Party Propaganda Department Convenes "Public Sentiment" Work Meeting

September 29, 2005

The Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department (CPD) convened a meeting on September 8 in Heilongjiang province to review the Party's handling of "public sentiment information work" during the first half of 2005, according to a September 12 article (in Chinese) in a local newspaper in that province. The Qiqiha'er Daily reported that Zhen Zhanmin, deputy director of the CPD's Office of Public Sentiment, and officials from Public Sentiment Reporting Stations throughout China met in Qiqiha'er to discuss the status of "public sentiment information collection and reporting."

The report contained no details about topics that the officials may have discussed, but for a discussion of what Chinese authorities mean by "public sentiment information work," see below.

"Public Sentiment" Defined
According to a May 2005 article in the Guangming Daily entitled "Strengthen Public Sentiment Work, Safeguard the Security of the Ruling Party's Governance," "public sentiment" refers to "the subjective reflections that different historical stages and social groups have of certain social realities and events, it is the collective expression of a communal consciousness, ideology, opinions, and needs."

Why the Party Focuses on "Public Sentiment"
The Party's goal is to understand public sentiment so that it is able to steer it in the direction it wants it to go, and thereby better secure its control over China's government. In a September 2004 speech, Liu Yunshan, member of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, secretary of the Secretariat, and director of the Central Propaganda Department, told the National Propaganda Directors Seminar that "It is necessary to establish a mechanism to compile and analyze public sentiment in society, and strengthen public sentiment information work, and increase the forward looking nature and initiative of propaganda and ideological work." In "Strengthen Public Sentiment Work, Safeguard the Security of the Ruling Party's Governance," the author said:

The stability and development of a society cannot be separated from the unification of the ideology of the members of that society. So in order to achieve the unification of the ideology of the members of that society, it is first necessary to understand and grasp the ideological trends of the the ideology of the members of society. Therefore, strengthening public sentiment information work, grasping public sentiment trends in a timely manner, aggressively guiding social public opinion are major moves in the safeguarding of social stability and the security of the ruling Party's governance. . . Strengthening public sentiment information work is conducive to guiding public opinion in society, and thereby ceaselessly safeguarding social stability. Grasping public sentiment is the prerequisite and foundation of strengthening ideological work. Modern society relies not only upon the power of organizations and the administration to carry out mainstream ideology, it must also rely on the news media for dissemination, and must rely on rich and effective public sentiment information work for support. Our Party must achieve its own goals with respect governing, must firmly maintain a hold over correct guidance, ceaselessly improve its ability to steer public opinion, and use our own ideological theories, agenda, and values to influence society and form a united society. . . At the same time, it is only by using rich and effective public sentiment information work that we may guard against and eliminate the influence of harmful public opinion.

How the Party Guides "Public Sentiment"
The Party guides public sentiment by controlling, censoring, and monitoring mass media in China. In "Strengthen Public Sentiment Work, Safeguard the Security of the Ruling Party's Governance," the Guangming Daily called on Party cadres to:

strengthen the supervision and monitoring of the Internet, cellular phones, and other new forms of media. With the constant development of scientific technology, online information and cellular phone short text messaging have already become an important means of long-distance exchanges between people. . . Therefore, while strengthening supervision over online information and cellular phone short text messaging information, also organize forces to engage in collection, ordering, and analysis of information, and from this information will develop an understanding of the will and conditions of the people, and this will have major significance in comprehensively grasping the situation of society and the will of the people.

Item 9 in the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television's list of "Radio, Film, and Television Propaganda Priorities for 2005" was "Perform public sentiment information work well, perfect the supervision of radio, film, and television propaganda, firmly grasp the initiative in radio, film, and television propaganda work." The methods it outlined for achieving these goals included:

  • "Continue to implement Document Number 29 issued by the General Office of the Communist Party." According to an official with the General Administration of Press and Publication, the Party issued this document to increase pre-publication screening of the ideological orientation of books, newspapers, and magazines.
  • "Never give incorrect ideology or ideas that are unconstitutional or illegal a channel for dissemination. . . Self-righteously refuse all incorrect ideological and political perspectives and expression, take the initiative in grasping online public opinion work, and block and delete harmful information in a timely manner."
  • "Strengthen collection and analysis of . . . public sentiment in society [and] public sentiment on the Internet."
  • "Perfect the ranks of radio, film, television, and Internet propagandists and commentators, aggressively capture the radio, film, television, and Internet propaganda battlefield, support the major radio, film, television, and Internet Web sites, and form a strong radio, film, television, and Internet positive public opinion."

In another speech to the National Propaganda Directors Seminar, this time in December 2004, Liu Yunshan called on the Party's propaganda leaders to "create a public opinion atmosphere that is beneficial to stable reform and development," and told them they must:

  • "Strengthen public sentiment information work, and understand and grasp the major issues of concern to cadres and the masses in a timely manner, and carry out guidance in a proactive and effective manner."
  • "Perform propaganda guidance for the "three rural" problems, state enterprise reform, increasing employment, and social security."
  • "Increase the supervision of reports on major mass incidents."
  • "Ceaselessly raise the level of public opinion propaganda."
  • "Exploit the aggressive function of the news media at all levels and of all types."
  • "Take the initiative to capture the new battlefield of the Internet."