Top Official Directs Media To Promote July Anniversary of Party's Founding

July 1, 2011

A top Communist Party official has directed Chinese media to promote the 90th anniversary of China's Communist Party, founded on July 1, 1921, saying it is their "common responsibility" to do so. The call, which came on April 22, 2011, was directed not only at media organizations closely aligned with the Party but also more commercially oriented newspapers and online media more generally. The call echoes the official policy of the Chinese government and Party that the domestic media serve as an instrument of the Party.

 The director of China's Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department has called on the nation's news media to promote the 90th anniversary of the Party's founding, saying it is their "common responsibility" to do so, according to an April 22 Xinhua article. Liu Yunshan, who is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Party's Central Committee, made the comments during an April 22 speech given at a special meeting on "propaganda reporting work" for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Party. The Communist Party of China was founded on July 1, 1921, according to Xinhua's Web site. Below are Liu's specific instructions (quoted language is Xinhua's reporting of Liu's remarks, for which it is unclear whether they reflect direct quotations or paraphrases of his words):

  • For news media in general "doing good propaganda reporting on the 90th anniversary of the Party's founding is the common responsibility of all levels and types of media."
  • Central and local Party newspapers and magazines, radio and television stations should "play a leading role" by issuing "special columns, special topic sections, discussions, commentaries, and commemorative essays."
  • Evening and metropolitan newspapers should use "vivid stories and moving plots to show the glorious history of the Party's struggles." These newspapers are more commercially-oriented and some have developed reputations for investigative reporting, albeit within the confines of overall Party control.
  • Online media "should help the large numbers of netizens [Internet users] to understand the Party's great historical course by publishing special postings, background links, and online interviews."

The role of the news media as an instrument of the Party is enshrined in official policy. Despite current plans to restructure the media industry to enhance its international competitiveness (see, for example, this October 25, 2010, People's Daily article), officials have made clear that any change must strengthen, not weaken, Party control. In a November 2010 speech on the topic of political reform and its relationship to China's news industry, Liu Binjie, Director of the General Administration on Press and Publication, a government agency responsible for regulating the press, said:

Any reform needs to be beneficial to strengthening and improving the Party's leadership over press and publishing work.... Press and publishing system reform needs to firmly grasp the leadership authority of the Party over press and publishing work. ... From beginning to end we must insist on ... no change to the nature of the press and publishing serving as mouthpieces of the Party and the people, no change in the Party's control over the media. (China Press and Publication Online, 17 November 10)

For radio and television stations, which are more tightly controlled than newspapers and online media, the Chinese government announced in January 2011 that it would not allow radio or television stations to privatize, justifying the decision on the grounds of the importance of radio and television to the Party. "Radio and television stations are the Party's important news media and battleground for propagandizing ideology and culture...and propaganda must remain their focus," a spokesperson from the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television is paraphrased as saying in a January 14 report. One of the functions the Party expects the media to assume is to "correctly" (zhengque) guide public opinion. In November 2010, Li Changchun, a member of the Political Bureau Standing Committee, on the occasion of the annual Journalists' Day in China, said "a correct public opinion orientation benefits the Party and the people," and called on the news media to "insist on their responsibility to the Party and people," emphasize "positive propaganda," and "propagandize the Party's positions" (People's Daily, 9 November 10). In recent years, officials have called for propaganda to reflect positively on the Party and to influence public opinion during various high-profile events and incidents, ranging from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the economic downturn, demonstrations and protests in Tibetan areas and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2008 and 2009, and major earthquakes in 2008 and 2010, among others. The Central Propaganda Department and other government and Party entities also issue more specific and frequent directives to the media on what they can and cannot report on or how to cover particular stories. In January 2011, the International Federation of Journalists released a report documenting more than 80 censorship orders issued by Chinese officials in 2010, outlining Chinese officials' efforts to block information on "public health, disasters, corruption and civil unrest." Chinese officials have also sought to restrict domestic media coverage of recent protests in the Middle East and North Africa (see this CECC analysis for more information). For more information on how Chinese officials control the news media and how such control conflicts with international standards for free expression, see pp. 66-70 of the CECC 2010 Annual Report.