Party Uses Journalists, Artists, Academics To Promote "Harmonious Society"

December 8, 2006

The Communist Party Central Committee issued the Resolution on Major Issues Regarding the Building of a Harmonious Socialist Society (Resolution) on October 11, calling on news publications, radio, film, television, literature, the arts, and the social sciences to "insist on the correct orientation" and "sing the main theme" as part of the Party's campaign to build a "harmonious society." The phrase "sing the main theme" has been defined by one Party official as meaning to "carry forward a nationalist spirit whose core is patriotism" and "carry forward collectivist and socialist ideology and allow it to become the main stream of modern times." The Resolution, issued at the end of the Sixth Plenum of the Party's 16th Central Committee, also recommends increased control over the Internet to ensure that it is used in a "civilized" manner, saying "the Internet should be made an important battlefield for promoting a harmonious society."

The Resolution includes additional instructions on how journalists, writers, artists, and academics should construct a "healthy ideological public opinion atmosphere" for purposes of building the "harmonious society." News media should "publicize what the Party stands for," "provide guidance on social hot-button issues," and succeed at public opinion supervision. Academics in the areas of philosophy and social sciences should focus their research on "major and practical issues" and "insist on using Marxism as their guide." Writers and artists should produce upbeat works that develop the "true, good, and beautiful" and "enrich the cultural life of the masses." The Resolution also provides that the Sweep Away Pornography and Strike Down Illegal Publications campaign should continue in full force.

Underscoring the Party's concern about rising social unrest, the 2006 plenum was devoted to the theme of building a "harmonious society," and was the first ever to focus on "social development matters other than political and economic affairs," according to an October 11 Xinhua article. The Party first pledged to build a more "harmonious society" in 2002, according to the Xinhua article, but the sixth plenum has now increased the campaign's importance. According to the Central Committee's communiqué issued on October 11 in connection with the plenum, "there exist many contradictions and problems which affect social harmony," and the plenum decided to "put the building of the harmonious socialist society to a more prominent place."

Following the meeting, top Chinese officials began urging the news media to "study, publicize, and carry out" the spirit of the sixth plenum. According to an October 25 Xinhua report (in Chinese), Li Changchun, a Politburo member, said at an October 24 meeting of the All-China Journalists' Association that:

  • The news media's "foremost duty is to study, publicize, and carry out" the spirit of the sixth plenum and the important statements of President Hu Jintao to unify the thoughts of the whole party and the whole nation.
  • News media should "vigorously publicize the latest achievements of Chinese Marxism and guarantee the basic ideological foundation for building a harmonious socialist society."

President Hu Jintao also spoke at the meeting, saying he hoped the government-sponsored association would insist on the "correct political direction," according to the Xinhua report. At a November 8 awards ceremony for journalists marking Journalists' Day, Liu Yunshan, a Party Central Committee member who also serves as secretary of the Secretariat and Director of the Central Propaganda Department, told journalists that it was their "primary duty to study, publicize, and carry out" the spirit of the sixth plenum, according to a November 9 Guangming Daily report (in Chinese). In addition, Liu told journalists that:

  • "To become an outstanding journalist, one should insist on the Party's principles and insist on the correct guidance of public opinion… [these] are the basic demands of the Party on journalists."
  • News media must be "loyal to the Party's news work and protect the interests of the Party and the people."
  • News media should "meticulously spread the theme of building a harmonious society, disseminate harmonious ideals, build a harmonious culture, publicize examples of harmony, and cultivate harmonious customs."

Two weeks after the sixth plenum session ended, Cai Wu, Director of the State Council Information Office, told an audience in the United States that China believes that the Chinese media should be less confrontational than in the West, according to an October 26 Associated Press article (reprinted in the International Herald Tribune). "In China, we think that the relationship between the media, the society, and the government should be characterized by coordination and cooperation, rather than by confrontation," Cai said on October 25. He added that "in some Western countries, good news is not news, bad news or strange news is news."

In a speech before the Chinese Writers' Association on November 10, President Hu reiterated the sixth plenum's themes to writers and artists, telling them that building a harmonious culture is their "dignified mission" and that the Party hopes that they will "each make their own contribution to building a socialist harmonious society," according to a transcript of the speech posted on the Guangming Daily Web site on November 11.

The Chinese government already requires journalists to follow Party ideologies and act in the interest of the Party. These requirements are intended to protect the ideological and political dominance of the Party. For example, the Interim Provisions on the Administration of Those Employed as News Reporters and Editors issued jointly by the General Administration of Press and Publications, the Central Propaganda Department and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television in 2005, provides that reporters and editors must be "guided by Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and the important ideology of the 'Three Represents,' support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, and support the socialist system" and "protect the interest of the Party and the government."

For additional information on how the Chinese government and the Communist Party control and censor the press to impose ideological uniformity, see Section V(a), "Special Focus for 2006: Freedom of Expression," in the CECC's 2006 Annual Report.