China Daily reports that an investor group led by China’s Southern Daily Group (????????) failed in its recent attempt to buy Newsweek magazine, but “the bidder is expecting to make other similar purchases.” The article does not provide details on the amount of the bid. According to the China Daily report:
“The offer to Newsweek is a volunteer action of Chinese media professionals and investors,” said Xiang Xi (??), managing editor of Southern Weekly, a weekly owned by the Group, who was granted an exclusive interview with President Obama during his visit to Beijing last November.
“With nine-language versions, Newsweek’s platform with global communication resources and influence is in line with our pursuits.”
The head of China’s most influential weekly denied any government involvement in the investments behind the bid for the Washington Post-owned news weekly. [Read Richard Mcgregor’s The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers for a different view of what might define “involvement”.]
Xiang said the Group partnered B-raymedia, a Shanghai-listed company based in Chengdu of Southwest China’s Sichuan province that owns several metropolis papers, and two other investment funds in the purchase attempt…
Xiang said the money is not what is keeping the Chinese bidder outside of the door.
“They don’t really understand Chinese media people,” he said. “They are not sure of why we are bidding. But I understand it is easier for a US media to take over the operation.”
The tagline of Southern Weekly – described by the New York Times as “China’s most influential liberal newspaper” – is “to understand China”.
Xiang said the move is for the world to have a better understanding of China, and for China to know more of the world.
The attempt to buy Newsweek is a beginning, said the 38-year-old, adding that they are “seeking to round up investors to bid on other media abroad.”
Moves like this are to be expected. China has an aggressive policy to expand its global soft power, Chinese firms, even print media ones, tend to be cash-rich, and US traditional media firms are increasingly desperate, as Newsweek’s dire finances (and the New York Times’, Forbes’ and BusinessWeek’s) demonstrate.
This failed bid raises at least two obvious questions. First, would the US government even allow a purchase of influential US media assets, dying or not, by Chinese firms? Second, is China wasting time and money trying to expand its soft power through dying media properties?
[UPDATE: Sohu.com has a longer interview in Chinese with Xiang Xi on the bid and the possible reasons it did not past the first round. Price does not seem to be the issue. Global Voices has a translation of most of that interview with Xiang Xi, as well as other comments and thoughts on the issue from the Chinese Internet.]