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Reference News was first published on 7 November 1931. It is published by Xinhua News Agency. As the Chinese government's official news agency, Xinhua carefully selects articles from world's major news agencies and news journals and translates them into Chinese. Before the 1980s, it was the only official channel for the Chinese public to have a glimpse of the outside world. The paper is also published in the Uighur, Kazakh, Korean, and Mongolian languages for ethnic minority groups in China.
Reference News was at first available only to cadres and their families, but it was made available to the entire Chinese public after competition from news sources had started, and subsequently its circulation dropped from 11 million in 1980 to 4 million in 1985.