Xi Jinping has paired his escalating crackdown with a propaganda offensive that is blanketing Chinese state media, as the New York Times reports:
Front-page headlines across the nation trumpeted Mr. Xi’s visits to the headquarters of the three main Communist Party and state news organizations on Friday. Photographs showed fawning journalists crowding around Mr. Xi, who sat at an anchor’s desk at the state television network. One media official wrote the president an adoring poem.
The blanket coverage reflected the brazen and far-reaching media policy announced by Mr. Xi on his choreographed tour: The Chinese news media exists to serve as a propaganda tool for the Communist Party, and it must pledge its fealty to Mr. Xi.
Though the party has been tightening its control over the media since Mr. Xi became the top leader in late 2012, the new policy removes any doubt that in the view of the president and party chief, the media should be first and foremost a party mouthpiece. Mr. Xi wants to push the party’s message domestically — and internationally — across all media platforms, including advertising and entertainment, scholars say. That is a shift from his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who stressed the need for the state-run media to become more responsive to the modern digital environment and shape or channel public opinion.
We’ve written before about the Chinese government’s mounting panic about the loyalty of its citizens. There’ve been purges of high-level corrupt officials (and presumably some political opponents), crackdowns on human rights NGOs, lawyers, and Christians, and a renewed emphasis on ‘patriotic education’. Xi Jinping has even extended his reach abroad, as Chinese covert agents traveled the world this year, rounding up hundreds of supposedly corrupt Chinese “economic criminals”, five Hong Kong booksellers (including several citizens of Western countries), and a Chinese human rights activist in Thailand.
It is necessary for the media to restore people’s trust in the Party, especially as the economy has entered a new normal and suggestions that it is declining and dragging down the global economy have emerged.
Xi Jinping is making doubly sure that the state media will either say nice things about himself and the Communist Party, or they won’t say anything at all.