China Daily has the widest print circulation of any English-language newspaper in China. The headquarters and principal editorial office is in the Chaoyang District of Beijing. The newspaper has branch offices in most major cities of China as well as several major foreign cities including New York City, Washington, D.C., London, and Kathmandu. The paper is published by satellite offices in the United States, Hong Kong, and Europe. China Daily also produces an insert of sponsored content called China Watch that has been distributed inside other newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Le Figaro.
Within mainland China, the newspaper targets primarily diplomats, foreign expatriates, tourists, and locals wishing to improve their English. The China edition also offers program guides to Radio Beijing and television, daily exchange rates, and local entertainment schedules. It has been used as a guide to Chinese government policy and positions of the Chinese Communist Party. Scholar Falk Hartig describes the newspaper and its various international editions as an "instrument of China's public diplomacy."
China Daily's editorial policies have been described as slightly more liberal than other Chinese news outlets. Its coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre was overwhelmingly sympathetic to the student protests with many of its journalists joining in at the height of mass demonstrations. The newspaper's coverage of the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak was reported to be more critical, fact-driven, and less laudatory than that of the People's Daily. A 2018 discourse analysis from Uppsala University found that prior to Xi Jinping's accession, many China Daily articles portrayed their government as a particular kind of democracy, with democratic ideals such as the implementation of universal suffrage (in Hong Kong) and grassroots elections sometimes endorsed. After his accession, articles became more negative in tone toward democracy and shifted focus to portraying the "vices" of democracies in the West, particularly the United States.
Scholars have described China Daily as effectively controlled by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party. Ideologically, it tends to adopt similar perspectives to the People's Daily. According to its 2014 annual report, China Daily is formally managed by the State Council Information Office (SCIO), which was formed from the Propaganda Department in 1991. The SCIO holds regular meetings with journalists and editors from China Daily on what they should publish. A former copy-editor (or "polisher" as termed at China Daily) for the newspaper described her role being "to tweak propaganda enough that it read as English, without inadvertently triggering war." Journalist Michael Ottey described his time working for China Daily as "almost like working for a public relations firm" and added "it wasn't really honest journalism. It was more ‘Let’s make the Chinese government look good.’" ———— wikipedia.org