China announced today that Cao Shumin (曹淑敏), who since January last year has served as a deputy director of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet control body, has now been appointed as director of the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), putting her directly in charge of regulating the nation’s radio, television and film enterprises.

Cao’s appointment fills a post that has been vacant for six months, ever since the former director of the NRTA, Xu Lin (徐麟), who also served as head of the CAC from 2016-2018, was sent off to serve as the Party secretary of Guizhou province, one of the country’s most crucial big data hubs. The appointment also makes Cao China’s youngest female senior official at the full ministerial level. Born in July 1966, Cao is currently 57 years old.

Cao will concurrently serve as a deputy minister of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD), which oversees the NRTA.

A ministry-level agency directly under the CPD charged with overseeing state-run enterprises in film and broadcasting, the NRTA now also plays a much wider role in external communication activities through these media groups as well as through various subsidiaries and exchanges.

The NRTA was created in 2018 amid the same wave of mergers that resulted in the China Media Group. It has funded and promoted numerous film and documentary projects intended for external propaganda, many of these distributed through partnerships with global media companies. The Chinese Association for Radio, Film and TV Exchanges (中华广播影视交流协会), or CARFTE, is a unit under the NRTA often pursuing co-productions on documentaries overseas.

Engineer with a Strong Red Pedigree

Described by Caixin as a “veteran researcher in the telecommunications field,” Cao received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electronic engineering at Beihang University, previously known as the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 2007, she earned a doctorate in management jointly from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Renmin University of China.

Cao Shumin has long been recognized in China as a leading expert on technology and innovation, often appearing since the early 2000s as a leading researcher, and later official, advocating the use of technology for industrial upgrading and “high-quality development.”

Early on in her career, she was a professor at the China Academy of Telecommunications Research, an institute under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), an executive department of the State Council that regulates developments in information technology and the knowledge economy broadly. She subsequently became director of the academy, before moving on to become director of another MIIT research institute, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).

Cao Shumin addresses the 2020 class at Beihang University. Image: China Daily.

But beyond her engineering credentials, Cao Shumin has shown herself to be an ideologically dedicated Communist Party member and official. In 2017, after serving as the Party secretary of the prefectural-level city of Yingtan (鹰潭市) in Jiangxi province, Cao was appointed as the Party secretary of her alma mater, Beihang University.

In an address opening the 2021 fall term at Beihang University, Cao told students that “the school’s primary responsibility is to cultivate the future generation of red engineers.” She also said that the university’s mission was to “serve the major strategic needs of the country.” In a similar address to students the previous year, Cao had said that the spirit of Beihang University was about “listening to the Party and moving with the Party,” which she described as part of its “red genes” (红色基因) — a term that defines the legacy of CCP rule as a kind of political and cultural inheritance, thereby constructing the legitimacy of the regime.

In a November 2021 article on page 9 of the CCP’s official People’s Daily, Cao wrote about the importance of “ideological and political education” (思想政治工作). In the piece, essentially an act of loyalty signaling to Xi Jinping, Cao described political indoctrination as a primary task in higher education that should be implemented “throughout the whole process of education and teaching.”

CMP Staff

The China Media Project

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