Neican (Chinese: 内参, abbreviated from nèibù cānkǎo zīliào (内部参考资料), lit. "internal reference reports" or "internal reference materials") are internal reports of limited circulation prepared for the high-ranking Chinese government and Communist Party officials.
According to Chinese news media regulations, any matter that media outlets believe would harm the image of the Communist Party of China or its government, threaten social stability and unity, or other matters not suitable for open publication, such as corruption, social unrest, and large-scale business swindles, should be reported internally rather than publicly. The neican also serve to keep the Party leaders informed about the issues that are seen as too sensitive be reported and discussed in the mainstream media. Thus they are supposed to offer more realistic and less censored version of events. They are often similar in form to investigative reporting, and are prepared by the journalists working for the official Party organs such as Xinhua News Service or People’s Daily. As such, much of the information collected by the Chinese mainstream media is published in neican, not in the public outlets.
The popularity of neican has been on the rise in recent years, with some estimates suggesting a several-fold increase in the last decade from 2000. Some lower-level neican have become profit centers for their publishers (such as ministries), which try to increase their subscription base.
Awards can also be given out for those who write good reports in neican.
Neican have been criticized for being slow and inefficient. Often, they focus on information already available in the Internet, but not in the Chinese traditional printed mainstream media, which is both censored by the government, and in which self-censorship of sensitive items is heavily encouraged. They are also seen as biased (produced by Party members for other Party members), often saying what the writers expect the superiors want to hear, and downplaying or omitting unpleasant news. As Hu Xingdou, a professor of social science at the Beijing Institute of Technology, notes: "[...] there are some issues that even neican won't touch", for example, military affairs and high-level corruption.
- Carol Lee Hamrin, Suisheng Zhao, Decision-making in Deng's China: perspectives from insiders, M.E. Sharpe, 1995, ISBN 1-56324-502-7, Google Print, p.114
- Chinese whispers: China's secret media, The Economist, Jun 17th 2010
- Mark Magnier, Rosy Reports From Underlings Leave Chinese Leaders in the Dark, Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2004
- Cho Li-Fung, The Emergence, Influence and Limitations of Watchdog. Journalism in Post-1992 China: A Case Study of Southern Weekend, doctoral thesis, The University of Hong Kong, April 2007
- Roger V. Des Forges, Ning Luo, Yen-bo Wu, Chinese democracy and the crisis of 1989: Chinese and American reflections, SUNY Press, 1993, ISBN 0-7914-1269-5, Print, p.299
- Paul Theroux, Riding the iron rooster: by train through China, Random House, Inc., 1989, ISBN 0-8041-0454-9, Google Print, p.74