Media Curbs in China Seen Displaying President Xi's Maoist Credentials

Chinese journalists jostling to interview the lawyer representing the son of a Chinese general charged with rape in Beijing, Aug. 28, 2013.

Recent moves to tighten curbs on China's media are in line with a return to Maoist ideology on the part of president Xi Jinping, analysts said on Tuesday.

The Central Committee of the ruling Chinese Communist Party recently issued an "opinion" setting out guidelines for "propagating core socialist values" among China's media organizations, to prevent "incorrect points of view" from making an appearance, official media reported.

The "opinion" document has been sent out to media organizations across China in recent days, with orders for its "complete and actual" implementation, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China's media should play a key role in "strengthening propaganda and educating people regarding core socialist values," the document said.

"The media must act as a channel for the transmission of core socialist values," it said, warning that it shouldn't "act as a channel for incorrect viewpoints."

"This is probably another step for Comrade Xi Jinping's return to Maoism," U.S.-based Chinese studies expert Xie Xuanjun said in an interview on Tuesday.

"He wants to divide [history] into two 30-year periods, one of Mao's dictatorship of the proletariat, and the other of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms," Xie said.

"Then, he wants to start his own 30-year period," he added.

'Socialist core values'

In an article reinforcing the opinion document published on Monday, Xinhua said that "socialist core values" are "the spirit enlivening the Chinese nation."

U.S.-based rights activist Liu Qing said the recent directive from the Central Committee is the latest in a number of measures designed to tighten state control over traditional media outlets and online public opinion.

"The Chinese government has made several attempts of a similar kind aimed at cleaning up the Internet," Liu said.

"Xi Jinping said that the Internet is the key to the continued existence of the Communist Party."

He added: "Mao also said that the party would fall from power within a month if the government didn't control the media, and allowed people to know the truth."

Liu said government campaigns aimed at "cleaning up" the Internet are aimed more at removing content the government doesn't like than getting rid of pornography and other "undesirable" content.

"They absolutely must control the news, and the Internet," Liu said. "They must delete any information exposing the truth about the government from the Internet."

Press freedoms came under greater attack in China last year, amid increased government censorship and attacks on individual journalists, according to media experts and rights monitoring groups.

China has one of the world's worst records on press freedom, with controls on state-run media and netizens showing no signs of abating, according the Paris-based global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

China, which RSF said is "the world's biggest prison for Internet users," ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in its 2013 World Press Freedom Index.

Reported by Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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