The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

China says its propaganda just isn’t strong enough

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues on Monday in Beijing. (Saul Loeb/Pool photo via AP)

If you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In the midst of the most dramatic crackdown on free speech in China in decades, the Communist Party’s propaganda department has been firmly rapped over the knuckles — for not shaping public opinion and promoting the party’s point of view forcefully enough.

Powerful government inspectors from the disciplinary commission issued a report Thursday publicly berating the propaganda department for not taking firm enough control of the Internet, the media, arts and the nation’s universities.

Since taking power more than three years ago, President Xi Jinping has significantly extended the Communists’ control of the media, of universities and the arts, and of free expression on the Internet. In the past year alone, the U.S. State Department says, hundreds of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and civil society leaders have been detained. Many remain behind bars.

Still, there is clearly more work to be done. After a two-month review of the propaganda department, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection — the body that also oversees the anti-corruption campaign — issued a report on its website Thursday containing what the South China Morning Post described as “strong” criticism.

“The effect of guiding culture and art to serve socialism and art is not obvious enough,” Wang Haichen, the leader of the inspection team, was quoted as saying. “Its news propaganda is not targeted enough, or effective enough.

“It needs to strengthen further its leadership of ideological work. It does not do enough in applying the principle of the party controlling the media in weak points like new media, or in coordinating thought and political work at universities.”

Xi has waged a campaign against what he calls “Western values” — including free speech and democracy. He has urged universities to promote Marxism more forcefully and argued that arts should also serve the party’s interests. He also paid a high-profile visit to the main state media outlets in February urging them to promote the party’s interests at all times and show absolute loyalty.

The CCDI clearly keen to make sure the leader’s instructions are carried out to the letter, calling on the propaganda department to “resolutely implement the spirit of the important remarks” of Xi.

Wang called on the department to produce timely and effective news, and “strengthen the appealing and infectious effect of propaganda.” He urged it to effectively use and control the Internet, as well as "strengthen the coordination of ideological work at universities, and strictly control its guidance of textbooks and academic assessment.”

Propaganda also needs to have a clear stance in major questions of right or wrong, not hesitate to "show its sword" or make its voice heard on major principles, he said.

Gu Jinglu contributed to this report.

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