People’s Daily article underscores determination of top leaders to keep a tight rein on the press

Signaling the determination of top Chinese leaders to control and “guide” public opinion during what they regard as a sensitive year politically, the official People’s Daily ran an article on its “theory” page today emphasizing that control of speech was critical in the Party’s grand project of building a “harmonious society”. [BELOW: Screenshot of coverage of the People’s Daily article on Sohu.com’s domestic news page].

The People’s Daily article appeared on a number of major Web portals today, including Sina.com and Sohu.com.

“Guidance of public opinion”, China’s supreme buzzword for control of speech and the press, came into prominence following the massacre of demonstrators in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Leaders elevated to power in the aftermath of “June 4”, including former President Jiang Zemin, blamed the chaos in large part on Zhao Ziyang, whose tolerant attitude toward the news media, said his critics, had “guided matters in the wrong direction”.

While “guidance of public opinion” remains a key term in China’s press control regime, its use has declined in recent months, apparently an attempt by the leadership to take a more subtle and concealed approach to press control.

Translated portions of the People’s Daily article follow:

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“Correct Guidance of Ideology and Public Opinion is an Important Factor in the Harmony of Society”

Why does [the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party] ‘Decision’ state that “correct guidance of ideology and public opinion is an important factor in promoting social harmony”?

 A series of discussions studying the ‘Decision’ of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party

BY Zheng Xiangdong (郑向东)

Question: The 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party] ‘Decision’ states that: “Correct guidance of ideology and public opinion is an important factor in promoting social harmony.” Why is this?

Answer: This is the correct conclusion drawn on the basis of summarizing our historical experience. It deeply underscores the important role of guidance of ideology and public opinion in the promotion of a harmonious society, and defines a clear direction for news media, publishing, broadcasting and cinema, literature and the arts, and the social sciences in serving the building of a harmonious society.

Opinion is either true or false. Information is either good or bad. Historical experience demonstrates that correct guidance of public opinion is a blessing for the Party and the people; when guidance of public opinion is wrong, this is a misfortune for the Party and the people. Particularly as information flow increases, as the avenues and methods for obtaining information grow daily more diverse, correct guidance of ideology and public opinion is irreplaceably useful in helping people understand the Party’s propositions, accept scientific theory [i.e., CCP rationality], be clear about their own responsibility, distinguish right from wrong and twisted from straight, judge between good and evil, between sublime and foul, foster good behavior and morals as the order of the day, waken the creative energies of society, continuously promote social harmony and other areas. Specifically, the utility of correct guidance of ideology and public opinion is evinced in the following few areas:

… The “Decision’ raises the target task of building a Socialist Harmonious Society by 2020. The achievement of this target task will require uniting all of those powers that can be united, mobilizing all of the active factors, making a common effort, struggling tirelessly. Cleaving to correct guidance of ideology and public opinion, accurately, clearly and actively interpreting the policy of building a Socialist Harmonious Society, urgently, truly and thoroughly propagandizing new achievements, new experiences and new developments in the building of a harmonious society, creating a rich environment of ‘everyone having responsibility for the building of a harmonious society’ and ‘everyone benefits from a harmonious society, benefits the ideological unification of the whole Party and whole people in the spirit of the ‘Decision’ …

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