China’s propaganda regime is straight out of the George Orwell masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four about a dystopian society controlled by a small ruling elite.
But as powerful and pervasive as it is, the Chinese version isn’t done growing, creating a shortage of talent in the 10 billion yuan (US$1.63 billion) industry that is increasingly taking to the internet to spread its work.
The gap is about 1.2 million experts or analysts, industry observer Botong writes in a blog post on caijing.com.
People in this business have cushy job titles: analyst of public opinions on the internet and administrator of public opinions on internet.
Official qualification certificates for the former are issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and People.com.cn. For the latter, the certificates are granted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and Xinhuanet.cn.
Other than shaping public perceptions, the state propaganda machine is a money-spinner.
For instance, People.com.cn’s business is providing information services but in doing so, it contributed more than 100 million yuan in revenue in 2013 with gross profit margin of 45 percent.
Botong lists some of its key products:
1. Public Opinion on the Internet. This is a multi-platform magazine aimed at helping cadres understand the internet and public opinions.
The annual subscription fee for its “version for administrator” is 3,800 yuan and the “special edition for enterprises and authorities” charges 4,800 yuan.
Its mobile app is priced at 12,800 yuan per mobile terminal per year. The number of subscribers was more than 8,000 in 2011, and may have sales of at least 40 million yuan a year.
2. Analyst training courses. The average tuition fee for People.com.cn’s courses is 9,800 yuan. Similar courses organized by Xinhua news agency charge 6,900 yuan. MIIT collects up to 5,685 yuan.
3. Consulting and public relations services. “We don’t do many small cases commissioned by district-level authorities,” an unnamed internal source was quoted as saying. Prices usually range from hundreds of thousands of yuan to dozens of million yuan.
4. Public opinion management software. This type of software first appeared on China’s procurement list in 2013.
Early this year, the website became a qualified vendor of software used to monitor, analyze and respond to systems issues. Other vendors are privately owned companies.
In January, Economic Information Daily reported that each order of the software is worth hundreds of thousands of yuan but due to loopholes in the government procurement policy, the actual sales could be 10 times more than officially claimed.
The software allows police to immediately trace the source of information when incidents happen.
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