The discourse of the Chinese Communist Party can be mind-numbingly abstract and self-referential. And despite an early campaign that, ostensibly at least, opposed the use of official claptrap in Party meetings, Xi Jinping’s administration has brought more of the same.
But three months ago, one of the most senior Party officials in China’s media landscape, People’s Daily chief Yang Zhenwu (杨振武), made an effort to explicate for the benefit of his media colleagues several core remarks on media and ideology spoken by President Xi Jinping. And Yang’s exercise (in futility?) might offer some clues to Xi’s thinking on media policy.
Here, we offer some translated portions — underlining points we found particularly interesting — of the People’s Daily Online post on May 28, 2014, entitled, “Studying Important Remarks by Xi Jinping on Public Opinion Channeling With the People’s Daily Chief.”

Ideals and beliefs are the “calcium” of the Communist Party member’s spirit. Without ideals and beliefs, if ideals and beliefs are not firm, then [Party members] will be spiritually “low in calcium” and suffer from rickets.
—— November 2012, Speech to the First Collective Study Session of the Politburo of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: This phrase and what it refers to are profound. News and propaganda are about carrying out construction inside the heads of people, and those involved in the work of news and propaganda must be even more steadfast in their ideals and beliefs, achieving the principle, “To make others believe one must first believe oneself.”

Standing on a great land of 9.6 million square kilometers, taking in the cultural nourishment gathered over the lengthy struggles of the Chinese people, with the gathered strength of 1.3 billion Chinese people, we are traveling our own road, a stage that is incomparably large, with a history that is incomparably deep, with a force moving forward that is incomparably great. The Chinese people should have the confidence [to walk this road] — each and every Chinese person should have the confidence.
—— December 2013, Speech to a forum commemorating the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: This passage speaks clearly and thoroughly the reasons for our confidence, and the relationship between that confidence and the force [of our country] — and it provides us with the fundamental direction for confidence in our work toward strengthening public opinion channeling.

Propaganda and ideology work must take as its most basic responsibility cleaving to the center and serving the overall situation. [It must] mind the overall situation and grasp larger trends, finding the right starting point and focus — strategizing and acting in line with the situation.
—— August 2013, Speech at the National Propaganda and Ideology Work Conference

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: The center and the overall situation are united, and the major situation and major events are connected. To cleave to the center [in propaganda work] we must grasp the overall situation [socially and politically], and to have a grasp of major events [unfolding in China] we must grasp the overall situation.

[We] must earnestly study and understand the spirit of the Third Plenum of the Third Plenary Session. The various deployments made at the Party’s 18th National Congress and the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CCP form the base of our decision-making, and the leadership group must lead in studying them well, understanding them deeply, and digesting them thoroughly — so that they have a good view of the field and a strong grasp of major events. As [they] consider and research issues, [they must have a firm] stand on the two overall situations (大局), domestic and international, on the major tasks of the Party and the government, on the thorough deepening of reforms.
—— January 22, 2014, spoken at the first meeting of the Leadership Group for the Central Party’s Thorough Deepening of Reforms (中央全面深化改革领导小组)

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: The key to properly carrying out public opinion channeling is understanding and being clear about the overall situation (大局). Only with a full understanding of the overall situation can we exercise self-control and handle situations with ease. If we are not clear about the overall situation, or have no idea at all, we will definitely find ourselves in dilemmas and make missteps [in our propaganda work].
Yang Zhenwu adds: Being mindful of the overall situation means focusing on the overall situation, acting under the overall situation, and serving and obeying the overall situation.
Being mindful of the two overall situations — domestic and international — the overall situation in Party and government work, and the overall situation as regards the overall deepening of reforms, we must consider and weigh all questions in the context of the overall situation.
Having a grasp of the overall situation requires strategising on the basis of the situation, acting in accord with that situation, and accommodating that situation in action. In talking about situations, we can talk about “situations” (形势), tendencies (走势) and trends (态势), and not only must we consider things from their economic, political, cultural and social aspects, but we must also consider and understand them both domestically and internationally.
Strategising according to the overall situation means raising one’s insight, making a keen observation of problems that are trending or in a latent phase, and then making a scientific judgement; acting in accord with the overall situation means raising your resourcefulness, acting in a timely and calm manner after you have seen the way things are developing. [You must] be on top of things and guide them, not allowing them to get out of hand. Accommodating the situation means raising your capacity to master things, showing your initiative and dealing with things effectively according to their own development.
Mindfulness of the overall situation, a grasp of the overall situation, demands that we thoroughly recognise modern China, and that we view the world objectively.
[We must] correct the public opinion prejudices of the West, clearing away its blindnesses and showing the world a fuller, truer and more multidimensional China. At the same time, we must view things that happen in the outside world through the principles of objectivity, thoroughness and truth, reporting them properly, even those things that are bad (不好的也要报道).

