U.S. Scholar Reviews Book on Chinese Government Press Censorship

February 16, 2005

The New York Review of Books has published a review of "How the Chinese Government Controls the Media" by He Qinglian, an economist and journalist from China who currently resides in the United States. The review was written by Professor Perry Link, one of the United States' foremost experts on contemporary Chinese politics. As Professor Link notes, the book concentrates on two questions: How is real news suppressed? And what is the effect on popular thinking of the restricted political information the government offers the public instead? Some excerpts from the review:

The [increasing number of] new publications have led some foreign observers to speculate that China is developing its own version of a "liberal" press. The Chinese government, trying to improve its international image, encourages such perceptions and hence will find it hard to forgive He Qinglian for showing how very superficial they are. Every Chinese publication, however gaudy, she writes, still has to be owned by a state-controlled organization. . . . Officials of the Party's Propaganda Department allow the papers to publish what they please on many topics but carefully monitor anything that is politically sensitive. . . . The Party's goal is to protect Party interests while giving the impression that the press is not controlled. . . . So there certainly is more variety and range in Chinese journalism today than ten years ago, but "liberal" is hardly the word for it.

The Propaganda Department has several different methods for preventing trouble before it arises. Its monthly bulletin called Report on Conditions lists political mistakes that have recently appeared in print. Any publication that gets mentioned too frequently runs the risk of being closed down, so editors watch the Report closely. When necessary the department also summon reporters to attend what it calls "atmosphere-spreading sessions," meetings that are used, for example, to explain why particular reports on corruption amount to leaking secrets and hence are criminal. Beginning last year broadcasters had to follow a new rule for call-in talk shows: all stations that broadcast opinions of "the masses" must use equipment that allows for a twenty-second delay so that incorrect views can be filtered out. Show hosts must strengthen their "political consciousness" and "sense of responsibility." If a station lacks the requisite equipment, it cannot have call-in shows.

The CECC provides the following resources for those interested in learning more about Chinese government censorship 2004 Annual Report - Freedom of Expression Section

Laws and Regulations Restricting Freedom of Expression in China

Who's Who of Chinese Censorship Recent news regarding Chinese government censorship