By this point, almost everyone has probably seen or read about the superbly abstruse “mind map” created by state media in China to isolate the strands of President Xi Jinping’s core ideological concept: “Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想). If this is truly a map of Xi Jinping’s mind, one has to wonder: is he clinical?
But I’m sorry to point out that despite the intensity of the map, there simply is not enough detail when it comes to media policy.
The node on the mind map dealing most directly with media is “19,” about building socialist ideology. This branch looks at issues like addressing “fundamental change in the nature of the public opinion ecology” and other such things, all related to the control of information in the “New Era.” Many of these aspects, however, fall under what has more recently been termed “Xi Jinping News Thought,” or Xi Jinping xinwen sixiang (习近平新闻思想) — a designation that makes Xi the first leader in the reform era to have a “name crowning,” or guanming (冠名), in relation to media policy.
Back in June this year, in fact, the Central Propaganda Department published a book called Teaching Materials in Xi Jinping News Thought (习近平新闻思想讲义).
Fortunately, Xi Jinping News Thought has also been summarised and explicated by state media in China. The following is our translation of a recent piece at China Youth Online (though versions ran earlier in the summer) that outlines the 7 “news” about Xi Jinping News Thought. We added our comments below the translation of each “new.”
7. “News” About Xi Jinping News Thought (习近平新闻思想的七个”新”)
October 11, 2018
China Youth Online
Xi Jinping News Thought (习近平新闻思想) is an important integral part of Xi Jinping Though on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Since the 18th National Congress of the CCP, General Secretary Xi Jinping has given top priority to the Party’s news and public opinion work (新闻舆论工作), has provided new holistic thinking and strategic deployments regarding the new situation and new tasks facing the Party’s news and public opinion work, and has raised many new ideas and new viewpoints.
New positioning (新定位) — a new positioning of the nature and status of the Party’s news and public opinion work.
“The Party’s news and public opinion work is an important task in the work of the Party, and a major matter in the management of state affairs and in the peace and stability of the country.”
“Properly doing the Party’s news and public opinion work is the banner and path, concerns the implementation of the Party’s theories, lines, principles and policies, concerns the smooth advancement of the work of the Party and the state, concerns the cohesion and force of the entire Party and the people of the whole nation, and concerns the prospects and destiny of the Party and the state.” —February 19, 2016, Xi Jinping speech to the Party’s News and Public Opinion Work Conference.
[NOTE: This positioning is not exactly “new.” In previous administrations there was an emphasis on the importance of “guidance of public opinion,” or control of the media to control the public agenda, as a key component of the Party’s exercise of power. The difference under Xi Jinping is more a matter of intensity, bringing the Party back to the centre of media policy and practice. But there is also a greater push under Xi Jinping to redefine the Party’s role relative to society, to put the Party back at the centre of not just news but also entertainment, manufacturing (or so is the hope) a new closeness between the Party and the people, addressing a gap noted also in Hu Jintao’s report to the 18th Party Congress in 2012.]
New formulation (新表述) — making a new formulation of the responsibility and mission of the Party’s news and public opinion work.
“Under the conditions of the new era, the responsibility and mission of the news and public opinion work of the Party is: raising high the banner [of the Party] (高举旗帜), leading the way toward [proper] guidance (引领导向), cleaving to the center (围绕中心), serving the overall situation (服务大局), uniting the people (团结人民), raising morale (鼓舞士气), defining social morals (成风化人), creating cohesion (凝心聚力), clearing away [political] errors (澄清谬误), separating true from false (明辨是非), connecting domestic and foreign (联接中外), linking with the world (沟通世界). —February 19, 2016, Xi Jinping speech to the Party’s News and Public Opinion Work Conference.
[NOTE: Again, not a lot of newness here. These are all very familiar terms within the Party’s media control lexicon, and the emphasis on proper guidance etc. is typical. The difference is intensity, and bringing the focus of media intensely and unambiguously around the Party and its leadership. See next entry.]
New judgement (新论断) — making a new judgement of the guidelines and principles of the Party’s news and public opinion work
“If we are to take on this responsibility and mission, we must place political orientation (政治方向) in the first position, firmly adhering to the principle of Party spirit (党性原则), firmly adhering to the Marxist View of Journalism (马克思主义新闻观), firmly adhering to correct guidance of public opinion (正确舆论导向), firmly adhering to an emphasis on positive propaganda (正面宣传为主).”
“Most fundamental in ensuring that the Party’s news and public opinion work adheres to the principle of Party spirit is to adhere to the Party’s leadership of news and public opinion work. The media operated by the Party and the government are propaganda positions of the Party and the government, and they must be surnamed Party.” — February 19, 2016, Xi Jinping speech to the Party’s News and Public Opinion Work Conference.
[NOTE: This new judgement is actually a concerted return to a very old judgement of the role and function of the news media. In the past under the Chinese Communist Party, we have seen a strong emphasis on the “Party spirit” of the media after political disruptions. The concept rose noticeably in the 1950s around the Anti-Rightist Movement, and it crested again immediately following June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, becoming then a focus of discussion of the role of the media through to Deng Xiaoping’s “southern tour.” Generally speaking, the rise of “Party spirit” signals a loss, de-emphasis or outright denial of the agency of the press in monitoring power. The more “Party spirit” prevails, the fewer voices one can expect to hear.]
New arrangements (新擘画) — making new arrangements for the innovation and development of the Party’s news and public opinion work.
