Party Propaganda Chief Calls for Increased Control Over the Media

December 2, 2005

Liu Yunshan, a Communist Party Central Committee member who also serves as secretary of the Secretariat and Director of the Central Propaganda Department, set out the tasks and issues that Party propaganda officials should focus on in 2006 during an August 23 speech at the National Propaganda Directors Seminar.

Liu Yunshan, a Communist Party Central Committee member who also serves as secretary of the Secretariat and Director of the Central Propaganda Department, set out the tasks and issues that Party propaganda officials should focus on in 2006 during an August 23 speech at the National Propaganda Directors Seminar. The Central Committee subsequently published the text of this speech in the October 1 edition of its official journal, Seeking Truth, (in Chinese) under the title "In Accordance With the Requirements of Building a Socialist and Harmonious Society: Deepen, Broaden, and Innovate Propaganda Ideological Work." Liu called on Party propagandists to focus on ensuring that China maintains a single and unified "guiding ideology," -- Marxism. To achieve this goal, the propaganda departments should create a "harmonious public opinion environment," "sing the main theme," "forcefully" promote nationalism and patriotism, and research what he termed the four "how-tos":

  • How to consolidate Marxism as China's leading ideology.
  • How to simultaneously open to the outside world while preventing "Western enemy forces" from using their "economic and technical superiority to carry out ideological infiltration and cultural expansion" in order to "Westernize and divide" China.
  • How to "capture the high ground" of information dissemination.
  • How to satisfy the increasingly diverse "spiritual cultural demands of the masses."

The following are some of the themes articulated in Liu's speech:

Increase government control over the media. According to Liu, Party propagandists should promote prosperity and development by "ceaselessly raising the level of supervision." In order to do this, the Party must develop "innovative supervision methods," impose content controls earlier in the editorial process ("guankou qianyi"), and coordinate the application of administrative, economic, legal, ideological education, and other controls. Liu said it was necessary to "increase the establishment of laws and regulations," "strengthen supervision mechanisms," and "coordinate a legal framework for a unified propaganda culture with Chinese socialist characteristics."

Co-opt new technologies. Liu told the seminar that "whoever grasps the newest technological measures will have their information disseminated most quickly and broadly, and will have the strongest influence," and that the Party must therefore "utilize technological achievements in propaganda work, and increase the pace of the adoption of high technology in film and television production, television transmission, and book and periodical printing, and promote the mutual coordination of traditional media and the Internet and mobile communications."

Focus on new targets for propaganda. Liu noted that Chinese society is becoming increasingly complex as it shifts from one dominated by people employed in state run enterprises to one in which more and more people work for private enterprises. Given this shifting demographic, Liu noted that, while it remains necessary to continue to conduct "ideological education" of workers, farmers, intellectuals, soldiers, and cadres, Party propagandists must also "expand the targets of propaganda ideology work" to new groups. Examples of new groups that Liu said the Party should target include:

  • Social groups, such as "the founding personnel and technical personnel of private scientific enterprises, supervising technical personnel hired to work at foreign invested enterprises, entrepreneurs, proprietors of private enterprises, those employed at mid-level organizations, and freelance professionals." Liu said the Party should use "targeted propaganda education and positive guidance to motivate them to contribute their energies toward making the nation prosperous and strong, the people happy, and society harmonious."
  • Intellectual groups, including young intellectuals. Liu said the Party should "strengthen links and communication with, actively organize, rely upon, and guide them to give rein to the important functions they should have as society transforms and ideological cultures agitate at one another."
  • Youth groups. Liu said the Party should "strengthen and improve the establishment of minors' ideological morality and university students ideological political education in a practical manner," and "actively and concretely merge socialist ideological morality into every stage of young people's growth."
  • Troubled groups, including unemployed workers in cities, migrant workers, farmers who have lost their land, the elderly, and the disabled.
  • Cultural groups. According to Liu, this group includes "non-governmental social science research agencies, cultural offices, cultural operation agencies, cultural artistic groups, cultural intermediary consulting agencies, and there has appeared a large number of freelance writers, news stringers, independent performers, and cultural brokers."
  • Foreigners. Liu said the Party should "expand the battlefield" of foreign propaganda and implement a strategy of "moving outward."

Require media outlets to impose stricter self-discipline. Liu said that social groups and professional organizations can "unite the demands of the Party and the government with the wishes of the employees," and therefore it is necessary to "merge propaganda ideology work into the self-supervision of mass groups and professional organizations." According to Liu, requiring these groups and organizations to "tightly integrate professional discipline and restraint with professional moral restraint" will allow employees to "voluntarily" accept government supervision.

Oppose competition from foreign news by disseminating propaganda with content that viewers will enjoy. Liu called on propaganda officials to leverage the advantage provided by the large circulation and distribution of the Party's newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and television channels to guide public opinion in an "intimate, natural, quiet, unobtrusive manner." To do this, Liu said the Party must make better use of the mass media "to allow the masses to love what they see and hear," as this would make them more apt to accept the Party's propaganda. The measure of the propagandists' success, according to Liu, would be "whether or not the masses are satisfied, whether or not the masses are happy."

Liu stressed substantially the same themes in a speech at the same event in 2004. But unlike the 2005 address, Liu’s 2004 remarks did not address the increasing importance of social and professional organizations in Chinese society, and the challenges they pose to the Party's efforts to control ideology through propaganda. The Central Propaganda Department's increased focus on these groups coincides with the Party's and the government's increased scrutiny and regulation of civil society organizations over the past year, such as environmental groups and social science research organizations.