Author: CMP Staff

The Tyranny of Full Openness

This month, a new internet regulatory measure could be on the horizon requiring all influential self-media (自媒体) accounts in China — referring to more grassroots social media accounts generally operated by individuals — to publicly display the identities of the people behind them. Such a public real-name system (实名制), some fear, could have a chilling effect on one of the country’s more vibrant information spaces, prompting some accounts to cease operating and others to self-censor out of fear of bullying and online harassment.

Rumors of the new requirement were first mentioned in a post to Weibo on October 13 by well-known Chinese investor Hong Rong (洪榕), who wrote: “A front-end real-name registration system is going to be implemented across the entire self-media landscape [in China]. This means the real names behind Big V accounts are going to be displayed on the front of the first level page. Fans will be able to know whether the Big V they follow is a man or a woman, and who they are in actuality. It is probable that some Big Vs will disappear [as a result].”

Hong Rong’s Weibo post on October 13 describing the new measure.

The rumor immediately prompted fevered discussion online in China, and Hong Rong followed the next day by reporting that the new measure would impact accounts with at least one million followers, exposing a wide range of influencers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) across social media platforms and livestreaming sites.

The news was also reported by a range of outlets in and outside China this week, including Guangzhou’s Southern Metropolis Daily, and Hong Kong’s HK01 — though without official confirmation. A representative at Weibo told the Southern Metropolis Daily that they “have not yet received a notice, and do not know the details.” They did not deny the measures were on the horizon, however, and even added that “the upfront real-name [system] will at this time be mainly for self-media accounts.”

One week later, on October 19, Weibo’s CEO used his personal account to confirm the rumors. “Normal web-surfers,” he wrote, would not have to display their real names publicly. Only those with “media influence” would be targeted — and while the threshold for “media influence” would be set at one million followers for now, this might extend to half a million in the future.

Curbing Cyberspace Chaos?

A related report on the Netease Chinese news portal asked in the headline whether “the era of the great open box” (大开盒时代) had arrived. For its part, Global Times English, run by the CCP’s official People’s Daily celebrated the still unconfirmed measures, saying that they would “curb cyberspace chaos.”

China’s Cyberspace Administration (CAC) has been tightening the screws on “self-media” for years. In July, the CAC issued 13 new rules to strengthen the oversight of individual user accounts. These included measures to manually review registered accounts that contain references to official organs and requiring accounts dealing with areas such as finance, education, healthcare, and the law to be “strictly verified.” On the surface, the rules might sound fair, but they also ensure those operating self-media accounts covering sensitive areas are within Party-controlled professional regimes and can be trusted politically to toe the official line.

China’s Cyberspace Administration (CAC) has been tightening the screws on “self-media” for years.

Internet regulators have been pushing mandatory real-name registration on microblogs and forums since 2015. At the time, however, users were assured that they could still post pseudonymously — a system billed as “real names backstage, voluntary upfront” (後台實名、前臺自願).

The move to disclose posters’ identities backstage and onstage is causing panic among some pseudonymous users, who fear it could disrupt their offline lives and even lead to violence against them. Doubts about the measure are not confined to accounts that espouse controversial views, either: patriotic netizen Imperial Bar (帝吧官微) called it “a gift to cyberbullies.” CEO Wang, however, has an elegant solution for big accounts covering politics or current affairs: delete your followers to keep them under one million, or change focus to something less sensitive.

“It’s not too late to become a food blogger,” he encouraged users.

Red Patriots in Hong Kong

“Making active contributions to creating a better Hong Kong and achieving national rejuvenation.” This is likely not how most parents in the bustling financial and commercial center, which has prided itself as the world’s city, envision a future for their children. But it was how China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping, summed up his hopes for students at Hong Kong’s Pui Kiu Middle School in a personal reply published prominently last month on the front page of the People’s Daily newspaper.

In Hong Kong, where few read the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, the reportedly heartfelt letter from Xi drew “enthusiastic responses” from all walks of society — according, at least, to a roundup of comments from the press, local officials, and the education sector cobbled together by the Chinese government’s powerful Central Liaison Office. The letter was widely seen as representing Xi’s expectations of the city’s youth, and pointing the way for the Hong Kong government’s future work on patriotic education, a topic of longstanding controversy in the territory.

But how had a letter from a class of tenth-graders worked its way all the way up to Beijing, and into the secure Zhongnanhai compound where Xi Jinping and other top leaders conduct the daily affairs of Party and state? And more importantly, what does the letter’s reception in Hong Kong say about changes to the character of public discourse in the city?

Xi’s letter to the Pui Kiu students makes the front page of the People’s Daily on July 26, 2023.

The Patriots of Pui Kiu

On the first question, the history of Pui Kiu Middle School (培僑中學) offers a colorful answer.

Pui Kiu was founded in 1946 by a group of self-identified “patriots” with the aim of nurturing the children of overseas Chinese “into supportive forces for the construction of the new China.” In its early days, the school recruited students from the families of “patriotic businessmen” and overseas Chinese who were generally more well-off, and hence earned a reputation as a “school for red/patriotic aristocrats” (紅色/愛國貴族學校). But as time went on, Pui Kiu students came to have a more diverse background and included more children from local families.

The fortunes of the school have ebbed and flowed along with political changes in Hong Kong.

From its founding, Pui Kiu Middle School openly declared its pro-Communist ideological stance in then-British Hong Kong, yet it remained untouched by colonial authorities. Ng Hong-mun, chairman of the board for the Pui Kiu Education Foundation and a long-serving former member of the National People’s Congress, believed this was because the government wished to counteract the influence of the Kuomintang in Hong Kong in the 1940s into the 1950s, “playing the balancing act.”

