Using semi-structured interviews with Chinese data journalists across party and commercial media, this article assesses the structure and practice of data journalism in China. In doing this, it responds to calls for further studies of data journalism in non-western contexts. It finds that Chinese data journalists face some of the same pressures and challenges that have been documented in other countries, including limited access to data and the constraints imposed by the screen-size of smartphones. However, these were often exacerbated through a combination of social and systemic factors - to the point that their impact is qualitatively and quantitatively different. Simultaneously, however, we find that in some cases Chinese data journalists, at least amongst party media, were protected from pressures such as audience demand, and encouraged to focus on state-of-the-art work. We conclude that what has emerged is a form of ‘data journalism with Chinese characteristics’, and that these characteristics emerge from the interactions between systemic, newsroom and social factors.