Senior Censorship Agency Official Offers Views on Reforming China's News Media

February 4, 2005

The People's Daily Web site has published the text of a speech given by Liu Binjie in October, 2004. Liu, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication (the agency responsible for enforcing China's strict publishing and censorship laws), was once quoted as saying that "Currently China is one of the world's countries richest in freedom of speech and freedom of publication." The text of Liu's speech clearly indicates that Chinese authorities are continuing to struggle with two conflicting imperatives: on the one hand the government wants to encourage China's media to become economically profitable and globally influential:

In the past there was a belief that all things in the realm of ideology must be the mouthpiece of the Party and the government. This understanding was not correct. Only the main media outlets are the mouthpieces of the Party and the government, and one cannot say that all newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations are Party mouthpieces. Many media outlets cannot represent the Party or the nation, and can only represent a region, an organization, an industry, a department or a group of people. Only the primary, provincial level and higher Party newspapers, Party magazines, radio and television stations, and primary networks can be said to be Party and government mouthpieces. Other media outlets are for satisfying the cultural consumer demands of the masses, and cannot be lumped together as Party and government mouthpieces.

The role of the government should change from one of managing publishing enterprises to managing the market, and not interfering with the way publishing enterprises manage their own operations, and create an environment that is beneficial to their development.

As China's general economic strength increases, China gains a certain right to speak in the international economic arena. The government of China's status has been rising with its economic status, and has gained a corresponding degree of influence. However, there only remains the cultural arena where our influence is insufficient. . . . We only need to develop and strengthen our cultural products, increase our cultural competitiveness, and only then can we gain a foothold in the world's cultural market, only then will we be able to allow the world to understand China's culture, and bring into play our culture's influence on international society.

On the other hand, Chinese authorities want to ensure that the government and the Communist Party continue to maintain exclusive control over all politically-related news reporting in China:

Regardless of how we go about reforming or what organization system we implement, we cannot allow any change in the correct guidance of public opinion. This relates to the problem of strengthening Marxist ideology, it relates to the problem of ensuring the dominant position of Marxist ideology, it relates to the problem of disseminating the Party's primary ideology. What we must first allow for is that we must insist that the Party's primary media remain state owned.

As noted in the CECC's 2004 Annual Report, Chinese authorities intend to use the law as a weapon against freedom of expression:

With regards to marketized media, we must strengthen administrative legislating, and use the law to ensure that the guidance of public opinion and publishing direction are correct. At the same time we can also use economic measures to ensure the correctness of the guidance of public opinion. For example, we can use capital ties to control the primary battlefields of public opinion, this is a common tactic around the world.