The Nordic Chinese Times (北欧时报), or NCT, is a print newspaper and website that claims to reach overseas Chinese communities and others interested in China across 20 cities in the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland — as well as across Europe. “Let the world appreciate China and let China embrace the world,” a banner across the top of the site reads
But pay the Nordic Chinese Times a visit this week and you may be surprised to discover that its top headline is a dull piece of propaganda from China’s Guangxi Daily (广西日报), the official Communist Party mouthpiece of the southern region. It reports on the delivery of Guangxi’s government work report by the local Party chief, CCP chairman Lan Tianli (蓝天立).
What accounts for this odd choice of news in a Stockholm-based media outlet? What could connect a Chinese newspaper based in Sweden with political events in Guangxi?
According to our research, the Nordic Chinese Times was launched in 2009 by He Ru (何儒), a native of Guangxi who arrived in Sweden in 2006 and is now president of the Copenhagen-based Nordic-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (北欧中国商会). He Ru told China’s official state broadcaster CCTV in 2019 that after arriving in Sweden he realized that “it was hard to find news about China in the local media, and if there was news it was largely negative.”
He Ru was reportedly incensed by Western media coverage ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. According to the CCTV report, he launched the Nordic Chinese Times the next year, urging his colleagues to “stick to the principle of impartiality.”
While the Nordic Chinese Times continues to call itself a “neutral media” (中立媒体), our survey of all 31 news reports in the website’s “China News” section on January 24 found that 100 percent of these were sourced directly from Haiwainet (海外网) — the official website of the overseas edition of the CCP’s flagship People’s Daily — which lists its mission as “spreading China’s voice and serving our compatriots around the world.”
The overseas edition of the People’s Dailyreported in October 2016 that it had signed a cooperation agreement with the Nordic Chinese Times, reaching “a consensus on in-depth cooperation.” According to the agreement, the Nordic Chinese Times would run four full pages of People’s Daily content in each of its daily editions, and would “use multimedia means to radiate [the paper’s content] out from the Swedish capital of Stockholm out to the five Nordic countries.” That cooperation is now reflected by the inclusion of the People’s Daily logo on the paper’s masthead.
In the same article, the newspaper praised its partner in Stockholm for its active role in supporting the interests of China in Europe. “Over the past eight years, the newspaper has always been committed to active and positive reports, publicizing China, and has actively taken part in and reported on various exchanges between China and northern Europe,” it said.
In such official contexts, the phrase “positive reporting” (正面报道) generally refers to news reporting that abides by “public opinion guidance” and suits the interests of the CCP leadership. Since 2013, the notion of “emphasizing positive reporting” (正面报道为主) has been closely associated with the older press control phrase “emphasizing positive propaganda” (正面宣传为主) — and as one communications scholar at a Chinese university wrote in 2018, “the meanings are essentially the same.”
Radiating his partial view of impartiality in October 2021, He Ru’s website ran his enthusiastic comments on the CCP’s 20th National Congress, which inaugurated Xi Jinping’s unprecedented third term at the top of the Party. He Ru’s remarks were also printed in the pages of Guangxi Daily. “General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech,” said the publisher, noting remarks Xi had made to the Guangxi delegation, “made my heart pound like a spring breeze.”