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When I was back home, which now seems more years ago than is reasonable, one of my favorite activities in the world was relaxing with my Sunday Paper and a cup of coffee. When I first came to Shenzhen, I sought to continue this little tradition (which I’d maintained all through my years in the Gulf). Sadly it was not to be.

Foreign media is completely banned in Mainland China so the chances of picking up a copy of the Observer or The Sunday Times or even the rather nasty but almost always available Mail on Sunday dropped to zero. But that’s OK, it’s not the end of the world there are English language newspapers available in China.

The bad news is that here in Shenzhen there are only two English language newspapers commonly available – Shenzhen Daily and China Daily. Shenzhen Daily doesn’t come out on Sunday and even if it did, you probably wouldn’t get too far through a cup of coffee before you finished it. It’s essentially a cut and paste Reuters feed with perhaps four articles relating to Shenzhen in it and a Sudoku puzzle which is printed so small it’s impossible to fill in.

China Daily is worse, anemically thin at the best of times; it’s practically non-existent on a weekend and never has anything worth reading in it.

And even if these two offerings were better, it’s very hard to track down a copy of either – when I first moved to Shenzhen the local coffee shop used to stock them, but I’m guessing no-one ever bought them so they stopped.

Shenzhen Daily may be the only newspaper in the world that doesn't include its masthead on its website - preferring instead to use this random graphic

Reading the news online just isn’t the same as reading a paper, and once again Shenzhen Daily excels by having the worst website on earth. This is something local webmasters are grateful for as they can reprint articles verbatim and gain the Google ranking for it. China Daily’s web presence is better, in that at least there’s some well-structured and well organized content even if it’s all a little bland.

It’s a shame that Hong Kong’s “South China Morning Post” doesn’t make it across the border, as though it’s a little dry it is full of actual content and better still has puzzles you can fill in without a shrink ray.

For now though I’ll continue to rely on the Grauniad, the Independent and the BBC websites for my news, and as I can’t be bothered to carry my computer to the coffee shop – it’ll be without coffee too. I know, I know I should learn Chinese – but after three years, that’s not looking all that likely.

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