This paper explores the reasons behind the relative success of the CCP’s direct control over the news media in the early 1950s. Despite its importance in understanding the rise of despotism during the Mao era, the nationalization of the newspapers has not been fully studied. Building upon the recent studies emphasizing the adaptive nature of the CCP, this study analyzes the ownership transformation of the Shanghai newspapers from the 1930s to the early 1950s by going beyond the 1949 divide. I argue that the CCP’s relative success in nationalizing the Shanghai newspaper industry can be attributed to the incremental changes from the Sino-Japanese War to the early 1950s in the context of the war, postwar, and socialist revolution periods. In particular, the weakening of the Shanghai capitalists’ influence over the Shanghai newspapers during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) was critical in the accelerated expansion of the state power during the war, postwar, and early PRC periods.