Alibaba 阿里巴巴集团

The dominant ecommerce platform in China, Alibaba became the world’s largest retailer in April 2016. Its popular online marketplace Taobao 淘宝网 allows small and boutique vendors to connect with hundreds of millions of registered customers. Beyond online enterprises, Alibaba also owns Hong Kong’s premier English-language newspaper the South China Morning Post (see the China Story Yearbook 2015: Pollution, ‘Alibaba Buys The South China Morning Post’).

Baidu 百度

Baidu — a US-Chinese web services company with headquarters in Beijing — is one of the largest Internet companies in the world. It offers a huge number of online services including a popular search engine and the reference encyclopedia Baidu Baike 百度百科.

Caixin 财新传媒

Founder-editor Hu Shuli 胡舒立 runs Caixin, the only non-state organisation in this list of keywords. Forbes has described Hu as China’s ‘muck-raker-in-chief’ and ‘one of the country’s most respected and intrepid journalists’. Caixin has an economics focus, publishes both online and off, in English and Chinese, and also produces books, video, and television content. It claims to be an ‘unrivaled producer of independent, investigative journalism in China, and an indispensible [sic] source of information’. China Media Capital — a venture capital fund with connections to Rupert Murdoch and Time Warner as well as state institutions including the China Development Bank — purchased a reported forty percent share in Caixin in 2013.

China Central Television 中国中央电视台 (CCTV)

CCTV is China’s national television broadcaster and largest media network. It also broadcasts several foreign-language channels. Its mission is to serve the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by promoting its political ideology both to domestic and international viewers and to advance China’s state of development, while trying to break even financially.

Global Times 环球时报

Owned by the People’s Daily, this paper is known for its stridently nationalist tone. While enjoying a degree of editorial independence, the Global Times is still linked to state propaganda apparatus. It has both Chinese and English editions, and goes after political targets with less restraint than the People’s Daily or other official papers. In 2016, for example, after Australian swimmer Mack Horton — who had labelled his Chinese rival Sun Yang 孙杨 a ‘drug cheat’ — won gold at the Rio Olympics, it called Australia ‘a country at the fringes of civilization … [that was once] Britain’s offshore prison’.

Guangming Ribao 光明日报

This daily newspaper is published and distributed nationally by China’s Central Propaganda Department and claims to be ‘the only key central news portal focusing on ideology and theory … targeted specifically at the intellectual and academic communities’.

Huawei 华为

With headquarters in Guangzhou, Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer. In addition to its network infrastructure projects, it is a major supplier of mobile phones globally: in 2016 it shipped 76.2 million units in China alone. But Huawei’s international ventures in the sensitive field of telecommunications can be dogged by controversy on account of its connections with the Chinese military and other state actors. See Jane Golley in the China Story Yearbook 2013: Civilising China for more on Huawei’s attempts to gain influence in Australia, and of the extent to which it may be an actor of the Chinese state.


Politics in Taiwan is currently dominated by two parties: the Kuomintang (KMT) 國民黨 (Nationalist Party) and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 民進黨. The affiliated political views that cluster around them are labelled pan-Blue and pan-Green respectively. Associated with Sun Yat-sen 孫中山, the first president of the Republic of China in 1911, the KMT originated as a revolutionary party, helping to overthrow the millennia-old system of rule by imperial dynasties. Its leader in 1949 was Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石, who retreated with his army and government to Taiwan in 1949, when the CCP established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. It held power in Taiwan until 2000 (including nearly forty years of martial law, which ended in 1987).

Under Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁, the DPP, which originated in the anti-KMT social movements of the late 1970s and 1980s, claimed electoral victory over the KMT in 2000 and ruled for the following eight years. After another period of KMT rule, the DPP came into power once more in 2016 under Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文.

‘One Country, Two Systems’ 一国兩制

‘One Country, Two Systems’ is the constitutional formula proposed by former leader Deng Xiaoping 邓小平 in the 1980s to describe how Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan would be able to retain a high degree of political, legal, and financial autonomy under reunification with the mainland. Although it was enshrined in the Basic Law that came into effect in Hong Kong in 1997, the amount of Chinese interference in Hong Kong politics, including in the freedom of expression and publication, has led many local people to question the extent to which it represents reality.

