Trends in Chinese reporting on the European Union: Xinhua's coverage of EU affairs, 2012-2021

10-09-2021

The main Chinese news service, Xinhua, has steadily expanded its coverage on the European Union over the past decade. The main challenges facing the Union have featured strongly, from the refugee crisis to Brexit to the impact of Covid 19. The tone of the coverage in this period has been neutral, rather than negative, and has not become more critical during the pandemic. Internal EU policies are often put in a favourable light, although internal divisions also feature in Xinhua's reporting. Xinhua tends to emphasise EU cooperation with China and EU divisions with the United States. It also criticises EU sanctions and human rights complaints, both about China – for example on Xinjiang and Hong Kong – and about countries including Russia and Turkey. These trends are in line with China's long-standing stated preference for the EU to become a pole in a multipolar world order that is able to balance US power, despite its disapproval of the EU's pursuit of human rights issues. Xinhua's coverage emphasises both the opportunities and the challenges facing European integration. This dual approach tends to support the view that China is ambiguous about the EU's ability to become a more influential and more useful strategic partner on the world stage. This briefing is based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of Chinese-language online articles by the state-affiliated Xinhua News Agency since 2012, as well as a selection of secondary sources.

The main Chinese news service, Xinhua, has steadily expanded its coverage on the European Union over the past decade. The main challenges facing the Union have featured strongly, from the refugee crisis to Brexit to the impact of Covid 19. The tone of the coverage in this period has been neutral, rather than negative, and has not become more critical during the pandemic. Internal EU policies are often put in a favourable light, although internal divisions also feature in Xinhua's reporting. Xinhua tends to emphasise EU cooperation with China and EU divisions with the United States. It also criticises EU sanctions and human rights complaints, both about China – for example on Xinjiang and Hong Kong – and about countries including Russia and Turkey. These trends are in line with China's long-standing stated preference for the EU to become a pole in a multipolar world order that is able to balance US power, despite its disapproval of the EU's pursuit of human rights issues. Xinhua's coverage emphasises both the opportunities and the challenges facing European integration. This dual approach tends to support the view that China is ambiguous about the EU's ability to become a more influential and more useful strategic partner on the world stage. This briefing is based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of Chinese-language online articles by the state-affiliated Xinhua News Agency since 2012, as well as a selection of secondary sources.