Self-reliance in the Chinese news media

Written by Yusi DU, data analysis and visualization by Young YANG

“Self-Reliance”(自力更生) is a familiar slogan to many Chinese people. Commonly used in Maoist propaganda, self-reliance was often used to refer to achieving independence for China — either economically, politically or militarily — through the strength and hard work.

Since Mao’s era, the role of this word has been downplayed in the media, as China has sought to distance itself from Mao and has sought greater integration. However, recently we’ve seen a growing trend of the usage of this word in official media, perhaps in response to greater tensions between China and the United States, or as an indication of a resurgence of Maoist propaganda.

In this post, we look at how self-reliance has been used in the text of the People’s Daily from January 2016 to 2018. We find that the word is used very infrequently in 2016, but increases dramatically after the U.S. placed sanctions on Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE in 2018.

We categorize each article that uses the word self-reliance in four categories: economic, technological innovation, aerospace innovation, and the other. We find that the increase in self-reliance is centered around topics of economic innovation and aerospace.

This visual demonstrates a composition of the usage of self-reliance.

Scroll down to see how this word was used on People’s Daily during 2016 and 2018 .






Prior to enrolling at GPS, Yusi graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a major in political science and a minor in Economics.  She also studied French and Russia during her time at Bryn Mawr. Through various internships at think tanks, media and private firms, she became interested in academic research. At the GPS, her career track is international politics with a regional focus on China and Southeast Asia. Her research interest includes ethnic issues and state-society relations in China.  

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