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Sophisticated Propaganda
How the Chinese Communist Party Controls the Media in the Information Age
Tracey Zhu, The Epoch Times
1/14/2005

In this era of high technology and globalization, can the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still control the flow of information within its borders? According to one professor, the answer is yes. Not only does it still infiltrate and manipulate all mass media in post-reform China, the CCP also adopts sophisticated methods to package its propaganda so Chinese people firmly believe what they see.

Guoguang Wu, formerly chief editor of the People’s Daily and currently the Chair of China and Asia-Pacific Relations at University of Victoria, Canada, made the above analysis at a recent three-day conference at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

“The CCP is not shouting ‘socialism is good’ any more,” Wu said, “However, the Chinese media still strictly follows Jiang Zemin’s media ideology- ‘the media should be the mouthpiece of the Party’. In the information age, the CCP grants the ‘offspring’ of its core media limited freedom, which allows the CCP to disguise its propaganda, giving analysts the illusion of a free press. This freedom also helps generate income for the core media. ”

“Moreover,” explains Wu, “the CCP even use the modernization of their media as a stone to kill two birds- making the propaganda more attractive and convincing, and satisfying media professionals’ career fantasies with more creative freedom and a distraction from ‘sensitive’ topics.”

One example of this modernized yet propagandistic media companies is the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV. Employing Taiwanese news anchors, it gives a sense of worldliness and objectivity that Chinese viewers have difficulty accessing on state-run TV. Yet under the surface, Wu says, Phoenix skews its media coverage just as much as CCTV and other government-run media.

China’s state-run media system has a strict supervision and reward and punishment systems. As a result media professionals have learned to censor themselves. Qinglian He, an economist and author of the national best-seller The Pitfalls of Modernization, also talked about the sophisticated Chinese media system from the vantage point of years of experience working as editor for a Shenzhen-based newspaper in Guangdong, China.

Professor He does not think that the CCP has changed a bit during recent decades economic reforms. She points to two “fairytales” held by the international community in its attempts to change China through exchanging technologies: “The result of the WTO’s attempt to boost democracy in China [through letting China join the WTO, increasing trade] is that instead of making China follow international standards, the foreigners dealing with China are hardly able to keep their own morality while adjusting to the CCP. Rather than helping China receive democratic information, the growth of the Internet has triggered a costly blocking and monitoring system and created an opportunity for the CCP to further control Chinese citizens’ freedom.”

Ms. He pointed out that China accounts for a quarter of the world’s telecommunication market. Several big companies in the United States and Europe have betrayed the most essential values of a free society in seeking this profit cake. They have helped China build a billion-dollar “Golden Shield” which when completed in 2008 will effectively seal off the internet., allowing the CCP to monitor and censor the internet for every surfer in mainland China. People have already been arrested for logging on to “forbidden” websites from home computers.

Wu also gave the example of how the Chinese media failed to discipline the government saying, “After the SARS epidemic last year, the Chinese Propaganda Department praised the media’s work during that period as ‘highly satisfactory’.” Apparently, the media in China helped display the Party’s leadership amid disasters and cover up the truth.

The conference, sponsored by the Foundation for China in the 21st Century which promotes democracy and rule of law in China, was also attended by more than 30 scholars from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Chinese scholars talked about how citizens in China now use various methods to access uncensored outside information, presenting some hope for Chinese people that is not being offered by the western world.

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