Freer but not free enough? Chinese journalists finding their feet in Africa

Iginio Gagliardone*, Nyíri Pál

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The high-profile appearance of Chinese media organizations in Africa has attracted considerable attention. How Chinese correspondents in Africa actually go about their work is, however, little understood. A posting in Africa gives journalists at Xinhua News Agency or China Central Television a degree of freedom not experienced in China combined with greater local visibility than a posting in the West and more market opportunities. At the same time, it carries the rather heavy responsibility to act as a pioneer of a new, distinctive global voice for China envisaged by the Chinese government. Based on interviews and observation at several Chinese media organizations in three African locations and in Beijing over the course of 3 years, this article suggests that Chinese correspondents in Africa are unable to make use of the opportunities their postings offer. While the greater investments of Chinese media in Africa have been framed to date as a challenge to their struggling competitors, in reality, journalists working for Chinese media not only feel some of the constraints that have characterized international journalism in the past decade but also face additional ones: the problem of finding and communicating a clear identity; of remaining relevant in a space where national media are growing fast and becoming more professional; of testing new styles without appealing only to a niche.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1063
Number of pages15
Issue number8
Early online date14 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • China-Africa relations
  • Chinese media
  • global media
  • international broadcasting
  • positive reporting
  • transformation in journalism practices


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