Ever since Xi Jinping declared the principle of “Party media surnamed Party” (党媒姓党) at a key meeting on press and public opinion in 2016, this concept has encompassed the idea that journalists working in China must remain loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), closely following its line and policies. More recently, official media and press authorities have tried to soften the sense of passive submission to the Party’s will, emphasizing the personal convictions of media workers — and the sense of fulfillment that comes as loyalty pays off.
One recent case in point is an article posted to its official website of the All-China Journalist’s Association (ACJA), the nominally non-governmental organization that plays a key role in training and licensing journalists and cultivating CCP ideals. It tells the story of Yang Yulu (杨雨露), a “post-90s” journalist from Sichuan Worker‘s Daily (四川工人日报社) who talks about the aspirations she had through her formative school years to become a contributing member of the CCP and its youth institutions.
The piece, promoted through ACJA’s official WeChat account as part of a series on Party journalists that closely involves their media organizations, begins with call in verse form for youth to “live up to the times” and heed the call of Xi Jinping:
Let us listen as a post-90s journalist recalls joining the Party telling the story of her journey sharing her feelings of growth. Let us respond to the call of the General Secretary, melding our youthful struggle with the cause of the Party and the people. Live up to the times, live up to your youth.
Yang Lulu then describes the process of CCP involvement in her university years. In her freshman year, she “actively submitted an application to the Party organization and reported my thoughts regularly.” She was serving as the editorial director of the school radio station as a sophomore when she learned that she had been identified as “an applicant for Party membership” (入党积极分子) – meaning that she had been formally slated for the entry process by the university’s youth league chapter.
“When I heard that news, I was so excited that I jumped and jumped in my dorm room, almost scaring my roommates,” Yang told the ACJA.
Yang continued to take Party classes and participate in various Party activities on campus. She strived to learn more about the CCP, she said, and how “difficult it was for it to come all this way.” She worked to understand the Party’s mission of serving the people with one’s whole heart and whole consciousness. “During this time,” said Yang, “I began to feel what a proud thing it was to be a full-fledged member of the Party.”
Just before graduation, Yang was able at last to become a full-fledged member of the CCP, fulfilling her long-time dream.
Yang’s first job was to work for China Tibet Broadcasting (西藏人民广播电台), or CTA, the Party’s official radio station in Tibet, where she reported from remote areas like Shigatse, on the border of Nepal, and Nyingchi, which borders India and Myanmar.
As Yang describes her work to the ACJA, her framing of the news is suitably evident. Working in remote highland areas she would witness the lives of the people, and how they had access to water, electricity and broadband. “From the cadres stationed in the village,” she said, “I learned that all these are because of the good policies of the Party and the state.”
Yang Lulu later returned to Sichuan, where she is now an editor at the Sichuan Worker‘s Daily, the official newspaper of the Sichuan chapter of the All-China Federation of Labor Unions (ACFTU), the CCP-led group with which all enterprise unions in China must be affiliated.
By this point, Yang understands that her role as a journalist is to serve the Party, and to ensure that content evinces the Party’s ideals. “Dealing with drafts from journalists and correspondents, I have to have a sharp eye,” she explains, “actively playing the role of mouthpiece, ensuring that the trade union adheres to the leadership of the Party.”
Yang Lulu’s story at ACJA is by no means an isolated example. Since May 2021, the organization has regularly published articles featuring journalists from different government-owned news outlets as part of its “Party Membership Stories of Post-90s Journalists” series. Though all of these stories are unique, they center on the common themes of rural revitalization and the battle against the pandemic, all of the media workers describing the Party’s commitment to these goals as key motivations for joining the CCP.
The clear goal of the feature series is to uphold individual journalists for Party-run media as exemplars of CCP journalism ideals, dedicated to the primary work of the Chinese journalist – which for the CCP is to achieve “public opinion guidance,” or the alignment of public views on policies with the goals of the leadership.
An updated set of provisions released in November last year by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), which regulates the issuing of the formal press cards (记者证) required for work as a journalist in China, mandated 90 hours of training every year for “continued education.” Required training courses focus, according to the provision, on the Party’s mission in doing journalism (essentially carrying out “guidance”), and in-depth education on the “Marxist view of journalism” (马克思主义新闻观).
In light of more immediate political priorities, with the 20th National Congress of the CCP to be held toward the end of this year, the provisions also specified that journalists should be educated in the so-called “442 formula,” another formulation meant to consolidate Xi Jinping’s personal power as the leader of the CCP. The formula comprises the “Four Consciousnesses” (四个意识), “Four Confidences” (四个自信) and “Two Protections” (两个维护). The first of these terms refers to the need to 1) maintain political integrity, 2) think in big-picture terms, 3) uphold the leadership core (in other words, Xi Jinping), and 4) keep in alignment with the CCP’s central leadership.