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The Transformation of Professional Values in Chinese Investigative Journalism

Alain Peter
p. 63-72


Two generations of investigative journalists are mixed together in Chinese editorial boards: those who started before 2010 and those who came after. The former contributed to the rise of investigative journalism in commercial media outlets in the 1990s and 2000s, and the latter have experienced the economic crisis of the traditional outlets and neo-authoritarianism since the rise to power of Xi Jinping. Interviews with 29 investigative journalists show that a transformation of professional values has occurred in the under 35 generation compared to their peers over 35, as the media ecosystem itself transformed in the 2010s. Changes in the journalists’ academic training and social origin have also contributed to this transformation of values, which ultimately serves Xi Jinping’s long-term authoritarian political agenda.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 20 September 2021. Accepted on 27 September 2022.


Full text document will be published online on June 2024.


A transformation of professional values
The freedom to choose topics
The scope of investigation
Relationship with power
The role of social evolution
The influence of academic training
The importance of social origins
The crucial role of internship supervisors

First lines

The early 2010s saw sweeping changes in the Chinese news media ecosystem. First, the economic model underpinning the growth of traditional media – including print – collapsed. Audience figures dropped and so did ad revenues. Commercial media outlets that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s had experienced boom years thanks to a strong increase in circulation and advertising revenue, but that slowed down (Zhao 2008). As a result, by 2012, the growth of the advertising market for traditional media (print, radio, TV) was only 4.5%, its lowest level in five years. This average masked significant disparities: the advertising revenues of radio and television companies were still up by respectively 8.9% and 6.4% in 2012, whereas those of daily newspapers had dropped by 12.6%. The struggles of the traditional media were a result of the rise of online media, which began hogging audiences and ad revenues. In 2012, advertising revenue for online publications was up by 46.8%; two-figure growth rates...

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Bibliographical reference

Alain Peter, The Transformation of Professional Values in Chinese Investigative JournalismChina Perspectives, 133 | -1, 63-72.

Electronic reference

Alain Peter, The Transformation of Professional Values in Chinese Investigative JournalismChina Perspectives [Online], 133 | 2023, Online since 01 June 2024, connection on 30 September 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Alain Peter

Alain Peter teaches at the School of Journalism (Centre Universitaire d’Enseignement du Journalisme – CUEJ), University of Strasbourg. CUEJ, Bâtiment l’Escarpe, 4 rue Blaise Pascal, CS 90032, 67081 Strasbourg Cedex, France (

By this author

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The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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