“Along with changes in the development of the [social/political/international] situation, the Party’s news and public opinion work must innovate its concepts (理念), content (内容), style (体裁), forms (形式), methods (方法), strategies (手段), [industry] formats (业态), systems (体制) and mechanisms (机制), enhancing the focus and effectiveness [of propaganda and public opinion control]. [We must] accommodate the trends in communication toward de-massification (分众化) and differentiation (差异化), accelerating the construction of a new pattern of public opinion channeling (舆论引导新格局).” — February 19, 2016, Xi Jinping speech to the Party’s News and Public Opinion Work Conference.
“Adhering to correct guidance of public opinion (正确舆论导向), placing a high priority on the building and innovation of broadcast strategies, raising the communication power, influence and credibility of [the Party’s] news and public opinion.” — October 18, 2017, Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th National Congress of the CCP.
[NOTE: This is all about advancing the way the Party does media, and on this front under Xi Jinping, the Party is attempting a great deal more “innovation,” aided by the overall shift in the nature of the media environment. Arguably, more tools are now available to the Party in enforcing its dominance in the communication realm than ever before. And the Party recognises that it can’t have a simple one-size-fits-all approach. In a sense, this is about building in enough responsiveness that the attractiveness of core messages is enhanced — closely related to the next “new.”]
New deployments (新部署) — making new deployments for online news and public opinion work.
“Right now, patterns of media (媒体格局), the public opinion ecology (舆论生态), audience targets (受众对象) and communication technologies (传播技术) are all undergoing deep change, particularly internet media which are prompting change such has never before been seen in the media sector. Where the readers are, where the audience is, the antennae of propaganda reports must extend, and the pressure points and footholds of news and propaganda work must be placed there.” — December 25, 2015, speech on inspection tour of the People’s Liberation Army Daily.
“[We] must strengthen positive propaganda online, adhering to the correct political orientation with a clear banner, [adhering to correct] guidance of public opinion, [adhering to correct] value orientations, using Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era and the spirit of the Party’s 19th National Congress to unite and condense tens of millions of internet users, deeply carrying out education in the ideals and beliefs [of the Party], deepening propaganda and education in Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era and the Chinese Dream, actively fostering and putting into practice socialist core values (会主义核心价值观), promoting online propaganda concepts, content, forms, methods and strategies and other innovations, having a grasp of timing efficiency (把握好时度效), building a circle of trust online and offline (构建网上网下同心圆), better coalescing social consensus, firming up a mutual ideological foundation for the united of all people in the country.” — April 20-21, 2018, emphasised by Xi Jinping during the National Cybersecurity Work Conference.
[NOTE: This signals the massive shift away from traditional media as a priority to mobile platforms and products as the focus of “public opinion work,” or media control. This is essentially about ensuring that the very old policy of “positive propaganda,” emphasised at points through the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao eras, is intensified and effectively applied in a transformed media environment, dominated by WeChat and other platforms. Built into this idea is a notion of semi-responsiveness to audiences — call it audience-sensitive propaganda, if you will. The Party must know where the audiences (the differentiated masses) congregate, how they interact, and then must meet them in these environments through innovated products to deliver what are essentially old messages (about Party dominance of social and political life).]
New treatments (新阐述) — providing a new treatment of the building of international communication capacity (国际传播能力建设).
“In conducting news and propaganda work under conditions of comprehensive opening to the outside, one important task is to lead people to have a more comprehensive and objective understanding of contemporary China, and view of the outside world. — August 19, 2013, emphasised by Xi Jinping at the National Propaganda Work Conference.
“[We] must accelerate the building of international communication capacity, enhancing our international discourse power (国际话语权), concentratedly and properly telling the China story, at the same time improving strategic arrangements, applying strength to create flagship media for external propaganda that have strong international influence.” — February 19, 2016, emphasised by Xi Jinping at the Party’s News and Public Opinion Work Conference
[NOTE: This is all about the “going out” of Chinese media, and building channels through which the Party can influence audiences overseas, gaining and keeping control of the coverage and framing of issues important to the leadership. The recent restructuring of state media can be seen as an important part of this strategy. Again, not entirely new, in the sense that the building of influential media groups was emphasised even in the 1990s, and Hu Jintao talked about “soft power” and “going out.” But the emphasis under Xi Jinping is intensified, and there is a great deal more confidence, combined with structural change.]
New demands (新要求) — raising new demands for the strengthening of news and public opinion work team construction.
“In strengthening the work of propaganda and ideology departments, we must first of all strengthen our leading cadres and teams. Leaders and comrades at propaganda offices at various levels must strengthen their study and strengthen their experience, truly becoming experts in which others can place their trust.” — August 19, 2013, emphasised by Xi Jinping at the National Propaganda Work Conference
“[We] must deeply conduct education in the Marxist View of Journalism, leading the masses of news and public opinion workers to become disseminators advocating the Party’s policies, recorders of the conditions of the times, promoters of social progress, and guardians of fairness and justice.
The crux of media competition is the competition for talent, and the core of advantage in the media is the talent advantage. [We] must accelerate the training and creation of news and public opinion teams that are staunch in their politics (政治坚定), that excel in their business (业务精湛), that conduct themselves well (作风优良), that can be trusted by the Party and the people.” — February 19, 2016, emphasised by Xi Jinping at the Party’s News and Public Opinion Work Conference.
This article was first published by China Media Project.