The “Introduction” section on the Pui Kiu Middle School website shows students standing at attention during a flag ceremony.

In the 1950s, however, Pui Kiu began to face greater pressure from British officials. Mainland-trained teachers at the school were refused registration. And most notably, headmaster Parker Tu was deported in 1958 for the “communist indoctrination of students,” following a raid on the school library that resulted in the confiscation of 19 books considered communistic.

The Pui Kiu library included such titles as “How to be a Good Communist” by Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇) and the memoirs of patriotic philanthropist and businessman Tan Kah Kee (陳嘉庚), who was known as a great patron of overseas Chinese schools in the early 20th century — and who would later be given a state funeral in Beijing upon his death there in 1961. (British colonial authorities in Singapore had denied Tan re-entry in 1950 out of concern for his possibly communist associations).

The 1958 deportation of Parker Tu was strongly protested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A related report from the official Xinhua News Agency also accused police of “savagely beating” its reporters along with students and teaching staff, “a serious atrocity violating the right of Chinese journalists to cover the news.”

Despite these tensions, however, Pui Kiu managed to avoid being outlawed, unlike the patriotic Chung Hwa Middle School, which was deregistered following an explosion inside the building during the 1967 leftist riots against British rule.

As Sino-British negotiations over the handover of Hong Kong began in the 1980s, Pui Kiu moved toward becoming one of the first directly subsidized schools in Hong Kong, a status it finally gained in 1991, ending a “40-year-long period of unfair exclusion and suppression,” according to the school’s website.

“Earnest Expectations” for Hong Kong

Over the past decade, the above story of suspicion and intimidation has become ready material in the broader official narrative of the triumph of Chinese patriotism in the face of struggle. At the school’s 70th anniversary in November 2016, the keynote speech was delivered by then-director of the Liaison Office of the Central Government, Zhang Xiaoming, who said:

No matter what storms they face, whether it is good or bad times, the people of Pui Kiu stayed true to why they started. Their will to love and serve the country is unwavering, and their commitment to patriotic education has never faltered.

It was no doubt the school’s staunch commitment throughout the years that made it an exemplary patriotic school in the eyes of the Party’s top leader, Xi Jinping. With a stroke of his pen in his July letter, Xi christened Pui Kiu not just as integral to the “glorious tradition” of Hong Kong patriotism, but as essential to its future autonomy:

Patriotism is the core of the spirit of the Chinese nation. Hong Kong compatriots have a glorious tradition of patriotism and love for Hong Kong. It is the important foundation for the robust and sustainable implementation of One Country, Two Systems.

Clearly, Xi’s letter is about much more than just praising Pui Kiu and its students. State-controlled media, senior Hong Kong officials, and the education sector in the city have all echoed his wishes for Hong Kong’s youth at large and for the territory’s future.

Homepage of Ta Kung / Wen Wei Pao featuring news and commentaries on Xi’s letter.

Just as it appeared on the front page of the People’s Daily, Xi’s letter to the students was featured prominently on the homepage of the combined Ta Kung Pao / Wen Wei Po news website, operated by the Liaison Office of the Central Government. Alongside Xi’s letter was an official commentary from the newsgroup praising the legacy of Pui Kiu Middle School, and urging the necessity of greater patriotism in Hong Kong.

The Ta Kung Pao commentary also sought to compress the CCP’s expectations for Hong Kong youth with a political catchphrase, or tifa (提法), reminiscent of those regularly deployed across the border to mobilize action and signal consensus as well as compliance — the kind of political language that until only very recently was mostly alien to Hong Kong politics.

The new phrase was the “Four Integrations” (四個結合), which the Ta Kung Pao defined as a unification of knowledge and action; of understanding of the world and understanding of the country; of patriotic sentiments and personal abilities; and of personal growth and contributions to the nation. “The young people of Hong Kong should take President Xi’s reply as a guide, realize the ‘Four Integrations,’ carry forth the patriotic spirit, and make contributions worthy of the times for the development of Hong Kong and the building of a strong nation,” the outlet said.

Two Combines

The familial relation of the Ta Kung Pao phrase added to the sense that it was, at its core, about ideological assimilation as much as “patriotism.” In recent years, a number of “integrations” have emerged in Chinese commentaries and policy documents. The most important of these is the “Two Integrations,” or “Two Combines” (两个结合), a catchphrase put forward by Xi Jinping that essentially roots the legitimacy of the CCP in a combination of China’s deep traditional culture and its “red heritage” under the Party, culminating in Xi’s latest contributions to the Sinicization of Marxism.

In a further sign of how intertwined the PRC-style propaganda tactics have become in Hong Kong with the business of daily administration, a thank-you message from Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee to Xi was also reported prominently on the Ta Kung Pao / Wen Wei Pao website. Xi’s words to Pui Kiu students, said Lee, reflect the leader’s “earnest expectations” for Hong Kong’s young people in fulfilling their mission and responsibility.

A British army firearms expert attempts to diffuse a suspected explosive planted by leftist rioters in 1967.

Lee also understood that the letter contained messages for his government. He pledged to strengthen patriotism and national education in Hong Kong, and to provide an environment conducive to the growth of Hong Kong’s youth into “a new generation who love the country and love Hong Kong, with a global vision, aspirations, and a positive mindset.”

Lee also understood that the letter contained messages for his government. 

The promotion of patriotic education around the carefully constructed symbolism of Xi Jinping’s letter to Pui Kiu — which clearly happened with the prior planning and involvement of Lee’s administration — points to what will likely become a familiar pattern in Hong Kong. This brand of political mobilization, still shockingly new for many Hong Kongers, would have been unthinkable to most even just four years ago.

