Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

【#218】 Is Xi Regime Already in Final Days?

Tadashi Ito / 2013.10.31 (Thu)

October 28, 2013

       Political leaders frequently criticize media when they become unpopular in final days of their regimes. China's Xi Jinping regime, still in its early days, has already started a tough mass media control, indicating his lack of self-confidence as leader or his insecurity. The control is expected to get tougher and tougher.
       Early this year, reporters for the Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangdong Province launched a walkout in protest against authorities' replacement of an editorial through a censorship process. The editorial, titled "China's Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism," which spoofed President Xi's slogan of "China's Dream" pursuing a superpower, was rewritten by an executive sent from Beijing to comply with Xi's wish. Since then, China's media world is said to have been plagued with frequent crackdown by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China.

80 media regulation notifications given since early this year
       A veteran Chinese journalist said the Propaganda Department has issued as many as 80 media regulation notifications since January this year, centering on bans and restrictions on reporting. Items subject to ban have increased and grown more detailed.
       For example, a June notification, while reiterating a ban on reports fueling public unrest, banned the use of terms like the collapse of economic bubbles or shadow banking as well as wordings such as the widening gap between rich and poor that could lead to social unrest or discontent with China's politics and economy.
       These regulations are designed to force media people to be absolutely obedient to the Communist Party. They represent the means to test media people's loyalty to the party. Journalists disfavored by authorities could be deprived of journalist qualifications or subjected to criminal indictment in not rare cases. Authorities hold their powerful card of issuing journalist certificates.
       Chinese authorities in a recent notification have vowed to renew journalist certificates for 250,000 reporters belonging to newspapers and broadcasting stations in China by the end of the year. Those willing to have their certificates renewed will be required to learn how Marxism views newspapers and pledge to make no concession to Japan on historical and territorial issues, according to Kyodo News.

Internet public opinions call for reform
       In China, media organizations are positioned as the “throat and tongue” of the Communist Party. Mao Zedong likened the gun (military) and pen (propaganda) to two poles supporting the party. The Xi leadership appears to be sweetening the military with privileges and patronage while taming media organizations and regarding them as a pet obedient to the master.
       As media are being diversified and expanded under the communications revolution, however, official media are losing their influences. Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo still in prison once told me:
       “We should not conduct street demonstrations similar to the pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989 to overturn the Communist Party rule. I don’t want to see bloodshed any more. Rather, it may be more realistic for us to contain the Communist Party with the Internet and use public opinions for forcing the party to implement reform.”
       How far will the Communist Party continue to resist the pressure of Internet public opinions?

Tadashi Ito is former chief of the Sankei Shimbun Beijing Bureau