23 August 2019
China wants to integrate traditional media with online platforms for more effective communication. Photo: Bloomberg
China wants to integrate traditional media with online platforms for more effective communication. Photo: Bloomberg

Xi means business on media revamp

President Xi Jinping said Monday that China will build several new-type media groups that are strong, influential and credible, calling for integration of traditional and new media, according to state-run Xinhua.

In case there were any doubts as to what this means, Xi said integration should include content, channels, platforms, operations and management—which covers just about everything.

At last count, there were more than 2,200 newspapers and 7,000 magazines and journals in Mainland China, and more than 630 million web users.

China already maintains an iron grip on both traditional and new media to prevent subversion of its authority. What else it could do to control the flow of information is open for speculation, but it’s clear that Xi means business.

While his predecessors largely paid lip service to fighting corruption and top-down party discipline, Xi has made it the centerpiece of his tenure—cutting both local party leaders and top officials who grew rich during China’s boom years down to size, consolidating his power in the process.

Likewise, this ‘call to arms’ on communications could be the harbinger for even stricter media controls using tougher monitoring systems, as well as the closure and or blocking of more publications and websites and the jailing of more dissident journalists, bloggers and activists.

Unlikely as it may sound, it might also mean that Xi doesn’t think current state-run powerhouses like Xinhua, CCTV and People’s Daily are strong, influential or credible. All three news outlets have the stigma of being ‘official propaganda.’

China News Service, a sister news agency to Xinhua, is also known for its photo galleries of scantily clad women, so I’ve heard. (I took a glance at its website and saw photo features on nude body painting, big butts and a new Chinese lingerie brand making its debut in Las Vegas.)

China’s internet is a battleground that the government is already trying to tame.

A recent crackdown has put pressure on Chinese Web companies including Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group, which are required by the government to help censor content, said Bloomberg.

Earlier this month, the agency led by Xi’s Internet czar, Lu Wei, banned people who use Tencent’s WeChat and other messaging apps from distributing political news without permission.

Tough new rules for mobile instant messaging services such as WeChat, published by the state news agency Xinhua, include real-name registration and agreement by users to obey seven “bottom lines”, including upholding the socialist system, social morality and authenticity of information, said the Guardian. China blocks many international social media services, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Under rules enacted last year, internet users who post comments that are deemed libelous and are reposted 500 or more times can face defamation charges and up to three years in prison. The rules also apply to bloggers whose posts are viewed by at least 5,000 users.

Xi made his remarks when presiding over the fourth meeting of the Leading Group for Overall Reform, a group tasked to elaborate policy guidelines for long-term reform.

“Integration should be supported by technology and follow the rules of news communication and laws governing the development of new media,” Xi said.

Any integration effort would require coordination of the four agencies and regulators that currently administer the media and communications industry — the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television; the General Administration of Press and Publication; the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology; and the Ministry of Public Security’s Cyber Police force.

According to Xinhua, Monday’s meeting was attended by deputy group leaders Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli, all of whom are members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

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A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

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