BEIJING — The pioneering editor of the top Chinese business magazine has left her post with plans to start anew, after a tussle for control involving much the same mix of political and financial intrigue that she made her mark uncovering.
Hu Shuli, 56, resigned Monday from Caijing, the magazine she built into a thriving print and Web outlet that specialized in investigating government corruption and corporate fraud, said a Caijing spokeswoman, Zhang Lihui. Senior editors and most of Caijing’s journalists either had already resigned or were preparing to as well, magazine employees said.
For months, Ms. Hu, the editor in chief, and the business managers of the magazine had been locked in a stalemate with the owners of Caijing over the breadth of the magazine’s coverage and the budgeting of its operations, said former employees and current staff members who asked not to be identified because they feared losing their jobs.
The owners of the magazine had come under pressure from Communist Party officials to rein in Caijing’s aggressive journalism, people at the magazine have said.
Managers at Caijing told staff members that they had been fighting to maintain the magazine’s editorial integrity.
The managers and editors had been seeking to create a more independent publication by changing the magazine’s shareholding structure, courting outside investors and pressing the owners to allow more employees to own a stake in the magazine.
She has now accepted a new post as the dean of the journalism school at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, a job she had been offered before it became clear that she would leave Caijing.
At the same time, she, along with a large contingent of editors and executives departing Caijing, was working to secure new licenses and open a new venture, said the employees, who had knowledge of the plans but were not authorized to speak publicly about them.
Caijing’s parent company, the Stock Exchange Executive Council, or S.E.E.C., had already recruited a new team of editors from another progressive publication, The Economic Observer in Beijing, they said.
In 11 years at Caijing, editorials by Ms. Hu pinpointed interest groups and bottlenecks that she said blocked economic overhauls. And exclusives by Caijing hastened the demise of some of the more notorious felons in China.
But the magazine’s own troubles have involved just the sort of topic that Ms. Hu and Caijing relished covering.
The political price of success grew in recent years. Ms. Hu found herself increasingly at odds with S.E.E.C. bosses and their Communist Party guardians, according to employees and other colleagues during interviews in recent months.
After a run-in with a Caijing reporter covering the ethnic riots in the western region of Xinjiang in July, officials leaned harder on Ms. Hu’s superiors to curb her coverage, the employees said.
At one point, the S.E.E.C. was ordered to fire Ms. Hu, they said. The pressures brought the infighting over editorial and financial control of Caijing to a boil.
Ms. Hu did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Known for enforcing a rigid code of conduct, she has been characteristically guarded during the crisis.
“I am still working on a good result,” she wrote in an e-mail message to The New York Times late last month.
Under her current plan, her new publishing sponsor would be the province-level Zhejiang Daily Press, said the Caijing employees and a Zhejiang Daily editor.
She has been talking with well-known Chinese investors. Her proposed new publication’s title has a familiar ring: “Caixin,” short for “Caijing Newsweek.”
The split reflects the divergence of interests in a media market still governed by party cadres, said Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Languages University.
“Some people still stick to their ideals,” he said. “But management has become increasingly concerned with profits, and increasingly conservative.”
Moreover, as the central authorities lavish official Chinese media giants with support to grow and compete globally, they also have made moves to tighten their chain of command over muckrakers like Ms. Hu.