Saturday, August 27, 2005

Control & Resistance

The Christian Science Monitor follows up on the Li Datong/China New Youth Daily story, seeing it as illustrative of both the increased control of media by Party authorities, and the "sometimes sophisticated resistance to it by Chinese journalists."
The larger backdrop (to the Li Datong story) is a nearly two year push by the powerful central propaganda department to more firmly control and limit expression.

News services are under orders not to quote Chinese intellectuals not approved by the party. Newspapers may not report events or issues in other parts of the country unless a regional party paper has first reported the news. Popular Internet discussion groups have been blocked. Cellphone text messages are filtered.

China Youth Daily itself has steadily been reshaped to be more of a party organ than a newspaper. In the past year senior editors at the paper have resigned, free exchanges between internal news departments have been banned, and Chinese political leaders have started being praised in language reminiscent of the brutal Cultural Revolution period. One story this summer described Chinese president Hu Jintao's words as being, "like a light house beacon, pointing out and illuminating the direction of China's students."

While many protesting journalists, including Li, praise President Hu for his genial persona and for understanding how modern media works, they are opposed to what appears to be a move in the central propaganda department to allow deification and worship of Chinese leaders. They point out that Chinese youth find such language old and silly, and that it actually decreases respect for the venerable paper.

"This is not only happening at our paper," says one China Youth Daily staffer speaking on condition of anonymity, "it is a problem at papers everywhere in China."

The Chinese government has argued that a strong, unchallenged hand is needed during a time of uncertainty and instability, as China undergoes a rapid economic expansion.

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