Global Times's aggressive editorial style is the product of two intersecting trend lines, says Jeremy Goldkorn, an expert on Chinese media and the founder of the Danwei.org website -- Jiang's introduction of "patriotic education" into Chinese schools and a concurrent push for newspapers to make money from subscriptions and advertising, as the government limited or withdrew funding. Hu's contribution was in realizing that these two forces could go together. Over the last decade, as they were forced to commercialize, China's newspapers and magazines adopted a variety of approaches in fighting for readers: Some veered liberal and muckraking, including Hu Shuli's Caijing and now Caixin magazines; others focused on celebrity news. "But the Global Times had a different strategy -- a more nationalistic, jingoistic tone," as Goldkorn puts it. "Chinese nationalism is not exactly new. But what they've done is they've packaged it in a more contemporary way."
None of this attracted much notice in the West until 2009, when, in the midst of surging overseas interest in China following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hu founded Global Times's English edition. Some of the news articles are translated directly from the Chinese edition, but most are distinct, with a focus on interpreting China's domestic affairs. "Because many readers are foreigners, we have news about what happens in China," Hu says. The English edition is somewhat tamer than the Chinese edition, but still more nationalistic than China Daily, the country's other state-run national English language paper, founded in 1981. (Consider these recent headlines from China Daily: "China sticks to peaceful development"; "Experts vow to boost mutual trust between China, Japan"; and "China reaffirms commitment to ties with India.")
But what Global Times is today best known for is not news, but its chest-pumping editorials, such as the recent "sounds of cannons" essay. The topic and slant of the lead editorial is the same in both editions, with some slight textual variance in translation. Mr. Hu, who in interviews alternates between speaking in English and in Chinese through a translator, personally labors over each one, usually in the late evening or wee morning hours. As he explains the process: "In the evening, me and another reporter will together write the editorial. I am always included in the writing process. Then we will call or fax about three professors to know their opinion about what we write. … But in the last, I decide whether we will use their opinion, or we will not use their opinion." (Hu downplays the fact that, like all Chinese newspapers, Global Times is subject to government review before publication.)
One common theme is to criticize the perfidy of the West, in particular accusing the United States of hypocrisy and attacking American values on the grounds they are not always upheld in America. One example of an anti-Western screed, from July 28, 2011, took a shot at Foreign Policy's own Failed States Index: "The 2011 Failed State Index, an annual ranking jointly conducted by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine in the US … ranked 177 countries using 12 different indicators. And to no one's surprise, most of the countries that topped the list are from Africa, ravaged by civil war, poverty, and natural disasters." The editorial continued: "But it is necessary to ask a question: What and who failed them? … Their formal colonizers, who now dominate the world market, told them exporting raw materials and opening up their markets to Western goods was the quickest path to prosperity. But most of their revenues ended up in the pocket of international corporations."