It’s not surprising to see that the chief of the official Chinese news agency sees independent and balanced reporting about China as something to be feared.
The latest “outrage” against China as seen by Li Congjun, president of Xinhua, are reports of how China’s economy is slowing down and how top cadres are making financial killings thanks to their government positions.
Of course, to the leadership in Beijing any criticism — or straight reporting — is seen as an attack on China (and all Chinese in the world). The reporting of Western reporters is not seen as a way to get information to people so they can make an informed decision about what is going on, but rather as a campaign to destroy China.
You see, for the Chinese leadership, the media are supposed to put forward the Party line so the people will understand the “right” way to think about issues.
Reuters reports Beijing is getting nervous about too much unfiltered information and has issued directives to deal with it:
China’s ruling Communist Party has in recent weeks been tightening controls over the Internet and reminding state media of its responsibility to promote a “correct political direction”, as President Xi Jinping dashes hopes his administration will embark on political reforms.
Xinhua boss Li Congjun continued on that theme in complaining about the Western media in a Xinhua column:
“Some hostile Western forces and media do not want to see a prospering socialist China and target the spear of Westernization, separation and ‘color revolution’ at China.”
To counter all this negative news, the Chinese government has been on a buying spree to gain access to Western media outlets.
China has poured money into trying to get its voice heard internationally, including English-language television news channels, but they are still widely regarded in Western countries as heavily slanted towards the Chinese government.
The CCTV channel on US cable is clearly a propaganda channel posing as a news organization. Likewise, the English-language version of People’s Daily, while trying to push itself as a “real” newspaper, is really nothing more than an overly long press release for the Chinese government.
And there is always the problem of social media.
Beijing has been doing the best it can to control it, but finding the task harder and harder each day. The party leadership know that this is the area where the war for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people will be won or lost. Li said it plainly:
“If we cannot effectively rule new media, the ground will be taken by others, which will pose challenges to our dominant role in leading public opinion.”
Of course, Chinese netizens have jumped on the case.
China Digital Times reports:
Li’s warning recalls a controversial commentary in the overseas edition of People’s Daily last year, in which Yuan Peng argued that the U.S. would exploit “‘rights lawyers,’ underground religion, dissidents, internet leaders and disadvantaged social groups” to undermine China. Netizens quickly dubbed these groups “The New Five Black Categories,” referring to the original Five Black Categories of the Cultural Revolution era.