18 September 2019
You could tell from this "I got mine" pose that the Apple Watch is coveted by millions in China. But you wouldn't know it from a China Daily headline. Photo: Reuters
You could tell from this "I got mine" pose that the Apple Watch is coveted by millions in China. But you wouldn't know it from a China Daily headline. Photo: Reuters

What’s not to laugh about a China Daily headline?

When it comes to eye-popping, head-scratching headlines, China Daily has few peers.

Whether for hot domestic stories (Market tumult not seen as economic threat) or international (Greek ambassador: ‘I’m very optimistic’), perusing China Daily headlines is good entertainment for China watchers, if only to see what lengths the state-run publication will go in the name of propaganda.

An English-language newspaper written for foreigners, the publication serves up hard news (China measured in response to Clinton hacking claims) to soft porn (Chinese vs foreign stars: Who has the most beautiful legs?) with headlines that are often unintentionally bizarre or humorous.

A sampling of recent headlines that got me laughing:

Chinese president proposes Asia-Pacific dream (as if Xi Jinping can tell us what to do during sleepy time).

Premier loves to go off on a Sunday (for a story that turned out to be about Li Keqiang’s preference for flying on Sundays).

22 officials involved in sex scandal (because sex scandals that involve corrupt Chinese officials are always funny).

Then, there’s the bizarre — headlines that make you say “I can’t believe they just said that”.

Panda ‘love corridor’ under threat.

NYU Shanghai sets phasers to stun.

Man makes giant shoes.

There aren’t many heads that can beat the classic China Daily headline from 2009 (Woman who urinated often told to drink less water) but yesterday’s howler (More Chinese to travel overseas to seek better medical treatment) sure comes close.

Of course, there are also China Daily headlines that don’t conjure up all kinds of mayhem or get your imagination running wild. These headlines are just plain stupid:

Center aims to stop marriage wreckers (for some, having a habit for at least 20 mistresses seems to be tough to shake).

Artist from China Daily lured to British capital (who wouldn’t be?)

Policeman’s finger tutting amazes many (what the heck is finger tutting?)

Blue Jays fans get high in Seattle (probably accurate.)

Despite the attraction to China Daily headlines — yes, I’m a fanboy — if not for Steve George, editor-in-chief of That’s Beijing magazine, I would have missed the ultimate China Daily headline: Stay out of our affairs, China tells outsiders.

That, my friends, is the quintessential China Daily headline.

It is at once threatening, ominous, blustery and pompous as it is mind-numbing, off-the-wall, matter-of-fact and cold-blooded.

And as a bonus, the deadpan delivery makes it every bit as hilarious as “Clear sky should be forever”, which introduced a story lauding China’s ability to achieve temporary air quality improvement in the capital in time for APEC meetings last year.

Or, “Slapper gets 5 days in detention”, which called attention to a woman assaulting her gynecologist after a heated dispute over sick leave.

Or, “Six reasons stopping Apple Watch from ticking in China”, clearly a gloomy headline although the accompanying story revealed that “only” 230 million Chinese wanted an Apple Watch.

Embarrassing as I am, I’m evidently not the only one who missed this provocative one-liner which appeared on May 1, 2015 — in about as prominent a position as you can make it: front page, column one, above the fold.

Not one mention of it appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, South China Morning Post or any other publication of note I could find.

Clearly, when China Daily talks, nobody listens.

– Contact us at [email protected]


A strategist and marketing consultant on China business