Today is the 23rd annual China Journalists’ Day. And in a nod of respect to the profession, the hashtag for a special themed page was pinned to the top of the hot searches roster on the popular Weibo platform: “#GoodJournalistsTellGoodStories” (#好记者讲好故事).
If you are a journalist working in China today, what does it mean to tell a “good story”?
In an address to top officials in charge of ideology in August 2013, Xi Jinping, the country’s top leader, said that “telling China’s story well” was essential to shaping a favorable global image of China — what the Chinese Communist Party calls “external propaganda work.” The phrase has since come to describe more broadly the fundamental mission of the Chinese journalist in the New Era, whether at home or abroad.
Telling China’s story well means focusing on the positives, ensuring that your work as a journalist helps to shape a favorable public view of China. And the most important aspect of this act of proper telling — as CCP scholars have clearly laid out — is the primary goodness of the Party itself.
Not One Minute Outside the Line
To fully understand how the Party sees the role of the journalist today, one of the best sources we can turn to is the recent remarks made on domestic and international propaganda by Fu Hua (傅华), who back in June this year was appointed head of the official Xinhua News Agency.
In an article written back in September for the journal China Cyberspace (中国网信), Fu stressed that the “intrinsic political nature of the media cannot be changed,” and that the policy must remain an “emphasis on positive propaganda” (正面宣传为主) — the latter being a decades-old phrase that has signaled a hardline view on the media.
But for Fu, this was not quite hard enough. His language soared as he spoke of the sacred duty of Xinhua as the vanguard of the Party press — a “strategic town” that had to be held against incursion. “As a strategic town of the CCP’s press and public opinion work, Xinhua News Agency must clearly speak politics, [and] persistently strengthen online propaganda on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era, taking this [Xi’s banner phrase] as the logical starting point of news coverage,” he wrote.
Xinhua, said Fu, must “always write the main melody,” and must “transmit positive energy.” All of these are references to the Party’s control of the press and manipulation of public opinion in order to maintain the stability of the regime — explained in greater detail in our CMP Dictionary.
Still, Fu had not sufficiently conveyed the sense of obedience to Xi Jinping and the central leadership that he sought to instill at the country’s largest news agency.
We must achieve, he said, “not standing even for a single minute outside the Party line, not deviating even for a single minute from the direction as guided by General Secretary Xi Jinping , and not departing even for a single minute the from the vision of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CCP Central Committee.”
Today, as media across the country celebrate Chinese Journalists’ Day, there can be no question who China’s journalists are meant to serve.