Japanese Media Group's Purchase of the Financial Times Shocks China

Photo from Flickr user: Gareth (CC: NC-AT)

Photo from Flickr user Gareth (CC: NC-AT)

Publishing group Pearson announced the sale of the Financial Times Group to Japanese media firm Nikkei for $1.32 billion on Thursday night (July 23), a move that caused concern among many Chinese.

The expensive deal shocked many in the media industry, as previous reports indicated that German group Alex Springer was close to reaching an agreement on buying the Financial Times. The news also dismayed Beijing, as George Chen, a reporter from the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, revealed on Twitter.

The Financial Times has been one of the most influential Western media outlets in its coverage of Chinese business. Moreover, compared to other Western outlets, the newspaper has a friendly relationship with the the Chinese government.

Established in 1888, the paper has three bureaus in China — Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong that report on China extensively. Its Chinese version, FTChinese, was launched 10 years ago and enjoys rather good circulation. In March this year, FT became the first foreign media outlet to interview Li Keqiang, a remarkable opportunity considering Beijing's antagonistic attitude towards foreign news organizations.

Given the lingering bad blood between China and Japan over Japanese war crimes during World War II as well as geo-political tensions in Asia, many wondered how, if at all, the change of ownership would affect the Financial Times’ expansion in China and its coverage of the country.

George Chen was pessimistic about the paper's future:

But Zhang Xin, the CEO of real estate developer SOHO, looked at the deal from an investor's perspective and believed that Nikkei would not ruin the paper's credibility:


Can FT follow the UK press tradition and remain independent after selling to Nikkei? Of course, any media outlet would lose their audience if it was manipulated. Who would buy a paper that no one reads? Better to trust the buyer's wisdom. But the stress on “manner and respect” of the Japanese culture may hinder the paper's path in seeking the truth.

Regardless of Nikkei's reassurance that it's determined to uphold the paper's “quality, impartiality and reliability in its journalism and global viewpoint”, nationalistic responses flooded Chinese social media soon after the deal was made public, with some even calling for a boycott of the newspaper.

As China is eager to expand its influence in regional and global politics, many Chinese netizens wondered why state-owned media groups did not buy the paper. George Chen commented on the breaking story on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo:

BREAKING:日本經濟新聞社(Nikkei)剛剛正式對外宣布全面收購英國金融時報(Financial Times),交易作價近13億美金。125年歷史的FT易手,結果被日本人拿下,全世界震驚。此交易意義深刻,對日本提升世界軟實力和全球話語權有深遠影響!(人民日報沒有參與投標嗎?才13億美金啊!)

Breaking: Nikkei has just announced its acquisition of British Financial Times. The deal is about US $1.3 billion. FT, a paper with 125 years in history, is now owned by Japanese. The news shocks the whole world. The implication of the deal is pervasive as the paper will help Japan increase its soft power in global politics. (Did the People's Daily make a bid? It only cost US $1.3 billion)

Others remarked in the comment thread:


US $1.3 billion? That sum is less than the corruption money of the deputy engineer of China Railways Co.


The fact that People's Daily did not manage to buy the paper is a serious mistake of our country's diplomatic propaganda.

But some laughed at the nationalism:


People's Daily is too busy f**king its own people over.


If People's Daily had bought it, we would not read [FT] anymore.

希望人民日报买了,把全球变成一家堂 ,省着总出各种谣言。让世界山河一片红。呵呵

I wish People's Daily bought up all the newspapers and turned the whole world into a mouthpiece. Then we would not have so many “rumors”. Let's turn all the mountains and rivers in the world all red. Haha.

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