Sixth Tone is an online magazine owned by the Shanghai United Media Group, and a sister site to The Paper. It is published in English from China, and its readership is intended for people in Western countries. Sixth Tone and The Paper use the same resources. Sixth Tone is owned by the Shanghai United Media Group and is not owned by the Communist Party of China, which sets it apart from some other English-language news publications from China.[1]

Sixth Tone
Sixth Tone logo.png
Editor-in-chiefZhang Jun
Year founded2016
CompanyShanghai United Media Group
Based inShanghai, China


Sixth Tone's name relates to the number of tones in Mandarin Chinese, but also is stated to carry more metaphorical meaning as well. Mandarin Chinese has four active tones and a fifth dropped tone that has less prominence than the other four. Because of the language's five tones, the publication's name refers to an ideal of expanding beyond traditionally-reported items in Anglophone media; making it the "sixth tone".[2]


The online magazine began publication on April 6, 2016, with an investment of $4.5 million U.S. dollars from the Shanghai United Media Group. Wei Xing was the publication's first editor-in-chief until May 30, 2016 when he moved to create a start-up company and therefore no longer worked for the paper. Succeeding Wei, Zhang Jun became the new editor-in-chief that year.[1]

By 2018 Western media began to cite Sixth Tone in news reports. Vincent Ni, in an essay published in Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, stated that "For foreign journalists, it has also shown a diverse and authentic side of China that rarely received much attention elsewhere" and that the publication "has proved far more effective than the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in English-language news programmes by the state broadcaster Xinhua, CCTV and CRI."[2]


Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Foreign Policy stated that Sixth Tone has a less staid and "saccharine" tone compared to many other English-language publications from China.[1] She stated "If webby U.S. media startup Vox were acquired by the Chinese Communist Party, it might resemble Sixth Tone".[1]

In a 2016 interview with the New York Times, the then-editor-in-chief Wei Xing sought to differentiate his magazine to other Chinese English-language publications. Wei stated that compared to government-owned news publications, Sixth Tone would have an easier time growing since it "lacks a politics-saturated bureaucracy because it is a start-up".[3]

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  1. ^ a b c d Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany (2016-06-03). "China, Explained". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  2. ^ a b Ni, Vincent (2018-06-01). "Is Shanghai's Sixth Tone a New Model for China's Overseas Propaganda?". Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. University of Westminster Press. pp. 37–40. doi:10.16997/wpcc.282. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  3. ^ Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (2016-04-05). "Digital Paper in China Covers Contentious Issues, Now in English". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-16.

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