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Sudden Closure of Beijing-based Duowei News Highlights Political Struggle in China

Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: April 26, 2022
(Image: Screenshot via Duowei News)

News analysis

Duowei News, a Chinese-language online media outlet that had its headquarters in Beijing yet was allowed to publish articles critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and current leader Xi Jinping for years, has apparently lost that privilege, with the outlet announcing its closure on April 26.

At the time of writing, visiting the site yields a notice saying that “the websites and apps associated with Duowei News” would shut down “due to internal adjustments.” The notice thanks Duowei’s readers for “the many years” of following the outlet.

Insiders told Taiwan-based United Daily News (UDN) that the closure was brought on by the financial losses of its owner, Nan Hai Corporation, which in 2021 lost more than HK$3 billion (US$382 million). Duowei’s editorial department had already shut down at the end of last year, though the site continued to post articles.

Accoridng to the persons cited by UDN, Duowei’s staff would be integrated with Hong Kong-based outlet HK01.

Duowei, which means “multi-dimensional” in Chinese, was notable for its initially critical stance on the CCP. Founded in January 1999 in New York, the outlet had, for example, reported on the persecution of Falun Gong that began that July — a brutal communist campaign that remains a matter of utmost sensitivity for the Party to this day.

But that October, ownership of the outlet changed and Duowei was rebased to Beijing. It stopped its reporting on Falun Gong. This notwithstanding, Duowei continued to run content that criticized aspects of the CCP regime. Especially since Xi came to power in 2012, the website often launched attacks on the new leader, but continued to evolve a more pro-regime stance overall.

According to China analysts, Duowei’s history and position indicates that it was protected by anti-Xi factions in the CCP for a lengthy period of time, who made use of the outlet’s history of running politically sensitive articles to air their discontent.

Duowei’s sudden closure thus may signal an escalation in the factional struggle between Xi and his rivals, particularly the faction that grouped around the influence of former Party head Jiang Zemin. Jiang was also the architect of the anti-Falun Gong campaign, which would explain Duowei’s change in attitude on the plight of the popular Chinese faith group.