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Chinese tabloid refers to a newspaper format that became extremely popular in the People's Republic of China in the mid-1990s. Like tabloids in the rest of the world, they focus on sensationalism and scandal, but in the context of media in China this has the effect of challenging government limits on press censorship.
The rise of the tabloid format is associated with withdrawal of governmental subsidies to newspapers in the late 1980s. Faced with the possibility of bankruptcy, many newspapers changed their formats to emphasize investigative reporting and bold editorial policies. Ironically, many of these newspapers are owned by units of the Communist Party of China; however this ownership has the odd effect of giving the newspapers the political cover to take a more critical line against the government.
Chinese tabloids have been crucial in breaking some of the major stories on social crises facing mainland China including the AIDS epidemic in Henan, the dangers of coal mining, and the corruption inherent in the system of custody and repatriation. In recent years, Chinese tabloids have begun to have a growing influence on Chinese public policy.
The government will occasionally crack down in the tabloids by closing them and changing their staff, but the commercial pressures on the tabloids to gather readers and the fact that many enjoy considerable political protection makes the effectiveness of these actions limited.
The conflicting nature of policies of the PRC toward tabloids can been illustrated the actions of the State Council of China on June 2003. Responding to public pressure, it abolished custody and repatriation and adopted new regulations on coal mining. At the same time, it issued orders shutting down a number of Chinese tabloids.