GAPP Report: Goals and Methods of the Chinese Government Censorship System

April 30, 2006

In November 2004, an official with the General Administration of Press and Publication delivered a report outlining the policy goals and administrative methods of the Chinese government's censorship of foreign and domestic news media. Presented at the 2004 National Book Publishing Administration Work Meeting, the report provides insight into how an official at the GAPP views the role of media censorship. The report addressed the following issues:

Carrying out the Spirit of Communist Party Central Committee Document Number 29: According to the report, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee had recently issued a document entitled "Chinese Communist Party Central Propaganda Department Regarding Current Situation of Ideological Theory Domains and Working Measures That Need To Be Adopted." The report stated that the document would "ensure the correct orientation of publishing," and required government agencies in all jurisdictions to "strengthen ideological work" in order to consolidate the Party's control of the government. It also called on press and publication branches to "strengthen their administration of newspapers and periodicals," especially those newspapers that were divisions of Party papers.

Improving Topic Selection and Censorship: Chinese law requires that publishers submit a list of any "important topic selections" they plan to publish to the GAPP and the Central Propaganda Department. The report warns:

If publishers are careless about strictly screening topic selection, then serious orientation and quality problems will occur. . . . Therefore, publishers' screening of the selection of topics is not merely a professional matter, but rather is a serious political responsibility. Therefore, topic selection screening is a political system.

The report states that publishers must carry out registration procedures for all selections relating to politics, the military, security, foreign affairs, religion, nationalities, and "other sensitive issues," and that it is illegal to publish anything in these areas that has not been reported to authorities, or that was not accepted for registration after it was reported.

Improving Pre-Publication Censorship: The report stated that authorities needed to "strengthen the pre-publication reading and evaluation of publications," and that in recent years, central Party and government authorities had issued memos demanding that "prior" administration be stepped up. The report advocated a three-tiered system for screening publications prior to their publication:

  • In the initial examination a specialist reviews a book for its social and literary value.
  • In the reexamination the reviewer looks at the entire manuscript, and provides opinions on the book's quality and the initial review, draws up a general appraisal, and resolves any problems with the initial review.
  • In the final examination the reviewer looks at the initial and reexamination opinions, but is primarily responsible for screening content for ideological political inclination, ideological style, academic quality, and societal effects. This reviewer not only makes the final judgment whether the book is published based on whether it complies with the Party's policies and regulations, but also reports to higher authorities any content that can be categorized as "important topic selections."


Integrating a "Real Name" Reporting System with the Book Number Assignment System: Chinese law requires that every publication in China have a book number, the distribution of which is controlled by the GAPP. The report says that authorities should use the opinions provided when screening the selection of topics to determine the distribution of book numbers, because this "reduces the risks relating to orientation."

Opposing "Foreign Enemy Forces": Using military metaphors, the report claims that "[e]nemy forces are using the Internet and other new communication media methods to carry out ideological infiltration," and that the government and the Party must impose the aforementioned measures in order to stop "noise and static in the ideological domain":

For some time now, foreign enemy forces and some Western media have used some socially sensitive issues, started rumors and spread slanders, maliciously speculated, and attacked our country's political system and leaders. Some people have put on a pretense of reforming the political system to publicize western capitalist class democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and spread capitalist class freedom of expression, scheming to fundamentally refute the four basic principles, and refute our country's state system and political system. Foreign "civil movement" activitst continue to make a large scale uproar about the verdict on the 1989 political disturbance. "Falun Gong" evil cult groups and others have intensified carrying out their infiltration and destruction of our country. Foreign religious organizations are carrying out illegal proselytizing and group establishment by hook or by crook.

The report states that "foreign enemy forces" use four main methods to "attack" China:

  1. Advocating Western political systems, and asserting that China must adopt Western separation of powers, a multi-party political system.
  2. Advocating Western judicial systems, while attacking China's constitution and judicial system.
  3. Advocating Western freedom of the press, and opposing the Party's leadership of the news media.
  4. Distorting the history of the Party, criticizing the general and specific policies of the Party, and inciting people to be dissatisfied with the Party and the government.

The report says that "foreign enemy forces" use Web sites outside of China to "disseminate noise and static in the ideological domain," and that this has also been reflected domestically in some small Web sites, newspapers, periodicals, and publications that have not been "screened thoroughly."

The report claims that these information outlets display the following characteristics:

  1. Domestic and foreign collaboration:

    Various enemy forces strongly coordinate with each other, and take those things that cannot be published domestically abroad to be published, and then these once again infiltrate domestically.

  2. Using issues as a pretext:

    Some people with ulterior motives constantly . . . blow things out of proportion, and deliberately magnify some exceptional problems, politicize criminal cases and economic issues, and exaggerate specific work mistakes into society-wide malpractice, and make a leap that opinions on a few specific problems indicates dissatisfaction with the Party and the government.

  3. Making targeted attacks:

    Some people with ulterior motives use manipulation of the judicial system to collectively attack our country's judicial agencies. They use "civil constitutional amendments" and other activities to collectively attack the People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference systems. They use manipulation of anti-corruption cases to collectively attack the Party's disciplinary examination work agencies and organization work agencies. They use propagation of western news publishing freedom to collectively attack the Party's propaganda ideology work agencies.

  4. Using the Internet and other new communication media methods to carry out ideological infiltration.