Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Contradictions Continue

Xi Jinping rallies the "troops" to fight the war against rumour mongering
Chinese President Xi Jinping is carrying on where Hu Jintao left off in further tightening the media.

Xi has called for a war against China's unruly internet, and for the Communist Party's propaganda department to build "a strong army" to "seize the ground of new media".

The central government is currently accelerating its campaign to stamp out internet "rumours" and rein in influential celebrities, known as "big Vs" for "verified".

Xi made the speech on August 19 at a national meeting of propaganda chiefs, but was only made public recently.

"The wording of his speech relayed in internal briefings is far stronger," said a source. "The most impressive [point] is that Xi said the Communist Party should be combative instead of being passive, and it should wage a war to win over public opinion. Xi also ordered the propaganda apparatus to seize the ground of new media," he said.

After his speech, there were movements on the ground.

The following day Beijing police detained several people related to Beijing Erma Interactive Marketing and Planning, including internet celebrity Qin Huohuo on suspicion of rumour-mongering.

Then on August 23, well-known Chinese-American businessman Charles Xu Biqun, better known as Xue Manzi by his 12 million Sina Weibo followers was detained on what sounds like trumped-up charges of soliciting prostitutes to which he confessed.

Meanwhile state media has constantly reminded celebrities and other influential online figures known as "big Vs" not to spread rumours.

In his August 19 speech, Xi also ordered officials to "unite intellectuals", which was interpreted to mean getting as many intellectuals as possible to back the Party's agenda.

"It is a continuation of the style during the Maoist era to set intellectuals apart from the public," said one senior state television journalist.

Another media source said Xi said there should be a ban on the media talking about "universal values of the West", because there are "no such things as universal values".

Wait a second. We know Xi is hinting things such as democracy and human rights, but if he is advocating "the Chinese dream" which is modelled after "the American dream", aren't dreams universal?

Xi is also invoking paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, by calling for the revival of "ideological purification" in the early 1980s by upholding cardinal principles. They are: upholding the people's democratic dictatorship (sounds like an oxymoron), the socialist path (which the Party is not on anymore), the party leadership (a given), and Marxism-Leninism and "Mao Zedong thought" (continuing where Bo Xilai was cut off).

Does Xi not have any other brilliant ideas of his own? Or is this his way of trying to further consolidate his power by harking back to the past to justify his position?

This obsession for media control either reveals Xi's determination to have a greater grip over the Party or his paranoia of not having everyone on side.

Nevertheless, people in China must be seeing through this exercise and rolling their eyes again at yet another exercise in further tightening the leash on media.

We only hope the squeeze hasn't suffocated those who are still determined to publish the truth.

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