On the issue of patriotic education, a sensitive point for city residents for many years, what will this political campaign mean? Once again, Piu Kiu Middle School points the way.

Patriotic Education in the New Era

Given Pui Kiu’s background, it is no surprise that it has led the push for patriotic education among Hong Kong schools, both in the past and in the present.

Pui Kiu Middle School was among the first schools in Hong Kong that started holding regular PRC flag-raising ceremonies on campus. It continued to fly the five-star flag and sing the PRC’s national anthem during the period of British rule despite the prohibition of such practices in education laws at the time and warnings from the colonial government.

Pui Kiu students in the 1960s reportedly studied Quotations from Chairman Mao (the so-called “Little Red Book”) and assiduously read China Youth, the magazine published by the Communist Youth League.

Today, Pui Kiu students might not be reading Communist texts but they still participate in activities that average Hong Kong teenagers do not yet experience — and that speak to close affinities with their peers across the border. In their letter to Xi, the students recounted experiences speaking with astronauts at the Tiangong space station and taking part in a burial ceremony for the PRC soldiers who died fighting the US in the Korean War.

“Dearest Grandpa Xi,” begins the letter written to CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping by students from Hong Kong’s Pui Kiu Middle School.

Other activities that Pui Kiu offers its students include talks on national security, military-style boot camps, and visits to mainland sister schools. There are also tours to tech companies in the Greater Bay Area, the integrated economic area covering nine cities in Guangdong province — which the Chinese leadership envisions as encompassing Hong Kong and Macau as well.

The school’s students, the Ta Kung Pao said in its paraphrasing of Xi Jinping’s words, are “more able to understand the pride of being Chinese” due to their participation in such activities.

Certainly, pride was evident in the text of the letter students sent to the CCP General Secretary, which again is in harmony with the themes generally found in Chinese political discourse, about martyrs and sacrifice. Referring, for example, to the 20 Pui Kiu alumni that volunteered to “resist US aggression and aid Korea” (抗美援朝) from 1950 to 1958, the students wrote in their letter to Xi:

That we can stand here safe and sound is the result of our martyrs’ protection of our homeland. In this era of peace and prosperity, we should learn from our seniors and carry forward the spirit of patriotism and love for Hong Kong.

Reflecting on their interactions with the Tiangong astronauts, Pui Kiu’s students wrote:

Our emotions could not be calmed for a long time, both because we felt the noble spirit of generations of Chinese aerospace trailblazers who sacrificed themselves for the country, and because the seed of the dream in everyone’s heart was nourished unexpectedly!

The “seed of the dream” (梦想的种子) was an unmistakable reference to Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream,” of what he has called “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

In an interview with Wen Wei Pao, former Pui Kiu principal Chiu Cheung Ki (招祥麒) expressed the hope that Xi’s encouragement and recognition of the school would provide positive momentum for patriotic education in Hong Kong.

Just days after Xi’s response landed, the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, a teachers’ union that “adheres to the principle of loving the country and Hong Kong,” held a public seminar studying the letter and discussing what it means for the future of local patriotic education.

Once again, the echoes of politics across the border were strong. In China’s CCP-led political culture, this is generally the way of things. Policy priorities are announced and affirmed as a fait accompli through official speeches and related news and propaganda. The campaigns that ensue then ripple through the national bureaucracy as everyone leaps to the process of implementation.

“Seminar on Studying, Promoting and Implementing President Xi Jinping’s Reply Letter to Students of Pui Kiu Middle School” organized by the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers.

At the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, members opined that patriotism should not just be the responsibility of some selected schools but should become a mainstream value.

Tang Fei (鄧飛), Legislative Councilor and vice chair of the Federation commented that Xi’s reply “fully affirmed the efforts of patriotic schools in implementing patriotic education.” He added that the education community should exercise creativity and make use of upcoming events such as Korean War commemorations and the 10th Anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, allowing Hong Kong’s youth to “experience the historical significance of US-China competition and understand the major trends in world development.”

Once again, the echoes of politics across the border were strong.

In the same vein, a Sing Tao Daily editorial also urged Hong Kong students to actively participate in activities that strengthen the idea of the state and the nation, so that they can “have a more accurate and in-depth knowledge of their country through first-hand experience, and are less likely to be misled by disinformation from the West.”

Meanwhile, education secretary Christine Choi pledged in a Facebook post that the Education Bureau would respond to the country’s expectations — which is to say, Xi Jinping’s expectations — on education with action by strengthening “patriotic education in the New Era” (新时代爱国主义教育) and continuously enriching the national education system. Choi’s post demonstrated once again the rising penchant for PRC official-speak among government officials in Hong Kong. “New Era” is a familiar Xi Jinping neologism, used prominently since 2014 to signal the specialness of his own period of leadership.

How is patriotic education substantively different in the New Era? That, of course, also has a great deal to do with Xi’s special brand of politics.

In 2019, the CCP Central Committee and the State Council released an outline for “patriotic education in the New Era” that stressed the importance of the leader’s signature political concept, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” which would “arm the Party” and “educate the people.” The document placed emphasis on youth; on loving the Party, the country, and socialism (爱党爱国爱社会主义相统一); on the “Chinese dream“; and on the use of mass media, artistic works, and the internet to create a powerful atmosphere for patriotic education.

Just a few weeks before Xi’s reply letter to students at Pui Kiu Middle School made a splash in Hong Kong, the draft Patriotic Education Law was introduced to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The draft law codifies and elaborates on elements laid down in the outline.

