Xinhua is a Chinese newspaper. It's actually halfway decent (given my deep distaste for most journalism, this is almost praise), and probably the highest quality state-run newspaper in China. But state run newspapers are strange things.

On the plus-side, they do cover a lot of more positive and upbeat news that traditional outlets tend to avoid. Their mandate isn't purely propaganda driven, but it's propagand-ish enough to paint a pretty good picture of the world. This might be the time to say: they don't ever say anything false. Not that I've ever been able to detect, at least, although I'm sure it's happened by accident. Their bias (just like the bias of any other major news outlet) is largely expressed with their choice of stories. What do they think is important? What do they ignore? What elements of a story are mentioned in the article, and in what order are they discussed?

This type of bias isn't really a problem, per se – so long as you read relatively broadly. Some news organizations just miss the entire point of certain events, or fail to understand them, and they need to be ignored. But even Xinhua's science section is surprisingly good, and that's the worst, and most disappointing, part of almost every major American newspaper.

The negatives of reading Xinhua are... well, let me show you the English homepage.

The big story of the day is China-Russia relations – it's got a big banner up top, which you'd definitely not tune out because it looks like a banner ad, so that's obviously what they want Americans to know, right?

It looks... essentially like a normal news site, right? Their CSS could use some work, and their use of space is odd, but it's not anything too weird. I'd like to point out that literally every single news story above the fold (aside from the Hangzhou AI thing in the carousel) is about international cooperation being positive for all parties. Think about this, when you read your next news story about how trade talks have stalled because China literally has no idea what America wants out of a re-negotiated trade deal. That story specifically saying America benefits from free trade just like China does? That's important stuff, for an American audience.

Of course, the Chinese version looks a little different.

It's clear they spend time making their Chinese language version look good. But why not make the English side identical? Does it have to look worse?

You might not be able to tell, but the above-the-fold content is dominated by the China-Russia meeting. While the English site has Xi shaking hands with... somebody? Some Russian diplomat I've never seen before? Their Chinese language site doesn't have to hide the fact that Putin is the one they're doing business with.

That particular element of international influence isn't particularly subtle, but I'd like to point out something else: that story, about mutual benefit from trade? It's on the Chinese language homepage too. Don't worry, you don't need to strain your eyes looking at the small Chinese text – it isn't above the fold. If you scroll down, you'll find...

Admittedly, if you can't read Chinese it's possible you won't get much out of these screenshots

... that it's the second story next to the picture of the people dancing (?) in the park. I think it's fair to say they sort of buried the story, despite it being extremely relevant to one of the biggest news stories out there, and massively relevant to China. Obviously, they're more concerned that it reaches an American audience.

None of this should be super surprising to anyone, I suppose. But it's worth pointing out the differences, and that the aren't performing a translation. You might even want to read the English language version anyway – it does have a focus on stuff more relevant to American interests. But you should make the choice aware of what it means.

And yes, I wish I had this idea just a few days earlier, so I could make a big reveal that neither version said anything about it being the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen square massacre. I was two days late, so that's my bad – these ideas don't always come when we'd like. It would be a big twist ending for American readers, if they didn't have that history top-of-mind, but also distracting, considering there are big things they don't talk about on normal days too. Suffice it to say, they won't talk about some things no matter what day it is.