Adhering to unity and stability, and emphasising positive propaganda, are important policies that must be followed in doing propaganda and thought work. We are in the midst of a great struggle with many new historical particulars, and the challenges and difficulties we face are unprecedented. [We] must uphold and strengthen mainstream [CCP] public opinion, carry forward the main melody (弘扬主旋律), spread positive energy, and excite in our society the great force of forging ahead in unity.
—— August 2013, Speech at the National Propaganda and Thought Work Conference

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: Carrying forward the main melody, and spreading positive energy, [are concepts that] further speak to the nature and responsibilities of the news profession in our country, and they further clarify the emphasis and direction of public opinion channeling. They are the basic standards by which we can assess the results of public opinion channeling. If what our propaganda reports and our public opinion channeling carry forward is not the main melody [of the CCP], then we have lost our value and meaning — which is to say that we have neglected our duty (失职). Doing public opinion channeling demands that we do even better at carrying forward the main melody, that we do even better at spreading positive energy.

[We must] take the fostering of, and carrying forward of, the socialist core value system as the breath and spirit, with the foundational project of strengthening our base, continuing and carrying forward the excellent traditional culture and traditional morals of the Chinese people (中华优秀传统文化和传统美德), widely conducting propaganda and education in the socialist core value system, positively channeling the people to speak morals, respect morals, preserve morals, and to seek higher moral values, constantly tamping down theoretical and moral foundations of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
—— February 2014, remark made during the Third Collective Study Session of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: Strengthening the socialist core value system and the propagation of core values is what it means to carry forward the main melody and spread positive energy.
Yang Zhenwu adds: The important work right now in carrying forward the main melody and spreading positive energy is to strengthen the socialist core value system and [to strengthen] the propagation of core values. [NOTE: Yang’s implication here with the word “propaganda,” or xuanchuan (宣传), is that the “propagation” of core values — those of the Party, naturally — will happen through media products that uphold the Party’s ideology and objectives, or “main theme.”]

Leading cadres, high-level cadres in particular, must have a systematic grasp of the basic tenets of Marxism as a decisive resource (看家本领). [They must] earnestly and fundamentally study Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and particularly Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important ideology of the “Three Represents,” and the scientific view of development.
—— August 2013, Speech at the National Propaganda and Thought Work Conference

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: The very basis of properly doing the work of public opinion channeling, speaking as a matter of method, is to apply materialism and dialectics to every stage of the propaganda report process.

The key to dealing with a whole series of tensions and challenges that our country presently faces is to thoroughly deepen reforms (全面深化改革). [We] must find the pulse of reforms from the midst of complexities, divining the inherent principles of thoroughly deepening reforms. [We must] in particular the major points of connection in grasping the deepening of reforms, and we must properly handle the relationship between liberating our thoughts (解放思想) and seeking the truth from facts (实事求是), the relationship between overall progress (整体推进) and seeking strategic breakthroughs (重点突破), the relationship between superstructural design (顶层设计) [i.e., reforms to the bureaucracy] and crossing the river by feeling the stones (摸着石头过河), the relationship between boldness and steadiness of step, and the relationship between reform and development and stability.
—— July 2013, Remarks During an Inspection Visit to Hubei

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: Here, “inherent principles” refers to basic nature. Basic nature is not something that just sits there clearly, without any uncertainty, but rather requires the application of scientific methods, an analysis of layer upon layer, proceeding for coarse to fine, so that finally it can emerge and be recognised.

The crux is to raise the quality and level [of media content], having a good grasp of timeliness, depth and results. [It is about] increasing the attractiveness and infectiveness (感染力) [of content], so that the masses love to hear it and watch it, so that it creates resonance, fully unleashing the capacity of positive propaganda to encourage and inspire people. On major questions and those concerning political principles, [we] must be more proactive, grabbing the initiative, striking the first strike (打好主动仗), assisting cadres and the masses in drawing the line between truth and falsehood, recognising them clearly.
—— August 2013, Speech at the National Propaganda and Thought Work Conference

Yang Zhenwu’s Reading: A grasp of timeliness, depth and results is wherein lies the art and science of public opinion channeling, and it requires that we constantly deepen our systematic understanding [of how media and its consumption works]. Organically uniting the bearing forth of a clear banner [of ideology] with full solidarity [of purpose] flowing in silence (润物无声) is the border line we should seek in carrying out the work of public opinion channeling. As to what it means to have a clear banner, and what is “flowing in silence,” we are very clear: but as to how to organically unite these, this requires searching and experience.

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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