Hu Xijin, the firebrand editor-in-chief of nationalist tabloid Global Times, has retired from the role at the Communist Party-backed newspaper but will continue as a commentator. “I’m approaching 62. It’s time for retirement,” Hu posted on the Twitter-like platform Weibo on Thursday. “I have gone through the retirement formalities and no longer serve as the editor-in-chief of the Global Times .” Hu, China’s most vocal propagandists, is the editor-in-chief of both Chinese-language and English-language editions, owned by People’s Daily , the party’s mouthpiece. He is tipped to be replaced by Wu Qimin, international section deputy director of People’s Daily . “I’ll continue to contribute to the party’s journalism and publicity work as a special commentator of the Global Times . Thank you for your support,” Hu wrote in the post. Australia takes aim at Global Times over ‘inflammatory’ coverage Hu took the job in 2005 and is one of China’s longest-serving newspaper editors. He has 24 million followers on Weibo and more than 459,000 followers on Twitter, riding the wave of nationalism in China since the country’s trade war with the United States took off in 2018. While occasionally chiding the government , Hu toes the official line on all core China issues, from denying suggestions that Muslims have been targeted in Xinjiang to criticising protesters in Hong Kong. In his latest posts this week, Hu mocked the US’ handling of the pandemic. “800,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US, almost 10,000 times the death toll of recent terrifying tornadoes. Tornado [sic] cannot be prevented with precaution, but Covid-19 can; and Americans should not be slaughtered like this by the coronavirus,” he wrote in a Twitter post. Commenting on a Nikkei Asia report that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed Beijing’s “aggressive actions” in Southeast Asia, Hu tweeted: “China-Asean cooperation is a purpose in itself. It constitutes the true foundation and driving force of regional prosperity. The US has come to engage in cooperation with the wrong intention. It is to destroy the original development and cooperation ecology of the region.” During Hu’s watch, Global Times has become China’s most popular government-backed newspaper, with a daily circulation of more than 2 million copies. Some critics have described it as “China’s Fox News” for its propagandistic slant and the monetisation of nationalism. China to sanction US officials who visit Taiwan, says Global Times editor Hu grew up in Beijing and served in the military from 1982 to 1986. After graduating with a master’s degree in Russian literature from Beijing Foreign Studies University in 1989, Hu began his career as a journalist at People’s Daily . He took part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and, in several interviews with overseas media, called the military action a tragedy caused by “student naivety” and government inexperience Hu also became the focus of attention last year when Maggie Duan Jingtao, a deputy editor of the newspaper, said in online posts that Hu had extramarital relationships with two female colleagues and that he was the father of two illegitimate children – accusations that Hu denied. In January, the party’s watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said it conducted an investigation and concluded the accusations were groundless. More than 6,000 comments followed Hu’s farewell message on Weibo on Thursday. “Old Hu, thank you for speaking for China. You have my support! Wish you a happy life after retirement,” posted one internet user. “Good for you. You don’t need to tell lies any more,” another one wrote.