The World according to Cankao Xiaoxi

Bruce Humes – Danwei

Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn, December 23, 2005 06:36 PM
Reference News: slightly dodgy
This article is by Bruce Humes, a China publishing consultant based in Shenzhen.
Whatís more convincing to the masses than propaganda out of Beijing? Discreetly massaged copy from the New York Times, evidently.
The New York Timesí Howard W. French recently visited Korla, discovering that despite the oil boom in this ìsleepy oasisî in Xinjiang, ìnot everyone is enjoying the benefits of the townís new wealth.î
And just who might ìnot everyoneî be? Well, you would have to have read the English article, ëcuz the Chinese version ainít gonna tell ya.
Cankao Xiaoxi (????) is in fact a much-respected Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history. Published nowadays for the public by Xinhua News Agency, until the 1980s the only eyeballs that scanned these pages were those of elite party cadres who received this sensitive, ìinternal-circulationî publication featuring reportage and opinion from the outside world. Claimed daily circulation exceeds several million. As a publishing consultant, I generally take such figures with several grains of salt, but in just about every city Iíve been throughout China, Cankao Xiaoxi is on the newsstand early in the morning, and often sold out by early afternoon.
Unlike many other publications in China, Cankao Xiaoxi implements strict standards for translation: Virtually no English is used, no content is added, and politically incorrect termsósuch as the Republic of China (????)óare translated directly into the Chinese if they appear as such in the original. Such practices make for a good read and have endowed the brandname with an air of authoritativeness over the years.
But there are three areas in which Cankao Xiaoxi takes liberties: It runs its own headlines, creates its own captions, andóthis is the killeródeletes references deemed unbecoming to Chinaís image.
Back to our Xinjiang oasis. Frenchís story documents the positive and negative impact of the oil boom: On the up-side, a new airport is under construction, thousands of new jobs are being created, and of course, Made-in-China petroleum is flowing for this energy-hungry nation. But the down-side is there too: Raunchy night-club acts which must be offensive to the Muslim locals, retail commerce monopolized by Han Chinese migrants, and discrimination in hiring which leaves even some educated Uighurs, the once dominant indigenous people who are Muslim, less likely to participate in the boom.
The Chinese digest artfully repackages these ìcontradictionsî into highly readable praise of a new-look Xinjiang where Uighurs hardly figure. While the New York Times leads with ìA Remote Boomtown Where Mainly Newcomers Benefit,î the Chinese digest headline boasts ìAmerican Marvels at Prosperity in Xinjiangís Korlaî.
And to ensure that this happy picture is not marred by reality, the following references/full sentences have not been included in the Chinese digest:
* ìÖscript used by the regionís Uighur ethnic minorityî
* ìÖnewly arriving ethnic Chinese migrants from the countryís crowded eastî
* ìAs with Tibet to the south, Chinaís hold on Xinjiang is recent. Elements of the Uighur and Kazakh minorities have long yearned for independence and have sporadically engaged in terrorism.î
* ìBeijing has cracked down harshly on separatists and has banned religious schools in Xinjiang, for fear they will foment Islamic radicalism and separatism.î
* ìAt one club, Chinese fashion models strut and Russian dancers shimmy on a stage for ogling oil workers. An entertainer with an atrocious voice belts out karaoke songs urging patrons who disapprove to ìthrow your money, your cellphones, whatever youíve got at me.î
* ìI studied at the university in Urumqi,î the provinceís capital, ìfor three years, majoring in mechanical engineering,î said the Uighur barber, Yasen Keyimu, 25. ìBut I canít find a job with the oil industry. Such great skills, and I canít get work.î
Working out of Shenzhen, Bruce Humes is a bilingual China Media Analyst who offers services such as reader focus groups, pre-launch research for magazines and web sites, and training for China publishing professionals. He can be reached at

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