News and propaganda training sessions are too ubiquitous in China to be at all newsworthy. Nor are they particularly interesting. But they do provide a glimpse into how national media policy is being talked about and implemented in China’s cities, provinces and autonomous regions.
The following is a translation of coverage earlier this month of a session on news and propaganda in Ningxia, attended by Wang Chen (王晨), director of the State Council Information Office and effectively China’s top Internet control official.
The Ningxia study session relays the CCP’s media control policy as outlined by President Hu Jintao in his June 2008 speech at People’s Daily, which we have termed “Control 2.0” at the China Media Project.
Control 2.0 is the idea, essentially, that traditional controls on information are insufficient in the new media age, and that officials must use a combination approach to information involving both “control” and “use” of the media. They must, on the one hand, strategically control highly sensitive information, and on the other hand actively push their own agenda and “authoritative” information.
The two most important buzzwords for this policy are “guidance of public opinion,” or yulun daoxiang (舆论导向), the post-Tiananmen term for media control to maintain social and political stability, and “public opinion challenging,” or yulun yindao (舆论引导), the more active agenda-setting dimension. You can think of the first as strategic information control, and the second as strategic information release.
On September 3, the Information Office of the State Council and the Party Committee of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region jointly held a training session in Yinchuan on “News Release and Public Opinion Channeling.” Wang Chen (王晨), a deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department and director of the State Council Information Office, issued a report on current overall patterns of international public opinion and on raising capacity for public opinion channeling and creating a favorable public opinion environment. Yang Chunguang (杨春光), a member of the party committee and propaganda minister of the autonomous region, led the opening ceremony.
The current training session, which will last for one and a half days, is an important instance of training for thoroughly carrying out the spirit of the 17th National Party Congress and the Fourth Plenum of the 17th Party Committee, thoroughly carrying out the demand on Party and government cadres at various levels in the autonomous region to raise public opinion channeling capacity, improve news and propaganda work and particularly to raise the level of external propaganda work, in order to promote the creation of a favorable public opinion environment for development strides in our region.
Wang Chen gave an excellent report on the significance of doing an effective job of public opinion channeling under the new situation [of global communication and new technologies], of using discourse power effectively, of grasping the initiative [in public opinion channeling], and on the achievements of our country over the past few years in conducting external propaganda and public opinion channeling work. When he spoke about how to do public opinion channeling work in our region effectively, he talked about [the need to] increase the strength of positive propaganda; to conscientiously prepare for sudden-breaking incidents; to actively carry out diversified forms of cultural propaganda; to effectively use the Internet and new media to strengthen Ningxia’s propaganda efforts; to draw support from external forces in order to cooperate with media outside the region; to actively conduct publicity and cooperation with Islamic nations; to achieve unity in thinking, cohering forces and firmly grasping guidance of public opinion, constantly working to create a new prospects for public opinion channeling.
Yang Chunguang (杨春光) said leaders and cadres from various levels must clearly recognize the importance and necessity of doing an effective job of actively channeling public opinion. [He urged those present to] work hard to study the art of channeling public opinion under the new circumstances (新形势下) [of information technology, etc.], increasing their capacity for handling sudden-breaking events and sensitive issues, steadily raising their ability to connect with the media, particularly media from outside the region, effectively using the media to correctly channel public opinion. They must [said Yang] use the opportunity afforded by this training session to resolve outstanding problems in their work, pushing the external propaganda and public opinion channeling work of our region to a new level, and making a contribution to the new round of building up [China's] western regions and thoroughly building a moderately well-off society (小康社会).