In this editorial notebook, Bruce Ramsey gets some insight into how the China Daily has changed in the last 20 years.

BEIJING — Zhu Yinghuang, former editor of China Daily, was talking at lunch about the big story of a few days ago. An official in Chongqing got into trouble and fled for temporary refuge in the U.S. Consulate. The act was a sensation.

Twenty years ago, Zhu said, people wouldn’t have known about it, because China’s government wouldn’t have mentioned it.

Now the act is reported on the Net. It goes viral. The government has to say something about it — and does, and China Daily covers it. It’s still a government paper, but its China edition is self-supporting from ads and circulation revenue. Its journalism seems to be more like journalism in other places.

One story talked about how a French retail company had been caught selling mislabeled products here, and one about how some Chinese parents bankrupt themselves to send their kids to college in the U.S., and another about how Shanghai’s system of auctioning off the rights to have a car had caused the price of a license to increase to $10,000.

All this, Zhu says, “is a sign of social progress.”

Zhu is old enough to have lived through China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. The government sent him to work on a farm.

“My generation, we didn’t have rights,” he says, “We didn’t worry, either. We had no pressure. The younger generation today, they have pressure. They know they’re in the market, and they have to fight. On the other hand, they have a sense of their rights.”

— Bruce Ramsey

Editor’s note: Ramsey is traveling on a trip with other journalists sponsored by the China-United States Exchange Foundation.