Legislating Love for the Ruling Party

For example, internet information service providers are instructed under Article 30 to “produce and transmit patriotic messages online” and to “develop and operate new platforms, new technologies, and new products to vividly carry out online patriotic education activities.” Television stations and newspaper publishers are likewise asked to “tell good patriotic stories” and promote patriotism in innovative ways. The law also prohibits specific acts that are deemed unpatriotic, including desecrating the spirit of martyrs, denying acts of invasion and massacres, and defiling patriotic education facilities.

Not surprisingly, given Hong Kong’s longstanding resistance to patriotic education, the territory was also mentioned in the draft. Article 22 provides that the state is to adopt measures to strengthen the sense of identity among “Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan compatriots” towards the PRC and traditional Chinese culture.

Soon after China’s legislature tabled the bill, John Lee announced that the Special Administrative Region would comply. It remains to be seen how much of it will apply in Hong Kong, but even without this law or Xi’s letter, it was already clear that Lee’s government is more than committed to promoting patriotic education, and to accommodating the media and social campaigns seen as necessary to bring public opinion along.

Whatever changes do come, they follow a new local curriculum rolled out in 2021 for both Chinese history and so-called “values education,” with an emphasis on the development of national awareness, an “accurate” understanding of Chinese history, and a deep appreciation for traditional Chinese culture. Under these changes, high school students in Hong Kong are now also required to participate in study tours to the mainland as part of a new compulsory “Citizenship and Social Development” course.

Pui Kiu, which in many ways has already blazed the trail, is among the schools least affected by these changes. In the wake of Xi Jinping’s headline letter, as the education sector in Hong Kong voices its eagerness to replicate what Pui Kiu has achieved, and as the SAR government pledges its commitment to “cultivating national pride,” more schools will be following in its footsteps.

The ‘Everything App’ for China’s Journalists

Are you a Chinese journalist struggling to keep yourself in check? Do you toss and turn at night with the alarming thought that you might forget your obligations and report something factual? Never fear. Your propaganda super-app is here.

Released just before the weekend by the All-China Journalists Association (ACJA), “Journalist’s Home ‘University Hall’” (“记者之家”大学堂) is a comprehensive online training platform that will be used not just to train journalists in CCP press doctrine, but to track their progress and certify their training results, assisting with annual reviews and renewals of journalists’ press cards (记者证).

Image of the “Journalist’s Home ‘University Hall’” training app released recently by the All-China Journalist’s Association.

According to state media reports, the new app includes more than 220 separate courses in the Marxist View of Journalism (马克思主义新闻观), the set of concepts that define the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and control of the media, and the fundamentally political role of the “news worker” (新闻工作者).

“From this point forward, millions of journalists across the country can carry out training in the Marxist View of Journalism through the internet platform,” said a news release from the ACJA and Xinhua News Agency, “which will play a positive role in educating and guiding journalists to concentrate their souls around Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”

The app navigation includes two basic sections, one on “foundational coursework” (基础课), which includes training in the tenets of Party press control and the leadership concepts of Xi Jinping, and another on “practical coursework” (实务课), which includes instructional videos from veteran Party journalists on key political and policy concepts.

In the “practical coursework” section, you might watch a study video with Xinhua journalist Zhang Yang (张扬) to better understand how you, as a state media journalist, can become an “influencer-style journalist” (网红型记者), meaning that you cultivate your personal influence across social media platforms — all in the interest, naturally, of being a better vehicle to “guide” public opinion. Or you might hear from Lu Xin (芦鑫) at the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on how to safeguard “ideological security,” the foundation of which, you will be told, is “political faith” (政治信仰) in the ruling Party.

Screenshot of app training video on “international communication” led by Xinhua journalists Xu Zeyu, who has fashioned a reputation as a leading Party strategist on external propaganda.

And recognizing that China is in the midst of a “smokeless war” with the West for dominance of global public opinion, how should you, as a faithful Party journalist, take the battle to foreign social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook that formally speaking are off limits to your fellow Chinese nationals? There is perhaps no one better to address this issue than Xu Zeyu (徐泽宇) of Xinhua, who has embraced Party calls for a new “studio” system of individualized accounts to do the bidding of the Party-state — learn more in CMP’s “Personal Brands for Party Agendas” — and become something of an external propaganda guru.

At a ceremony unveiling the app on June 30, He Ping (何平), the head of the ACJA, said that it would crucial in “firming up the backbone” of journalists in China, and “arming their heads” with Xi Jinping’s governing concepts.

The term “Journalist’s Home” (记者之家) has long been used to refer to the idea that the All-China Journalist’s Association might serve as the basis for a professional community of journalists in China, protecting their rights and interests. However, the primary role of the organization — like all Party-led professional and social organizations in China — is to enforce discipline and control within the community.

A 2021 report in the People’s Daily discussing the ACJA’s continued identity as a “Journalist’s Home,” quoted a top official saying the organization would “continue to unite and lead journalists in adhering to the correct political direction, and to [correct] guidance of public opinion.”

Framing China in Southeast Asia

This month and next, journalists from Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and other ASEAN member states will meet on-site in Phnom Penh as well as offline for training modules on short video production, news writing, and other skills, developing much-needed capacity in a region where news media have been constantly under threat in recent years.

These training sessions, however, are not about empowering journalists to report the news critically and effectively — what many experts and advocacy groups have argued is essential, particularly in light of the recent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, they are about framing the region’s relationship with the giant next door: China.

Supported by the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) of the government of China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province — the area of the country geographically most distant from Southeast Asia — the training sessions further illustrate how initiatives by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to shape a positive global image of the country are the prerogative not just of national leaders and central state media, but are unfolding as a whole-society effort pursued by a wide range of actors, including local governments and educational institutions.

