We are pleased to announce that CMP’s discourse analysis team has now released its monthly “discourse climate report” for September 2018, looking at how the core vocabularies of the Chinese Communist Party are moving in the official media, under the direction of Qian Gang. The report is available in Chinese below.
A few highlights. The report notes that the phrase pairing “one position as the highest authority, making the final decisions” (定于一尊, 一锤定音), which seemed to aggrandize Xi’s leadership position and was used in both July and August in the People’s Daily, was not used in September. You can read our July discussion of the history of these phrases here. The only use last month of the term “one position as the highest authority” in isolation came in a piece about the development of rule of law in China since the 18th National Congress of the CCP, and used the phrase in a negative context: “There does not exist in the world a model of rule of law that is in a position of supremacy, nor does there exist a path to rule of law that can be applied everywhere.”
The September report also takes a look at the history in the People’s Daily of the term “socialist transformation” (社会主义改造). The term became a topic of discussion outside official state media in September, thanks in large part to an online post claiming China was entering a “second era of socialist transformation.” For a summary of this story, our readers can turn to Qian Gang’s October 3 analysis.
Our September report concludes with a look back on the history of the phrase “supervision by public opinion” (舆论监督), which in the reform era has long encompassed the notion that the press should have a role in monitoring power.
The phrase was used more actively after 1992, following Deng Xiaoping’s “southern tour,” and by 1994 was being given a definite degree of priority by the top leadership. The period from 2003-2012 marked what now appears in retrospect to have been a rare decade for “supervision by public opinion,” in which the phrase signaled the rising power (and right) of the media to set the agenda through more critical, and even investigative, coverage — aided by changes in technology, and by the general development of (more or less) civil society (公民社会).
Since 2013, and the final ill-fated “New Century Forum on News Supervision By Public Opinion” (新世纪新闻舆论监督研讨会) — a conference on watchdog journalism organized for more than a decade by CMP fellow Zhan Jiang (展江) — the environment for “supervision by public opinion” has worsened considerably. The phrase “supervision by public opinion” has been usurped almost entirely by the phrase “channeling of public opinion” (引导舆论), a term for the active control by the authorities of news topics and discussion.
As a phrase of importance, it seems, “supervision by public opinion” is history.