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World & Nation

There’s a new BBC in China -- and there’s nothing British about it

Chinese BBC lookalike

A screenshot of a Chinese website that purports to be the BBC -- not the British Broadcasting Corp. but something called the Business Broadcast of China.

(Internet)

China has long been known as a mecca of fake Western products, such as iPhones, Nike sneakers, even IKEA outlets.

Now the country has its very own BBC — the Business Broadcast of China, that is.

The Business Broadcast of China’s website looks strikingly similar to that of its British counterpart — the page’s header bears the same shades of red. Even its choice of content carries a whiff of the British Broadcasting Corp.; recent stories include takes on the rise of financial technology, migrant labor in Germany, and the vagaries of the Chinese economy.

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Its domain name is www.bbcnews.com.cn/. (The original BBC’s Chinese-language website is at www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp.)

China in recent years has blocked scores of Western media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, after they ran critical reports about the country’s leadership. Over the past week, censors also blocked the websites of the Economist and Time after they published magazine covers that cast Chinese President Xi Jinping in a negative light.

BBC China

A screenshot of the British BBC’s Chinese-language website.

(Internet)

The BBC’s English- and Chinese-language websites have been intermittently blocked in China; on Sunday, the English site was accessible, but the Chinese one was not.

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An operations manager at the Business Broadcast of China, when reached by phone, said that any similarities to the BBC’s website were a “coincidence.” The company is based in Hefei, the capital of central China’s Anhui province, he said, but some of its 10 employees are scattered throughout the country. He said the site went online in late 2014, and attracts up to 5,000 unique viewers per day.

“We think it’s not proper to have the same color [header] as BBC, so we’re changing it to gray,” said the manager, who gave only his surname, Li.
 
The BBC -- the British one -- did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Strangely, the Hefei-based BBC’s website also carries articles about the Panama Papers, a massive document leak publicized last week that implicated a swath of the global elite — including several current or former Chinese leaders — in an offshore finance scandal. Beijing has banned all mentions of the leak in the country’s media. (The Business Broadcast of China did not mention the Chinese leaders in its reports).

Some of the site’s articles attribute their content to other, vaguely defined sources, such as “German Media;” others are simply attributed to “Business Broadcast Network.” No reporters are identified.

The site lists a BBC Twitter and BBC Facebook page, without providing links. Several links on the site lead directly to searches on Baidu, the country’s leading search engine.

At the bottom of each article is a notice: “Without the Business Broadcast Network’s authorization, it is forbidden to reprint [this article]. Violators will be investigated.”

Yingzhi Yang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

Follow @JRKaiman on Twitter for news from Asia

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