Held on May 18, the inaugural meeting of this year’s “Heilongjiang-ASEAN Overseas Chinese-Language Media Workshop” (海外华文媒体新闻记者研修班), which will run from May 24 to June 28, with 38 participants from across Southeast Asia, was attended by Wang Yongqing (王永清), the top CCP official from Heilongjiang University, which will lead the course modules. Wang encouraged participants to use the opportunity to improve their “journalism capabilities” (新闻业务能力).

Journalists from Chinese-language media in ASEAN countries take part in a training course hosted by the Foreign Affairs Office of the Heilongjiang provincial government. SOURCE: China-Cambodia Times.

But the involvement of Heilongjiang’s FAO, which on top of provincial diplomatic efforts is tasked with external propaganda, clearly signaled that the training event was about more than media skillsets. The opening session was led by Li Shengbin (李胜彬), an FAO deputy head. And the main address was delivered by Li’s superior, FAO director Wu Wen’ge (吴文革), who said the purpose of the training series was to “promote understanding of Heilongjiang among media in the ASEAN region, and to promote opportunities for cooperation within the RCEP framework.”

The RCEP refers to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the regional trade agreement signed in November 2020 between 15 Asian countries, and accounting for around 30 percent of global GDP. Ten of the RCEP’s members are from Southeast Asia.

Heilongjiang’s direct engagement with journalists in Southeast Asia began back in September 2019, as the Chinese Consulate in Penang arranged for a “Malaysian Media Delegation” (马来西亚媒体团) to visit the province, where they were met by representatives from the provincial foreign affairs office as well as government officials from prefectural-level cities in the province.

Malaysia became the location of the first training session, held in November 2021, with Heilongjiang University joining as the training partner. Delivering the opening address to the 2021 session, China’s consul general in Penang, Lu Shiwei (鲁世巍), said he hoped the training sessions would teach participants “to use more vivid language, more advanced technology, and a more distinctive perspective to tell the story of China-Malaysia development and friendship and cooperation.” As the event corresponded with the CCP’s centennial celebrations, Lu also praised the achievements of the Party under the leadership of Xi Jinping, stressing that “China’s development brings new opportunities for the China-Malaysia relationship.”

Another partner in this year’s training session is the Cambodia-China Journalists Association (柬中记协), a group closely aligned with the Chinese government that has actively played a largely diplomatic as opposed to professional role among Southeast Asian journalists, encouraging positive narratives about China and its role in the region.

Speaking at the May 18 opening session, Liu Xiaoguang (刘晓光), co-chairman of the Cambodia-China Journalists Association, praised Heilongjiang’s FAO and Heilongjiang University for holding the two-week seminar, which he said “opened up a precedent for Chinese media training exchanges between local provinces in China and Southeast Asian countries.”

Liu expressed the hope that seminar trainees would promote Heilongjiang Province as well as deeper cooperation between China, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Meanwhile, coverage in the Heilongjiang Daily (黑龙江日报), the flagship newspaper of the Heilongjiang Committee of the CCP, reported that the aim of the training session, beyond basic skills training, was to “promote Chinese and foreign cultural communication and exchange,” and to deepen economic, trade and tourism cooperation with Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar in particular.

Journalism and media-related engagements have been at the heart of diplomacy and outreach by Chinese cities and provinces to countries in Southeast Asia, as local and regional leaders in China recognize that domestic Chinese-language media in particular can help to shape positive images that are conducive to deeper trade and tourism relations.

Over the longer term, these exchanges could have a substantial impact on the capacity and willingness of journalists in Southeast Asian countries to report critically on a China that is increasingly influential across the region.

The Chinese-language Jianhua Daily (柬华日报) reported this week on an official visit to Cambodia by Li Qiufeng (李秋峰), the director of the CCP’s propaganda office in the city of Wuxi, in Jiangsu province. Li was accompanied on his visit by Chen Xichu (陈锡初), the CEO of the Wuxi Daily Newspaper Group, which publishes the city’s Party mouthpiece, as well as officials from the government’s Information Office, which is responsible for overseas propaganda.

Li Qiufeng told his hosts, including the Federation of Khmer Chinese in Cambodia (柬华理事总会), the local association that publishes the Jianhua Daily, that the goal of the delegation was to “strengthen cooperation with Cambodian media.”

China Appoints New NRTA Chief

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.”

A Propaganda Ghost Sighting in Cambodia

You may read today in the headlines at the Khmer Times, a paper closely aligned with the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP), about how Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised no traffic jams at an upcoming regional sporting event — or about how two brothers arrested for stealing a pink motorcycle “bowed their heads in shame.”

But the most eye-raising story at the news outlet may be the mini-mystery lurking in the sidebar to the right of each of these news items — a graphic feature that looks like Chinese state propaganda but is apparently orphaned from all relevant context. Is this anachronism yet another salient example of Chinese external propaganda (外宣) gone wrong?

A graphic of apparent Chinese state origin appeared on the right-hand sidebar of the Khmer Times website in early May 2023.

The graphic, which has appeared on the Khmer Times website since at least the weekend, is an odd assemblage of images, including nurses wearing anti-Covid face masks and protective gear, a prominent red national flag of China, saluting soldiers that appear to be Chinese armed forces, and the distinctive silhouette of the Beijing headquarters of China Central Television.

The words across the top of the image read cryptically, and quite ungrammatically: “A Mask A Battle: Everyone is Silent Warrior!”

