Editor-in-chief of the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, has announced his retirement. In a Weibo post on Thursday, the 62-year-old wrote to his 24 million followers that he had gone through the “retirement procedures” but would continue to be a special commentator for the paper.
“I have gone through the retirement formalities and no longer serve as the editor-in-chief of the Global Times,” Hu wrote. “I’ll continue to contribute to Global Times as a special commentator and do my best for the Communist Party’s media work.”
He also posted the announcement in English through Twitter on Friday, adding: “I will continue to speak on Twitter. I know that many Western people don’t like me, but after all, I am one of the leading influencers in China’s public opinion sector. One should hear opinions from both sides.”
Hu has around 450,000 followers on Twitter at the time of writing. Although the platform is banned in China, Hu is actively using it to share the Chinese government’s message.
For 16 years, Hu has been a leading critic of the West’s China policy. He describes himself as a former pro-democracy protester turned editor, showing his brash, assertive nationalism throughout his tenure, which started in 2005.
“He is definitely the symbolic figure of commercial nationalism in China,” said the communications professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Fang Kecheng, to The Guardian. “Although there is speculation that he represents the official voice, he is actually not a high-ranking official in the party system.”
“I am very interested in his next steps,” Fang continued, “whether his posts will be censored given the fact that he is not a party official anymore, whether he will fully embrace the market and become a full-time online influencer, whether he will be regarded as obsolete by the ultra-nationalists among the younger generation.”
Hu is likely to be succeeded by Fan Zhengwe, the former deputy director of People’s Daily. According to another Chinese state media, Fan has taken on the newly created posts of chairman and head of the Global Times.