In recent months, propaganda officials and communications pundits have spoken with a sense of newfound purpose about the need to revolutionize “news and propaganda” in order to achieve “the revival of the Party’s mass line.” Much of the dogmatizing is eerily redolent of China’s Maoist past, not a surprise considering that the idea of the “mass line,” or qunzhong luxian (群众路线), is closely associated with Mao Zedong. But there is a sense too that the most recent developments in communications technology, those “me-media” that promise to transform everyone’s future, have brought the Party back — at least potentially — to its roots.

The odd amalgam of romantic return and future promise is possibly best expressed in a piece recently published in People’s Forum magazine and re-run in the “Theory” section at People’s Daily Online. The piece is written by Li Xiguang (李希光), former executive dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University and the current director of the university’s International Communications Center.

Li Xiquang
Li Xiguang, Executive Dean of Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. Image by Beijing Association of Online Media (BAOM).

Professor Li, who presents himself to the outside world (what he calls the waibu/外部) as a champion of press reform in China with credentials in the West (he was a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and was very briefly at the Washington Post as an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow in 1995), is also closely aligned with the CCP leadership. He often writes in confrontational terms about the need to counter “Western public opinion guidance”public opinion guidance being the dominant term within the CCP since 1989 to refer legitimately to press controls, a strange confuting of vocabularies for an ostensible communications scholar — and about the challenges facing the Party’s “mainstream” ideology.