Taken together, the images and the accompanying words recall the external propaganda campaigns unleashed by Chinese state media and related social media accounts at the height of the pandemic, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was keen on defending its record on Covid internationally, and portraying itself as a robust and courageous disease eradicator. After firmly insisting on Xi Jinping’s strict “zero Covid” approach through 2022, even in the face of rising resistance, the leadership suddenly dismantled the policy last December.

Medical workers in protective gear, which from early 2020 were potent and omnipresent symbols of government resolve — as well as the heartlessness and folly of forced quarantine and lockdown — are now a vision from the past. So what are they doing in the Khmer Times along with a potent symbol of external propaganda, the Beijing headquarters of CCTV?

The odd Covid graphic with Chinese characteristics appears beside an article about the monitoring of elections in Cambodia by police.

CMP reached out to the Khmer Times for comment but received no response.

Perhaps this is the now anachronistic tail end of a paid-for campaign involving the China Media Group, the arrangements made long before China’s sudden pivot away from virus containment. Perhaps it is a current but poorly thought-out campaign to remind local readers of China’s contributions to the fight against Covid in Cambodia. In any case, the image offers no further clues. It does not link to an external campaign page, nor is its purpose explained through any of the social channels operated by the newspaper.

The Khmer Times, which according to some sources has close connections with influential members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family, routinely runs content from Xinhua News Agency, China’s official wire service. It has also published special columns echoing state propaganda narratives from such figures as Wang Wentian (王文天), the Chinese ambassador to Cambodia, and Li Jingfeng, a defense attaché at China’s embassy.

In 2015, the newspaper was hit with a plagiarism scandal when the online community Khmer440 uncovered at least 22 articles published under the byline of T Mohan, the Malaysian businessman who owns the newspaper, that lifted entire passages from other publications.

A New Era for China’s Readers

As China celebrated World Book Day one year ago, Xi Jinping expressed the hope that “our whole society can take part in reading, creating an atmosphere of love for reading.” As the day rolled around again on Sunday, state media were inundated with visions of Xi as a great lover of literature, who as a sent-down youth at the age of 15 is said to have plodded down a long country road just to borrow a copy of Goethe’s Faust — which he then read assiduously by lamplight.

In yesterday’s official People’s Daily, Xi the Great Reader was once again front-page news. An article just below the paper’s masthead declared that “General Secretary Xi Jinping leads the way in promoting reading for all.”

The April 24 edition of the CCP’s People’s Daily.

But for China’s avid readers, the prospect of finding fresh and insightful books has grown as dim over the past few years as a cave home in Liangjiahe, the village where the young Xi of legend is said to have studied his Goethe.

Book publishers in China, including the private publishers once seen as an important channel of growth in the industry, have suffered under a thick atmosphere of political wariness as ideological controls have intensified.

The results can now be seen in the numbers. According to a report on the retail book market released in March, there were 25,000 fewer book titles released in China in 2022 than in 2021. This included a drop of 5,000 in the number of new original Chinese titles, and a drop of 20,000 in the number of imported titles in translation.

New titles have dropped substantially as a proportion of China’s book publishing industry during Xi’s decade in power, from more than 20 percent of the total in 2014 to just 13.63 percent in 2022. In 2020, the retail market for books shrank for the first time in decades, and in 2022 contracted even further.

Several Chinese book editors interviewed by the Chinese-language outlet Initium blamed the decline in new titles on the tightening ideological climate. “You cannot say China is bad, and you cannot say that foreign countries are good,” one editor said.

Liu Suli (刘苏里), the founder of All Sages Bookstore (万圣书园) in Beijing, said the publishing industry in China was “already in deep water up to its neck.” Reversing the metaphor, Liu described a worrisome atmosphere of diminishing choice as publishers stopped releasing certain kinds of books altogether. “The pool of knowledge, the pool of ideas, the pool of arts and culture, must be kept at a certain depth,” he said, “so that when people want to dive in, something will be waiting there.”

“You cannot say China is bad, and you cannot say that foreign countries are good.”

A second book editor at a well-known publishing company cited as evidence of the dire state of the market the complete lack of reflections in published works in China on the pandemic that has dominated life over the past three years. “There certainly could be public expressions from Chinese intellectuals about the pandemic, but they have been denied the power of the narrative,” said the editor.

Liu Suli, the founder of All Sages Bookstore in Beijing. Image by Isaac Mao, available at under CC license.

Generally speaking, there are a range of topics in China that are absolute no-go areas for private publishers, left to the trusted hands of state-owned groups seen as more attuned to the priorities of the leadership. These include contemporary history (for example, of the Xi era), the history of the CCP (which must be cleave to the official line), biographies of state leaders (which can touch on sensitive connections and interests), and ethnic issues (seen as potentially divisive).

Further stipulations from the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), which regulates and supervises the publishing and printing industries, specify that publishers must avoid topics broadly related to national security and social stability, which can cut a wide path, as well as major events in PRC history, and topics related to the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

But invisible and unspoken restrictions on book publishing have perhaps cut even more deeply. One veteran Chinese book editor told Initium that informal prohibitions in a general climate of fear were expanding the circle of constraint. “No one tells you exactly what the band of the publishable is,” he said. “Instead, you are simply told in a ‘single chop’ fashion not to publish any sensitive material whatsoever.”

The editor had planned a series of books dealing with Nazi Germany, but these were subjected to layer upon layer of censorship until publication became impossible. “The reason for not publishing them was never explained to me, and my impression was that this was an ad hoc decision on the part of the censors,” he said. “Sometimes publishing a book is really a matter of luck.”

Books dealing with the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries have also become difficult to publish in China — a situation that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine roils the world and China’s take on the region is in the spotlight, publishers and readers interested in this topic — like so many others — are simply out of luck.

