In the latest edition of Seeking Truth (求是), the Chinese Communist Party’s chief official journal of theory, the president of Xinhua News Agency, Cai Mingzhao (蔡名照), conveys to his ranks the “spirit” of President Xi Jinping’s speech last month to a national conference on propaganda and ideology.
The text, naturally, is a dense layering of official terminologies, the vast majority of them generally familiar to those poor souls who routinely wade through the tide pools of Party discourse. Everything centers, tellingly, around the figure of Xi Jinping and his defining ideological concept.
Cai tells the front line soldiers of Xinhua that they must “maintain a high level of uniformity in terms of political positions, political orientation, political principles and political path with the Central Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, firmly preserving the core status of General Secretary Xi Jinping within the Party’s Central Committee and within the entire Party.”
He tells them they must “take the propagation of Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era as their chief and principal matter” (要把习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的宣传作为头等大事). They must “promote the penetration of Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics into the hearts of the people” (推动习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想深入人心). They must “emphasize positive propaganda” (正面宣传为主), working to “raise the quality and level of positive propaganda” (提高正面宣传质量和水平), which means organization of such themes as, well, “Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era at the Grassroots” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想在基层).
Even when it comes to foreign propaganda and the battle for minds — which Cai, echoing Xi, calls a “public opinion struggle” — Xi Jinping’s banner term takes precedence, despite how counter-productive this may seem when the Party is dealing with audiences for whom CCP ideology and terminology is necessarily alien. Beginning a section on “applying energy to properly telling the China Story,” Cai writes: “[We] must innovate our discourse system for external propaganda, taking Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era as the highest priority in discourse innovation.” This is meant to be the heart — the spirit — of the strategy by which “the governing concepts and strategies of the Chinese Communist Party are thoroughly explained to international society.”
Worthy of note in Cai’s piece, however, is the emphasis of what is being referred to since last month as the “15-character mission” (15字使命任务). This refers to:
- raising the banner (举旗帜) — about upholding a contemporary, 21st-century version of Marxism (with Chinese characteristics), and educating the population about its leading status in China
- gathering the hearts of the people (聚民心) — about creating social and political cohesion through control of the message, with related concepts such as “emphasizing positive propaganda” and upholding “correct guidance of public opinion”
- nurturing new people (育新人) — about educating the population, including the next generation, in socialist morals and “socialist core values”
- invigorating culture (兴文化) — about building a unique Chinese culture (the language strongly imbued with exceptionalism) that is under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, but in which “society participates”
- developing our [national] image (展形象) — about building up China’s international “discourse power,” raising its voice in the world, telling the Party’s notion of the “China story,” and explaining the Party’s unique forms of governance to the international community
Concerning the third of these, “nurturing new people,” we refer readers to a series on this topic at China Heritage.
A translation of the first section of Cai’s piece follows.
“Raising the Communication Power, Guiding Capacity and Credibility of News and Public Opinion”
September 16, 2018 / Seeking Truth (求是)
By Cai Mingzhao (蔡名照)
General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech to the National Propanda and Ideology Work Conference sparkled with the light of Marxist truth, and it is a programmatic document to guide propaganda and ideology work under the new circumstances. The study and implementation of the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech is a major political task of those hereafter on the front lines of propaganda and ideology. Xinhua News Agency is the main force, main channel and main position of news and public opinion work, and we must set the example in the study and implementation of the spirit of Xi Jinping’s important speech, conscientiously raising our political position, strengthening our political consciousness, bringing our thought and conduct in line with the spirit of [Xi’s] speech, firmly holding to the position and demands that Central Party has for Xinhua News Agency, applying ourselves to foundational and strategic work, applying ourselves to crucial work and key points, applying ourselves in terms of work quality and level, thoroughly raising the communication power, guiding capacity and credibility [of our news], better carrying out the responsibility and mission given us by the Central Party.
. . .
General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that completing our mission for propaganda and ideology work under the new circumstances requires that we must take our guidance from the Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era (新时代中国特色社会主义思想) and from the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CCP, strengthening the “Four Consciousnesses” (四个意识), adhering to the Four Confidences” (四个自信), consciously raising the banner, gathering the hearts of the people, educating the youth, invigorating culture and developing our [national image] . . . These 15 characters, raising the banner (举旗帜), gathering the hearts of the people (聚民心), nurturing new people (育新人), invigorating culture (兴文化) and developing our [national image] (展形象), all closely concern the realization of the “two centenary goals” (“两个一百年”奋斗目标) . . . . The political precondition for properly realizing this mission is the firm establishment of the “Four Consciousnesses,” and we must arm our minds with Xi Jinping Though of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era, maintaining throughout a high level of uniformity in terms of political positions, political orientation, political principles and political path with the Central Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, firmly preserving the core status of General Secretary Xi Jinping within the Party’s Central Committee and within the entire Party, firmly preserving the authority of the Central Party and its unified leadership. The ideological foundation for properly realizing this mission is the firm establishment of the “Four Confidences,” and we must find our ideological nourishment in the roots of the Chinese land, raising our confidence and courage, adhering to the use of Chinese theory to explain Chinese experience, and to the use of Chinese positions to observe international questions, so that our propaganda and ideology work has clear Chinese characteristics (中国特色), Chinese style (中国风格) and Chinese form (中国气派). In accomplishing this mission, adherence to the correct political orientation is crucial, [and we] must strictly implement a responsibility system in our ideological work, firm in our orientation, grabbing [correct] guidance, holding our position, strengthening the political and leadership responsibility of our team, implementing the principle of party nature (党性原则) and the policy of politicians running the agency (政治家办社方针) throughout the full process of our news reports and at every juncture.