaper mislabelled a photograph of the party secretary inspecting a high school as inspecting "progress on fighting corruption and promoting clean government."

A certain magazine presented the Hui minority cuisine and the ingredient included pig lard.  The magazine was attacked by the Moslem Hui compatriots!

Over here, someone reported "Zhu Rongji 朱镕基" as "Zhu Rongji 朱容基" and he got 50 points deducted from his performance rating.

Do you remember the Jiangxi TV broadcast?  On the 55-th anniversary of the founding of the nation, they wrote that they were celebrating the 55th anniversary of the Republic of China!  Everybody from the general manager down was fired!

Shanxi Daily News once made a mistake when it published "Comrade Deng Xiaoping donated 5000 yuan to Project Hope 邓小平同志捐款5000元希望工程" with the word 'donate 捐款' being misprinted as 'decrease money 损款.'  The correction appeared on the front page of the newspaper on the next day.

In Jiujiang (Jiangxi), a newspaper published "There is no new China with the Communist Party 有共党就没有新中国", using 'with ' instead of 'without 没有'.  The publisher and the chief editor were both sacked.  This occurred in 2006.