As the country with the largest population, it’s no surprise that China also has the largest newspaper market in the world. Each and every day around 2,200 newspapers are printed, and over 40 billion copies are distributed to their readers. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers released a report in 2008 with the top 100 most read newspapers in the world, of those 26 were Chinese. Today China has 39 newspaper groups who each publish several papers aimed at diverse groups, compared to only two groups that existed in 1987.

Despite there being no shortage of papers to choose from and the obvious high quality of the publications, China’s newspaper readership remains very low when compared to their huge population. With only 76 people per thousand reading newspapers, China has less than half of the US, which has 198 people per thousand, while Japan can boast selling newspapers to over half of their population every day. On the other hand, Western newspaper production seems to be declining, while in China, this has done nothing but go up for the past 50 years. In the late 60’s China only had a measly 42 newspapers who were mostly run by the Communist Party. In the 80’s this increased to 382 and today they have over 2200.

What follows is a brief list of some of the best newspapers with the highest circulation available in China.
Reference News

Also known in China as Caokao Xiaoxi. This has been voted as China’s best newspaper and boasts a daily circulation of 3.25 million. Older than most grandparents, Reference News was established in 1931 in the Jiangxi Province and used to be the only legal way for Chinese citizens to get foreign news. Initially, they didn’t write any articles themselves but instead collected international articles from other publications, translated them and published those approved by the Xinhau News Agency. Approval of the articles had to be done carefully as this was considered the Government’s official newspaper. This does not mean that the paper only publishes political news. The paper devotes time and page space to health, education, lifestyle, and a variety of other subjects.

Due to increased competition, its subscription membership plummeted from 11 million in 1980 to only 4 million five years later. This prompted the authorities to allow general subscriptions. Initially, this paper was only available to cadres above a certain level but today it’s sold at newsstands all around the country and is also available online.

People’s Daily

With a daily circulation of 2.5million, the official paper of the Communist Party of China finds itself with the silver medal. As a more politically based newspaper, it is often a great source of information for analysts regarding the policies and viewpoints of the Communist party. This paper was founded in 1948 and is currently available in several languages like English, French, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Mongolian and Arabic. They have a website available in multiple languages and also do frequent posts on their social media pages where they have tens of millions of followers.

Guangzhou Daily

Owned and operated by the Guangzhou Municipal Party Committee, this paper even includes calligraphy on it masthead that was written by Mao Zedong. It currently has the highest circulation among the metropolitan newspapers with up to 1.85million copies printed and sold on a daily basis and earns more revenue through advertising than any other newspaper in China. They have a sub-publication called the Guangzhou Morning Post which is available in English, but the electronic versions are only available in Chinese.

Yangtse Evening News

Close on the heels of Guangzhou Daily, the Yangtse Evening News sells 1.74 million copies daily. Their masthead uses calligraphy written by former CPC general secretary Hu Yaobang. The Yangtse Evening News has been around since 1986 and is currently printed every afternoon via 17 printing companies. This paper is sold in a hard format all around the country and also has an online version available on their website.

Qilu Evening News

Founded on New Year’s Day 1988 and printing 1.67million copies a day, this Jinan bases newspaper finds itself in the top 5. Their masthead was written by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and currently they only distribute throughout the Shandong Province where it’s the dominant publication as far as papers sold, and advertising revenue is concerned. Like the others listed here, they also have a website where you can read their paper online.

Information Times

Initially created as a business paper in 1985, it was changed to a commercial tabloid with more comprehensive coverage in May 2001 by its publisher, the Guangzhou Daily Newspaper Group. The change proved successful and currently sells 1.57 million copies on a daily basis. The paper has earned the title of most read tabloid in Guangdong Province. You can view their latest articles on their website as well, but this is only available in Chinese.

Southern Metropolitan Daily

This paper, owned by the Southern Media Group is primarily distributed in Guangzhou and Shenzhen but can also be found in Hong Kong, Macao and throughout the Pearl River Delta region. It is also available online. They have a daily circulation of 1.4 million and have earned themselves a reputation for their provocative commentary and sharp investigative journalism.

Global Times

This tabloid is owned by the People’s Daily and is based in Beijing. Since their inception in 1993, they have been well known for publishing controversial international news which has earned them a circulation of 1.35million. It is also available in English as of April 2009 and now also feature content on their website where the English version of the daily paper can be read at no cost while a paid subscription is required for the Chinese publication.

Jinling Evening News

Once considered a minor player in the news market, this Nanjing publication now boasts 1.2million prints a day since its inception in 1993. After a four-year expansion in 2004, it became the top paper in Jiangsu Province, and an electronic version of this paper is available through a city news portal. They use a masthead written by famous Buddhist leader and calligrapher, Zhao Puchu.

West China City News

The largest of 12 newspapers published by the Sichuan Daily Newspaper Group with a circulation of 1.15million. In 2010 it had the third fastest growing ad sales of any Chinese newspaper when it brought in 1.2 billion yuan that year. Quite a leap since the paper was started in 1995.