Two Countries at War, in the People’s Daily

On Monday this week, a report on page three of the People’s Daily recounted the compliments offered by foreign leaders to Xi Jinping as he secured a historic third term as China’s president. It was a boilerplate piece of propaganda, affirming the great esteem with which Xi and his leadership have been regarded internationally.

From Israeli President Isaac Herzog: “Under your leadership, China has achieved tremendous development, and I believe that China will continue to prosper.” From Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Your global development initiatives and global security initiatives offer hope for a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous world.”

But there was one notable surprise in the otherwise unremarkable People’s Daily tribute to Xi — the mentioning by name of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who since Russia’s invasion of his country more than a year ago has been mentioned just once in the pages of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper.

Page 3 of the March 20, 2023, edition of the People’s Daily, with an article mentioning Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The language from Zelensky came amid speculation that Xi Jinping will speak by video with the Ukrainian leader later this week, shortly after his return from a state visit to Moscow. And it seemed to underline the importance of China’s role in addressing global security issues, coming as Xi Jinping has positioned himself as a peace negotiator:

President Zelensky of Ukraine said that the Ukrainian side attaches great importance to the traditionally friendly relations between Ukraine and China. “I am confident that under your leadership, China will make significant contributions to strengthening the world security architecture and consolidation of the world order based on the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. I wish you new and outstanding achievements in your governance [of China].”

Interestingly — symbolically? — the first mention of Zelensky in the People’s Daily since October 2022 was hemmed in on all sides by articles extolling China’s deep friendship and partnership with Russia, including a piece penned by Vladimir Putin himself, “Russia and China: A Partnership for the Future.”

“I am convinced that the friendship and partnership between Russia and China, based on the strategic choices of our two peoples, will continue to grow strong and make Russia and China happy and prosperous,” Putin said in closing his article, which spoke of a no-bounds military and political alliance exceeding that of the Cold War.

“Without a doubt, the Chinese President’s visit will contribute to this,” he wrote.

Framing China’s Health Experts

When China scrapped mandatory quarantine for foreign arrivals on January 9th this year, the last pillar propping up the government’s “zero Covid” regime came crashing down. The decision marked the final collapse not just of a policy that had defined life in China for three years, but also of the scaffolding of expert opinion that had long supported these measures.

Suddenly, leading epidemiologists who had publicly made scientific cases for adhering to lockdown measures were talking about the science of completely scrapping them, with slippery words like “optimization.” The before-and-after contrasts, laid out in posts like this one on Chinese social media, seemed to beg a fundamental question: What good are health experts if politics leads their science by the nose? 

Cringy Contrasts

One prominent case in point has been medical expert Zhong Nanshan (钟南山), dubbed a hero during the 2003 SARS epidemic and chosen in early 2020 to lead a Covid response expert panel under China’s National Health Commission (NHC). 

In March 2022, Zhong was quoted in the People’s Daily and other official sources as saying that the “harmfulness” of the Omicron variant “far exceeded that of the flu,” encouraging fear of a more relaxed approach. While the rate of deaths might be low, he suggested, the variant remained highly infectious. 

The doctor’s voice was even used to allay fears about the deep economic impact of continued lockdowns. “But life comes first, and this is a price that must be borne, a price worth paying,” he was quoted by the official China News Service as saying. “Because economic losses can be regained, but the loss of human life cannot.” 

The doctor’s voice was even used to allay fears about the deep economic impact of continued lockdowns.

The next month, as the turmoil of Shanghai’s lockdown drove a wave of public anger, the doctor was invoked repeatedly by the media to make the case for what Xi Jinping called “persistence.” A headline in the China Youth Daily newspaper read: “Zhong Nanshan: China Should Persist with Dynamic Zero, Opening Gradually.” Similar cautions appeared across commercial internet sites.  

On April 11, 2022, the China Youth Daily newspaper invokes Zhong Nanshan in a headline about “persisting” in the “zero Covid” policy. 

But as controls were suddenly eliminated in December, even as the government seemed to have neglected the most basic preparations, Zhong Nanshan changed his tune — and set off marching in the opposite direction. 

On December 19, less than two weeks after the NHC announced a nationwide relaxation of Covid restrictions, Zhong was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying, “Now, looking correctly at the situation caused by Omicron, one cannot apply the methods of two years ago.” In a clear reversal of the government’s previous fear-mongering over the dangers of infection, he added that “Omicron infection is not scary, and 99 percent [of people] can fully recover within 7-10 days.” 

This dramatic about-face in the official messaging was for many Chinese a tacit admission of how ill-considered the policies applied over the previous year had been. It also sapped public confidence in the reliability of the knowledge and advice offered by experts. 

By the end of the year, Zhong Nanshan was facing what one blogger in China called “a serious crisis of credibility.” He was not alone. Experts like Liang Wannian (梁萬年), head of the Covid response expert panel under the NHC, had similarly been strong voices in support of “zero Covid,” and they too were now supporting a dramatically different policy, even as they claimed to base their points on science. 

Science When the Expert Says So

During a press conference on December 7, as the government announced sweeping changes to its policy, Liang casually noted “a decrease in the virulence and pathogenicity of the virus, which is already present in the Omicron strain.” 

Contrast this with his message less than eight months earlier, on April 22, as Shanghai’s lockdown was accelerating and whole communities were forcibly relocated. At that time, Liang had been referenced in a  report headlining the official nightly news program Xinwen Lianbo (新闻联播) that made the case for the leadership’s decision to “unshakably persist” in its “zero Covid” policy. That report said: “Determining the seriousness of a disease, Liang Wannian said, requires an overall calculation of its infectiousness and the serious illnesses and deaths it causes. Omicron is much more transmissible than influenza and other previous mutant strains of Covid.”

