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Op-ed: Accusations saying China will tighten media control are groundless

By Wang Shaozhe (People's Daily Online)    13:24, February 24, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping presides over a symposium after touring China's three leading news providers in Beijing on Feb. 19, 2016.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made an inspection tour of People's Daily, Xinhua News Agency and CCTV, during which time he presided over a symposium on Chinese media. The symposium, which took place shortly after the lunar Chinese New Year, attracted wide-ranging attention.

During the symposium, Xi ordered news media run by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government to strictly follow the Party's leadership, saying that it should serve the country's overall interests. Newsrooms across the world have been abuzz since Xi’s remarks.

Voice of America (VOA), for example, interpreted the statements as “the latest sign of the Party's increasingly tighter control over all media.”

As a matter of fact, China has been placing importance on the guiding role of media since the founding of the Communist Party of China.

It was Mao Zedong, one of the founding fathers of the Party, who once said that media and military power have equal importance. Mao was also the first to coin the term “statesman-run newspapers,” meaning that the Party should guide public opinion through media.

After the founding of New China, plenty of Mao’s articles on state and party management were published by People's Daily and other state media. It now is a tradition for Chinese leaders.

In addition, state-run media speaking for its country is not a new practice. This also occurs in the West.

It's hard to imagine companies affiliated with the conglomerate of media giant Rupert Murdoch denouncing him publicly, since media founded by a financial group will almost always speak for it.

VOA, as a mouthpiece of the U.S., will also defend its government. From this point of view, each country does the same, but some may be better skilled at covering their true intentions.

Those who try to deny this fact are simply naive about politics.

However, those saying that Xi’s statements indicate a restriction on freedom of speech are making groundless accusations.

First of all, the domestic media industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. At present, traditional media is facing double pressure from both audiences and digital media.

Against such a backdrop, traditional mainstream media, losing ground to commercial portals, has to reform its original approach and break with the bureaucratized system.

When it comes to the international arena, China, with its rising standing, is always the subject of worldwide speculation. Its every move is watched by global media.

However, China still has a relatively weak voice in the international community. Given that there are barely any Chinese media outlets with strong international influence that can tell the “Chinese story,” China’s voice can barely be heard on the international stage.

Thus, the Party is encouraging state-run media to guide public opinion by focusing more on innovative approaches in line with new trends in the media industry--not imposing more restraints.

China's ongoing reform calls for an urgent change in public opinion, ideology and intellectual support. All media should make efforts to implement the principle and direction set forth by the central government.

In the next few years, Chinese media will enter a promising future. 

(This article is edited and translated from 中国要“收紧”舆论了吗? Source: www.haiwainet.cn)

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Hongyu,Wu Chengliang)

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