We are exactly one month away from the opening of the 19th National Congress of the CCP, the meeting during which key leadership decisions and agendas will be introduced to the public. But for now, the process of deliberating these decisions is cloaked in utmost secrecy. Even the date of the Congress was a mystery until a few short weeks ago.
The political and media atmosphere ahead of the Party’s national congresses, which are held once every five years, tends to be extremely tense. And that often means those exercising control over the media must be extra careful and extra diligent.
This fact may explain why social media posts based on an official news release from Xinhua News Agency yesterday — broadcast, no less, on the nightly official Xinwen Lianbo program on CCTV — are being deleted en masse from Weibo, despite the fact that the story remains on many, if not all, websites where it was originally posted. Here is the release at QQ.com. Here it is again at China News Service. At Caijing. On the Xinhua News Agency website itself.
The gist of the report is that the Politburo has met in preparation for the 19th National Congress, and has discussed draft amendments to the Party’s constitution. The report is nonspecific, but this probably signals changes to the constitution that would incorporate the ideas of President Xi Jinping, perhaps even elevating his leadership status.
So why would posts like this one simply regurgitating the official news report be removed from social media?
USER: Henan Traffic Radio 河南交通广播
DATE OF POST: September 18, 2017, 18:03:31
APPROXIMATE TIME OF REMOVAL: September 18, 2017, 19:25:13
FM 1041 News Brief [Appropriate Amendments to be Made to Party Constitution at 19th National Congress] CCP Politburo Conference: The Party’s 19th Congress will make appropriate amendments to the Party Constitution according to the new situation and new tasks. The important theories and viewpoints and important strategic ideas established by the 19th Congress must be written into the [CCP] Constitution.
The likely reason is that the authorities wish to put the brakes on any online discussion that might be prompted by the sharing of this news across social networks.
It’s an unfortunate Catch 22 for the Party. Those messages it would most like to make viral bear a certain risk of going viral with subtle modifications of meaning that could be detrimental to the message itself. The answer: push the messages through traditional media and officially sanctioned social media accounts while restraining them on social networks.
We can see the same paradox at work in the names of top Party leaders, which are often right at the top of lists of banned keywords in China.