The unexplained absence last week of newly-appointed propaganda chief Liu Qibao (刘奇葆) generated a great deal of speculation in Chinese-language media outside China — particularly after reports that Liu’s former second-in-command in Sichuan, Li Chuncheng, is facing corruption charges.
In shades of Xi Jinping’s sudden re-emergence after a strange and troubling absence in September, Liu Qibao reappeared last Friday, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency, but with no attempt to explain the gap. Liu made official visits to the Information Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Culture, where he spoke in muddy Party rhetoric (despite Xi Jinping’s calls for fresh language) of “implementing the spirit of the 18th National Congress.”
It may never be clear why Liu Qibao was missing from the public eye for more than a week. Looking at the Xinhua release marking Liu’s return, however, it is clear that the new propaganda chief is so far living up to his image as a hard-liner on media control.
Liu Qibao’s hints on the direction of media policy in China should be weighed carefully against Xi Jinping’s much-touted New Deal on Party rhetoric. Less jargon does not necessarily spell more openness.
In particular, we should note Liu Qibao’s recent call for more “research” on the strengthening of internet controls, ensuring that the “main theme” — in other words, the Party’s line and priorities — are sung loudly in the online space.
“Liu Qibao Demands Research on Strengthening Internet Management“
Xinhua News Agency
December 7, 2012
Liu Qibao . . . Minister of the Central Propaganda Department, made visits to the Ministry of Culture and the Central Foreign Affairs Office [Information Office], emphasizing that the propaganda, ideological and cultural front must take the study and implementation of the spirit of the 18th National Congress of the CCP as the main line of their work, solidly promoting the building of a socialist cultural power, and further promoting a new tide of publicizing and implementing the spirit of the 18th National Congress.
Liu Qibao pointed out that the propaganda, ideological and cultural front lines must act according to the strategic objectives of the Central Committee, this being their chief political task and their cardinal task. [They must be] meticulous in their organization, ensuring real results, explaining profound theories in simple language (深入浅出), working to enter people’s hearts and minds.
Liu Qibao pointed out that [the Party] must deeply research the characteristics and principles of foreign publicity (对外宣传) and international cultural dialogue (对外文化交流), seeking to deepen the channels and methods for work [in propaganda, ideology and culture]. [The Party must] deeply research the strengthening of the building, operation and management of the internet, singing the main theme online.
Luo Shugang (雒树刚), deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department, and others accompanied [Liu Qibao] on the tour.