The coronavirus continued to dominate China news coverage. The month’s longest-running stories were New York Times reports on China’s failed containment of the virus; the American intelligence community’s doubts about the accuracy of China’s virus reporting; and how hundreds of thousands have traveled from China to the United States despite travel restrictions. An essay in The Atlantic warning against a premature return to normalcy was also among the month’s key stories. The Guardian and Fox News were among the most prolific publishers on China for the first time since the news trends initiative began.
About the initiative
News trends takes a quantitative approach to understanding the stories and publications that are driving coverage of China. The data is based on the stories that appear during daily queries on Google News for the term “China.” Google News is an important aggregator and, for many publishers, it and the Google search engine account for the plurality of their web traffic. Thus, the stories that Google News elevates plays an important role in shaping popular understanding of China.
The globalization of the coronavirus outbreak, with the worst appearing to be behind China, was the focus of March’s news. The New York Times continued to lead with the most stories indexed by and featured in Google News’ top three stories. The month’s longest-running articles involved China’s deployment of technology to enhance its surveillance and control of the outbreak; an examination of why China’s measures to control the outbreak may not succeed in other countries; and articles capturing how Beijing’s propaganda is being received abroad and at home.
The coronavirus continued to drive headlines in February. The New York Times led outlets in the volume of stories published and the share of top three articles during the month. The month’s longest-running stories were focused on the international dimensions of the outbreak, its political implications for Xi Jinping, and the anti-Chinese sentiment the virus has inflamed. Tracking articles captured by Google News since August 2019, the Times leads with the highest proportion of articles achieving a top three position on the news aggregator.
The coronavirus drove a marked decline in headline sentiment in January. The New York Times led outlets in the volume of stories published and the share of top three articles during the month. The South China Morning Post was among the top five most prolific publishers for the second straight month but had few stories among Google News’ top three. The longest-running stories for the month included a 2019 retrospective by Foreign Policy and New York Times articles on the sentencing of the scientist who genetically edited babies, pickup artists, and the separation of hundreds of thousands of Uighur children from their families.
The South China Morning Post was among the top five publishers of China-related content as aggregated by Google News for the first time since News trends began last summer. It, and Bloomberg, however never had a story featured in a top three position during the month. The longest-running stories for the month were a CNN report on facial recognition; New York Times on China’s relations with Taiwan and Australia; and Fareed Zakaria’s essay questioning the more hawkish shift in American thinking on China.
Hong Kong and trade talks remained the most common topics of China-related news coverage in November as reflected by Google News. CNBC remained the most prolific source of coverage and occupied a top three story position 20% of the time. A separate analysis, spanning August to November, finds that the New York Times has the highest proportion of its stories that land in a top three position, at 17%, followed by NPR and CNN. The longest-running stories for the month were a CNN report on the Central Committee meeting; and three New York Times stories, including a report on social media platform TikTok, China’s trade policy, and Xi Jinping’s political health.
Some optimism creeped into coverage of China in October, as “trade deal” joined “trade war” as one of the most common topics. CNBC remained the most prolific source of coverage and matched the New York Times in occupying 19% of the month’s daily top three story positions. Bloomberg, the second most prolific publisher of China-related stories, had just a 1% share of top stories; the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post led the news 6% and 5% of the time. The longest-running stories for the month were a CNN feature on the seventieth anniversary of the People’s Republic, an NPR story on economic inequality, and two New York Times stories, one on Trump’s blacklisting of several Chinese tech companies, nominally for abetting human rights violations in Xinjiang, and another on Hong Kong’s protests.
Stories about the trade war and Hong Kong protests continued to lead China-focused coverage in September, according to a China Books Review analysis of Google News data. CNBC remained the most prolific publisher of stories about the country and this month led with the most number of stories in the top three positions of Google News results. The stories that were featured for the most number of days included a look at how Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland has evolved; reporting on how China justifies its oppressive tactics in Xinjiang to other Chinese; and two stories on China’s economy, one refracted through the lens of US politics.
Hong Kong was the most frequent topic of articles aggregated by Google News related to China in August, according to a quantitative news analysis by China Books Review. In August, the data set included 1,575 unique articles from some 200 publications. Article titles mentioning Hong Kong constituted 10% of those aggregated, closely followed by the trade war. In August, a Washington Post analysis of Xi Jinping’s hold on power appeared for 22 days, followed by a report from Science on the alarm among Chinese scientists triggered by increasing US government scrutiny of research relationships with China. CNBC was the most prolific publisher with 178 articles; the top five most prolific publishers accounted for more than 30% of the total articles aggregated. Stories from the New York Times appeared in the top three results 17% of the time, followed by CNN at 16%.