The first issue of the paper was published in June 15, 1948 in Pingshan, Hubei as the paper of a regional branch of the Communist Party. The offices were moved to Beijing in March 1949 and it became the official paper of the Communist Party of China in August of that year. As an organ of the Communist Party, the newspaper provides direct information about the policies and viewpoints of the Party, and its editorials directly reflect the opinions of the party central authorities.
During the Cultural Revolution, the People's Daily was one of the few sources of information from which either foreigners or Chinese could figure out what the Chinese government was doing. During this period, an editorial in the People's Daily would be considered an authoritative statement of government policy.
Newspaper articles in the People's Daily are often not read for content, so much as placement. A large number of articles devoted to a political figure or idea is often taken as a sign that that official is rising. In addition, editorials in the People's Daily are also still regarded as fairly authoritative statements of government policy.
Since the mid-1990s, the People's Daily has faced a decline of governmental subsidies combined with increasing competition from international news sources and Chinese tabloids. As part of its effort to modernize, it began an online edition in 1997, and the web bulletin forums, such as the Strong Nation Forum in the Chinese edition has been known for their surprisingly candid content. The complexity of the People's Daily's situation can be seen by the fact that it is a dot-com, with banner advertising for washing machines and Coca-Cola next to banners promoting the Communist Party.