Newly appointed Xinhua News Agency President Fu Hua (傅华). Image: Xinhua.
In a formal acknowledgement of rumors already circulating online last week, official sources and state media confirmed late yesterday that the top position at China’s official Xinhua News Agency will now be held by Fu Hua (傅华), a long-time veteran of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media who served four years (2010-2014) as deputy propaganda chief for the city of Beijing, and nearly two years (2018-2020) as the top propaganda official in Guangdong province.
Returning to the work in the official media in April 2014, after nearly seven years in the Beijing propaganda structure at the district and city levels, Fu joined the Beijing Daily, first as CCP secretary (党组书记), and later as publisher (社长). Both roles put him directly in charge of maintaining political discipline at the paper, the official organ of the Beijing municipal committee of the CCP. It was also in 2014, after Fu’s arrival, that the committee-run media conglomerate Beijing Daily Media Group launched Capital News (长安街知事), one of the earliest and most successful experiments in the remaking of Party mouthpieces for the new media era.
After spending just under a year in 2017 as editor-in-chief of the Economic Daily (经济日报), a CCP paper directly under the State Council, Fu Hua left Beijing in March 2018 for Guangdong, where he was appointed as the provincial minister of propaganda, replacing Shen Haixiong (慎海雄), currently head of China’s umbrella CCP media conglomerate, the China Media Group (CMG).
In February 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, Fu Hua was transferred back to Beijing and appointed a deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department. Seventeen months later, in July last year, he was appointed Xinhua’s editor-in-chief.
Innovative Party Man?
Some believe that Fu Hua’s rapid promotion through the ranks of the country’s chief CCP-run news agency stems from a belief in his unique abilities as a media official who has experience within Beijing’s deeply political media culture as well as Guangdong’s more commercially-driven media culture.
Not surprisingly, Fu has emphasized the fundamental “Party nature” of the media in China, stressing the principle, tracing back to Mao Zedong, of “politicians running the newspapers” (政治家办报) – which under Xi Jinping’s reasserted controls has been iterated as “Party newspapers are surnamed Party” (党报姓党).
Fu has also given great priority, however, to Xi Jinping’s notion of “telling China’s story well” (讲好中国故事), and the need to find new ways for the CCP to control the heights of public opinion, not just domestically but globally, through compelling narratives. In remarks in November last year on the telling of China’s story, Fu Hua made reference to Xi Jinping’s first major speech on propaganda and ideology on August 19, 2013 – and to the need for propaganda officials to “be bolder in raising the banner and showing their swords” (大胆地举旗亮剑).
“This is the propaganda that can be seen,” Fu said. “But on the other hand we must do the propaganda that cannot be seen.”