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Chinese news agency, Xinhua, is a national organization with an office in every province, a mouthpiece for the state which has a monopoly on domestic news. You can read their propaganda in the China Daily, the only English­- language newspaper, which is scarce outside Beijing , though you can always get it o at www.chinadaily.com.cn. The stories of economic success written in turgid prose may be numbing, but the paper also has a Beijing listings section and article on uncontroversial aspects of Chinese culture. Other official English­­- language publications such as Beijing Review and Business Beijing are glossy titles, again very difficult to get hold of outside the capital, with articles on investment 0unities, the latest state successes, as well as interesting places to visit.

Much more Interesting are the free expat-geared magazines available in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou which contain list­ing local venues and events, plus classi­fieds feature articles: they’re closely monitored by the authorities, though this doesn’t them sailing quite close to the wind at times. In large cities you’ll also find imported publications (generally uncensored) such as Time, Newsweek and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Try branches of the friendship Store (the state-run department store) or big tourist hotels for these.

The main Chinese-language daily newspaper is the People’s Daily, which has an online English edition at english.peopledaily.com.cn on Heavy censorship continues to affect the mainland Chinese-language press, though stories sometimes break that the Party would , people didn’t know about. In 2002, for example, the appalling conditions of mine work­ers overtaxed peasants became a national issue thanks to crusading journalists. It’s a brave editor who prints such stuff, however.

A good range of English-language newspapers magazines are published in Hong Kong, including the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong Standard, the Eastern Express and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Asian editions of a number of international magazines and newspapers are also produced here – Time, Newsweek, the Asian Wall Street Journal and USA Today, for exam­ple. Surprisingly, all these have so far remained free (and openly critical of Beijing on occasion), despite the former colony’s changeover to Chinese control.

TV and radio

There is the occasional item of interest on mainland Chinese television, though you’d have to be very bored to resort to it for enter­tainment. Domestic travel and wildlife programmes are common, as are song-and­-dance extravaganzas, the most entertaining of which feature dancers performing in fetishistic, tight-fitting military gear while party officials watch with rigor-mortis faces. Soap operas and historical dramas are popular, also screened are 20-year-old American thrillers and war films. Chinese war films, in which the Japanese are shown getting mightily beaten, at least have the advantage that you don’t need to speak the language to understand what’s going on. The same goes for the flirty dating gameshows, where male contestants proudly state their qualifications and height. CCTV, the state broadcaster, has two English-­language channels, 4 and 9, though they’re of precious little interest. Satellite TV in English is available in the more expensive hotels.

On the radio you’re likely to hear the latest ballads, often from Taiwan or Hong Kong , or versions of Western pop songs sung in Chinese. For news from home, you may want to bring a shortwave radio with you; see the websites of the BBC World Service (www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice), Radio Canada (www.rcinetca), the Voice of America (www.voa.gov) and Radio Australia (www.abc.netau/ra) for schedules and fre­quencies.