China's state media urged not to stray from party line, dumb down ideology

Xinhua news agency chief Fu Hua says his organization won't stray from Xi Jinping Thought 'even for a minute.'
By Mia Ping-chieh Chen for RFA Mandarin
2022.09.07
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Staff members wearing face masks sit in front of a display of books by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, Sept. 3, 2022.
Associated Press

The head of China's state news agency has pledged never to swerve from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) line or from supporting incumbent leader Xi Jinping as he gears up to seek an unprecedented third term in office at the 20th CCP National Congress in October.

Xinhua news agency president Fu Hua said his journalists shouldn't take leave of the party line, Xi Jinping Thought or core propaganda themes "not even for a minute."

"Xinhua will never depart from the party line, not even for a minute, nor stray from the path laid down by general secretary Xi Jinping, not even for a minute, nor lose sight of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Central Committee, not even for a minute," Fu wrote in a Sept. 2 article for the Cyberspace Administration publication ChinaNetNews.

Fu's pledge was explicitly linked to the run-up to the 20th party congress, and called on Xinhua to "give the strongest voice to the party's ideas" during that time.

Xi Jinping Thought, a hodge-podge of ideological buzzwords emphasizing total party leadership and control over everything, was "a logical starting point for reporting the news," Fu wrote.

He also threw his weight behind totalitarian control over the Chinese internet, saying online censorship and public opinion management was "an unshakable political principle."

Veteran political journalist Hu Ping said Fu's article is further evidence of a cult of personality forming around Xi Jinping.

"Xi Jinping Thought is now a required textbook in universities, high schools and primary schools, raising the personality cult around Xi Jinping to unprecedented heights," Hu told RFA. "This is absurd, and humiliating for all concerned."

"His will has now been imposed on more than one billion people in China, meaning that everyone in the country is now supposed to follow his ideas, something that he has used his power to impose on everyone," he said.

Just days after Fu's article appeared, the propaganda department of the Zhejiang provincial CCP called on all those engaged in propaganda work to do a better job of explaining party policies in detail, rather than simplifying them.

It said some outlets have been exaggerating support for the CCP in an extreme manner, damaging the party's public image, while at the same time oversimplifying its message to the general public.

Others have attacked government policies, couching "smears and slander" in partial praise, the post said.

It listed caricatures of devotion to the CCP as examples, citing references to model workers who "work overtime non-stop without changing clothes or washing their hair" or "grandmas in wheelchairs singing revolutionary songs" as a form of "dumbing down" and "brainless boasting" that should be avoided in party propaganda work.

It said merely parroting slogans was "self-defeating and offensive."

‘Talking gibberish’

Former Sina Weibo censor Liu Lipeng said the post appeared to be targeting mainstream, state-controlled media, which regularly put out stories that are clearly out of touch with online public sentiment.

"The Chinese state media operate behind closed doors, talking gibberish and often making jokes [out of what they write]," Liu told RFA. "You see in these articles, the examples they cite are all coming from their own."

He said many state-backed media outlets will write fake news.

"They don't care if they're fake, because nobody can hold them accountable anyway, so they just write nonsense," Liu said.

He said social media users often repost such articles out of a sense of satire or irony, and are more likely to hold online activities late at night, when many paid internet censors have left work for the day.

"Actually, internet users are resisting," Liu said, citing online reactions to accusations by China on Monday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had carried out a cyberattack on Northwestern Polytechnical University. "For example, there was a wave of anti-American propaganda recently."

Liu said the incident was also used as a way to satirize and vent dissatisfaction with the authorities' constant censorship and surveillance of online activities.

He said keywords linked Fu's article about Xi Jinping thought and the CCP line seemed to have disappeared from major social media platforms by Sept. 6.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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