China's People's Daily plagiarises article attacking NYT for plagiarism

The NYT has made enemies. Powerful, incompetent enemies.

Showing that going personal never fails to get attention, the New York Times publication of the personal finances of Chinese premier's Wen Jaibao's family has sparked much kickback from the Chinese Communist Party.

The entire newspaper was blocked by the great firewall on Friday, and today, the People's Daily – the official mouthpiece of the CCP – has published an editorial digging up two old scandals at the paper.

It starts off focusing on a 2010 case of plagiarism by a business reporter at the paper, and then brings up Jayson Blair's infamous falsehoods. The People's Daily also mentions an out-of-print book called Journalistic Fraud and quotes at length from a blog post written on Michael Moore's website by a journalist called Marc Adler.

So far, so authoritarian-state-smears-critics. Except as the FT's Simon Rabinovitch noticed:

Virtually every last sentence in its opinion piece had previously been published. A quick search revealed the following:

  • The opening criticism of the Times’ fallen standards and the description of the Kouwe case? From a 2010 report by China News Agency.
  • The description of the Blair case? Lifted straight from two People’s Daily articles in 2003 (at least it is copying itself).
  • The account of “Journalistic Fraud”, the book? From a 2003 article by China News Agency.
  • And that final quote from the once-loyal reader? A translation by Dongxi (a now-defunct translation website) of a 2011 article that appeared on Splicetoday.com.

Oh People's Daily. Still, at least none of those were articles from the Onion.

An Internet user points to the account page in Beijing on February 22, 2010 of China's President Hu Jintao on a microblogging platform operated by the People's Daily. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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