Overseas Chinese

Also known as huaqiao 华侨, members of the Chinese diaspora have for centuries acted as conduits between China and Chinese populations around the world. These connections may be commercial, cultural, or political: the Xinhai Revolution 辛亥革命 of 1911 that brought the downfall of China’s last imperial dynasty was partly driven and funded by huaqiao communities in Japan, Hawaii, and elsewhere. As seen in the counter-protests that faced off pro-Tibetan and other demonstrations during the Olympic flame’s global tour to Beijing in 2008, huaqiao are a great potential source of patriotic support as well as investment funding for China, though controversies have erupted from time to time when their loyalty to the countries of which they hold citizenship has come under question. (See the China Story Yearbook 2015: Pollution, Forum ‘The Expansion of the United Front Under Xi Jinping‘)

Party Central, Plenums, and the Politburo

Party Central refers to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China 中国共产党中央委员会. The current committee, Eighteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, was elected in November 2012 and continues until 2017. It generally meets once a year (twice in 2013) in multi-day sessions known as plenums. The Politburo (Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China 中国共产党中央政治局) contains twenty-five members, many of whom have other senior positions in the CCP. The seven top leaders of China form the Politburo Standing Committee 中国共产党中央政治局常务委员会.

People’s Daily 人民日报

Claiming to be ‘one of the top ten newspapers in the world’, the People’s Daily is historically known as the ‘tongue and throat’ of the CCP. Its web portal is listed on the Shanghai stock exchange, and boasts of being ‘one of the largest comprehensive media sources on the Internet’. It has thirty-one branches across China and bureaus around the world.

Qi 氣

Despite its long presence in foreign-language discussions of Chinese medicine, exercise, and health, there is still no precise translation for qi into English. It is best understood as an animating force present throughout the universe as well as within the living human body. Practitioners of training methods such as qigong 氣功 claim to be able to cultivate and manipulate qi. Qigong exercises and training became very popular in the 1980s (including with members of the CCP). However, the CCP became wary of the rise of charismatic leaders and associated sects within the qigong movement, including the Falun Gong. It has launched crackdowns on popular groups, adding political complexity to the consideration of this esoteric force.

Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council 国务院台湾事务办公室 (TAO)

An administrative agency under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the TAO is responsible for official communications with Taiwan, as well as disseminating news about Taiwan in China. The current Minister for Taiwan Affairs, Zhang Zhijun 张志军, stated in 2011: ‘It is the common aspiration of all the Chinese in the world to usher in a new phase of peaceful development of cross-Strait relations’. A TAO spokesperson warned the US in late 2016, following President-elect Donald Trump’s unprecedented phone call with Tsai Ing-wen, to respect the ‘one China principle’ and handle Taiwan-related issues ‘carefully’.

WeChat 微信

With over 700 million users, WeChat is currently the most popular mobile communication platform in China. More than a mere messaging program or social media platform, WeChat offers users the ability to link their bank details to the app so they can perform cashless transactions in all areas of their daily lives: people can donate to charity, book restaurants, buy film tickets, and much more without leaving the platform. Its revolutionary financial ecosystem is spurring further innovation in China; Facebook and others have studied it closely as well. It is owned by Tencent 腾讯, which became the largest Chinese corporation when it was valued at HK$1.99 trillion (AU$332 billion) in September 2016.

Weibo 微博

Sina 新浪 is the Chinese web company behind Weibo, the microblog sometimes called ‘China’s Twitter’. Earlier this decade, Weibo played a vital role in breaking news, guiding public discussion, and spreading information (see the China Story Yearbook 2012: Red Rising, Red Eclipse, ‘Behind the Great Firewall‘). But, with increases in the amount of personal information required to open an account and censorship (both self-imposed and from the state), the platform is not as dynamic or influential as it once was.

Xinhua New Agency 新华通讯社

Mao Zedong 毛泽东 wanted Xinhua to have global influence. A ministry-level organisation, its goal is to ‘publicise China and report the world’. Thanks to its authority and the massive volume of news it produces daily, Xinhua content appears throughout Chinese media.