January 17 – The beating death of China Trade News reporter Lan Chengzhang (兰成长) sparked a controversy in China over press safety and media corruption as local party officials in Datong, Shanxi Province (where the reporter was killed), insisted Lan was a “fake” reporter out to extort money from local coalmines, and representatives from China Trade News confirmed they hired Lan on a provisional basis. [Coverage from ESWN here and here].
January 17 — Thousands of Chinese web users responded as Guangzhou’s top law-enforcement official, Zhang Guifang (张桂芳), blasted the media as the primary source of a worsening sense of public safety in the city. By late afternoon, Web censors were working to contain the story, and thousands of postings suddenly vanished from one major Web portal.
January 22 – A decision by publishing censors in China to ban eight books angered many Chinese and brought a wave of online criticism, demonstrating again the power of the Internet as a form of expression in China. The controversy came on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the party’s shutdown of the Freezing Point supplement of China Youth Daily newspaper. As was the case in the Freezing Point episode in 2006, in which intellectuals, officials and industry colleagues came to the supplement’s defense via the Web, resulting in its eventual re-launch, a number of prominent figures stepped forward to criticize the book ban.
January 22 — Rui Chengang, a well-known anchor at China Central Television, drew international attention as he wrote a criticism on his personal Weblog about the presence of a Starbuck’s coffee in the Forbidden City. [More coverage from ESWN]. [Coverage from IHT]. [Coverage from Shanghai Daily].
January 22 — Chinese broadcast officials announced that only television dramas cleaving to the Party’s “main theme” would air during prime time this year. The measure, announced under the banner of China’s self-proclaimed “Year of Quality Television Dramas”, masked a campaign to keep threatening content out of prime-time television during what Party leaders regard as an especially sensitive year, marking the 50-year anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Movement and the start of the crucial 17th Party Congress. The language “carry forward the main theme” (弘扬主旋律) was an unambiguous Communist Party buzzword, encapsulating the notions of Party control, the supremacy of Marxism, the central position of heroic Party figures, and other key concepts, in an analogy to orchestral music. In recent years, the idea of the “main theme” has persisted as a term of some importance in China, complemented under commercialization with the notion of “promoting pluralism”. In television programming, the marriage of the two concepts suggests a CCP-style political correctness enlivened with themes more relevant to viewers — love stories, emotional turmoil, etc. Characterizing the new regulations as an effort to emphasize quality over quantity, SARFT officials said a 2003 relaxation of restrictions on television production had brought a flood of low-quality content into the industry.

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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