Dreaming of docile news media

Correct guidance of public opinion,” the notion media must adhere to the discipline guidelines of the Chinese Communist Party in order to maintain social and political stability, remains the crux of press controls in China. But now, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, “correct guidance” is being retrofitted for the “Chinese dream,” the ruling Party’s latest leadership vision.

The first reaffirmation of the media’s propaganda role in the context of the “Chinese dream” came back in April, as scores of state-run media were lined up behind a statement called, “Creating Positive Energy for the Chinese Dream with a Fierce Sense of Social Responsibility.”


[ABOVE: Installed in a park in the southern city of Guangzhou, the ship of the Chinese dream spells out the slogan's three central aspects: national strength, the rejuvenation of the Chinese people, and prosperity for the people.]

A piece posted today by the official Xinhua News Agency again emphasizes the need for media to adhere to “correct guidance” in order to create “positive energy” for the realization of the Chinese dream. Typical of Party writings about ideological discipline in the media, the tone of the piece is highly moralistic, suggesting media in China today have suffered a “downward slide” in values. They have erred from the “mainstream,” meaning the Party line, to cynically pursue negative coverage and amplify “rumours” emerging on the internet.

“[S]ome media workers have lost their sense of ideological place,” says the piece.

The answer is for media to remember their proper role as the “builders of socialism,” “encouraging the people to work tirelessly for national strength and general prosperity” and striving to “advocate the realization of the Chinese Dream as the loftiest note of the age.”

The tension remains between control, the highest imperative, and maintaining credibility, a tension we have seen at least since Hu Jintao’s 2002 policy of the “three closenesses.” Media must be truthful and relevant, because therein lies credibility and influence — but they must not forget to ensure that “truth” serves the Party’s fundamental interests.

Selected translations follow:

How Media Can Create Positive Energy for the “Chinese Dream”
July 29, 2013

In mid-April, the All-China Journalist’s Association and 25 [state] media including the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, Seeking Truth, the PLA Daily, Guangming Daily, Economic Daily, China National Radio and China Central Television released “Creating Positive Energy for the Chinese Dream with a Fierce Sense of Social Responsibility” . . . Well then, how do media at various levels create positive energy for the “Chinese Dream” with a fierce sense of social responsibility?

1. Singing the Chinese Dream as the crescendo of the age, positively guiding and encouraging the people to work tirelessly for national strength and the prosperity of the people

In recent years, under market pressure, the value expectations of media and news workers have suffered a downhill slide, and in the media sphere market-driven media have now pressured mainstream [Party] media, and new media have pressured traditional media, passively resulting in a lowbrow atmosphere (媚俗之风), blurring the role of [media] as tools of the Party and government leadership, and some media have even sunk to the level of adopting online hearsay and transmitting online rumor. . .

In order to realize the Chinese Dream, media must take action and do their part. In this new historical era, news workers are not “crownless kings” separate from the masses, nor are they observers separated from actual reality. Rather, they have a sacred duty to “guide the people with positive public opinion” . . .

2. Adhering to positive guidance of public opinion, bearing responsibility as the documenters and promoters of development as they promote the Chinese Dream

News media are the magnifying glass of society, they are the amplifiers of public opinion in society. As diversity in society has challenged the mainstream [Party] ideology, some media workers have lost their sense of ideological place. They believe that journalists have discourse power and influence, and they have grown indifferent to positive channeling [of public opinion] and prefer to pile up negative reports. Some journalists are accustomed to presenting a one-side picture in their reports. For example, in carrying out supervision by public opinion [or investigative reporting], some news workers do not seek to relieve tensions by holding constructive standpoints, encouraging mutual understanding and respect in different groups, but rather seek to kick up a fuss, fan the fires and create opposition. In fact, the social impact of reports, whether political correct or incorrect, is immense. The is particularly true under the new circumstances we face, in which there is a whole series of new problems, the situation is complex, and there are many sensitive issues. This places even higher expectations on news reports, and it is imperative that editors and reporters play their proper role in doing their work.

3. Taking the truth as the life of the news, preserving the accuracy and impartiality of the news, raising the credibility of the media while advocating for the Chinese Dream

To sum up, only by positively guiding and encouraging the people to work tirelessly for national strength and general prosperity, only by taking on the responsibility of being constructors of socialism, the documenters of development, making earnest efforts to maintain the truth and impartiality of the news, by making the preservation of credibility one’s professional goal, accurately handling the relationship between social efficiency and economic efficiency, can [journalists] advocate for the realization of the Chinese Dream as the loftiest note of the age . . .

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