From "Intellectual Freedom in China," a July report of the Asia Watch Committee:
Many journalists expressed pride to us in the increased circulation of their papers. Local and specialized journals, particularly, have become extremely popular with peasants, who have a desperate need for information about markets and skills for sideline occupations. This thirst for knowledge is a great change from past isolation and indifference to events in other places. Such papers as Peasant Journal, Peasant Evening News, Market Journal, Economic News and Agronomy and Technology have become lifelines for them. . . .
In the cities as well, newspapers and magazines are flourishing. On the streets, many local entrepreneurs have set up small sales counters for magazines, books and journals. A magazine shop worker in Chengdu told us that China now publishes over 5,000 magazines.
"Small newspapers," on every subject from hairstyle and fashion to sensationalistic crime tales and kungfu stories, have popped up everywhere. Dismayed orthodox party leaders are threatening to close them down as "unhealthy."
. . . The "small newspapers" conflict is an illustration of the often contradictory messages being sent to people under the reforms. On the one hand, they are told to enliven the economy, to have the courage to use the greater autonomy being offered them, to find their own ways of making their enterprises financially viable.
On the other hand, the party discovers that the implementation of these freedoms leads to tendencies of which it disapproves, and it tries to take the freedoms back again. Such swings are a theme of Chinese life. . . .