A WeChat post in December 2022 puts August and December remarks on Covid by expert Zhong Nanshan side-by-side, marking a dramatic change in Zhong’s perspective on the dangers of the disease. On the left, Zhong warns that no medicines can stave off Covid. On the right, he is quoted as saying that “Omicron is not scary.”  

In recent months, Liang Wannian has repeatedly used the word “science” to explain away accusations that there were failures in how the government managed the loosening of Covid restrictions. On January 7, the epidemiologist, regarded as one of the architects of “zero Covid,” explained that because the virulence of the Omicron strain had been shown to be low, “I think the timing [of the policy change] was determined in a scientific way, that it was appropriate and in accordance with the relevant requirements.” 

Rewind just three months to the first half of October and Liang can be found on the popular news commentary program News 1+1 on China Central Television, warning millions of viewers that “from a scientific point of view, it is also difficult to say when we can return to normal,” considering that the Omicron variant “remains a major health threat to the population.”

But behind these apparent case studies in expert flip-flopping lies a deeper story about the framing and censorship of expert knowledge by the Chinese Party-state and its massive media ecosystem. And once again, Zhong Nanshan could be a strong case in point. 

Behind the Face of Persistence

One of the most revealing episodes in the saga of Chinese expert opinion on Covid came in the first week of April 2022 but was quickly eclipsed by the dramatic scenes emerging from the lockdown in Shanghai, and by a tidal wave of official propaganda in support of “zero Covid.” 

On April 6, the English-language National Science Review, a journal edited by scholars from the Chinese Academy of Sciences with a full list of editors and advisory board members comprising leading Chinese experts, published an editorial called “Strategies for Reopening in the Forthcoming Covid-19 Era in China.” Co-authored by Zhong Nanshan and Guan Weijie (关伟杰), a doctor at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, the editorial said that China’s current Covid policies “cannot be pursued in the long run.”

“China needs to reopen so as to normalize socio-economic development and adapt to global reopening,” Zhong and Guan wrote. 

The article immediately prompted speculation that changes might be underway to China’s Covid response. But the signs quickly changed. A Chinese-language version of the article had briefly circulated on social media inside China on April 4, ahead of the official publication date, but this version was quickly expunged, and replaced with an article reflecting the official view. In consideration of the generally extended period required for the peer review of academic journal contributions, some speculated that the Zhong Nanshan article had been submitted prior to the March 17, 2022, address to the Politburo Standing Committee in which Xi Jinping doubled down on “zero Covid” by reappropriating the revolutionary slogan “persistence is victory.” 

China needs to reopen so as to normalize socio-economic development and adapt to global reopening.

Zhong Nanshan, in an article deleted from the Chinese internet in early April 2022.

In the weeks that followed, there were further hints of criticism and resistance within China — and not just from medical experts. In a post to WeChat on April 19, 2022, Liu Xiaobing (刘小兵), a delegate to the National People’s Congress and the head of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE), called on the authorities to raise the “scientificity” (科学性) of the Covid response. 

Among his carefully thought-out suggestions, which included more recent research on the Omicron variant, Liu focused on the national framing of the virus and the measures to deal with it as a key contributing factor, feeding an unnecessary sense of fear to support policies. “The dangers of the epidemic should be judged scientifically and objectively,” he said, “and the virus should not be demonized in national propaganda.” 

While Liu Xiaobing’s post did not expressly call for an end to “zero Covid,” it was quickly deleted by internet censors, again depriving the public space of important facts and perspectives. 

The flip-flopping remarks of China’s medical experts have prompted some amusing and revealing discussions on Chinese social media, but the limits of this discussion again reveal the key underlying issue. One WeChat post, “Experts Have Mutated Overnight” (一夜之间, 砖家们全变异了), which laid before-and-after examples side-by-side, was widely shared but quickly censored.

Taken together, the deletion of the Zhong Nanshan editorial, the constructive criticisms offered by Liu Xiaobing, and even a playful WeChat post folding the history of Covid-related official communication against itself, all reveal the immense barrier created by censorship and propaganda. They are a reminder of a painful lesson that played out in the earliest days of Covid in late 2019, as doctors in Wuhan were quietly disciplined for privately discussing local infection cases, and warned instead to “speak politics,” “speak discipline,” and only last to “speak science.” 

However much the leadership and its experts in the official media may talk about the need for scientific approaches, it is politics that ultimately drives decision-making in China. The result is not just poor public policy but a complete loss of credibility for experts, in the eyes of an increasingly jaded and untrusting population.

China's propaganda department is hiring

China’s Propaganda Machine is Calling

Have you ever imagined yourself networking with newspaper and website editors to force the latest censorship directives down their throats, or to threaten them with disciplinary action? Have you ever been so moved by the consummate greatness of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its enlightened leadership that you need to shout it to the whole world?

Your dream begins now.

China’s Ministry of Human Resources has posted its 2023 call for the hiring of positions within the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department and its subsidiary departments. This would include branches like the Overseas Promotion Office (对外推广局), the International Communications Office (国际传播局), and the Overseas News Office (对外新闻局). It would also include related entities masquerading as private enterprises and driving external propaganda internationally — the likes of the China International Communications Group (对外称中国国际传播集团), or CICG, and the China International Communication Center (五洲传播中心), or CICC.

If censorship and propaganda, both at home and abroad, are your cup of tea, then the Central Propaganda Department has just a few basic requirements.

First, you will need to be a citizen of the People’s Republic of China — sorry foreigners. Next, and this is critical, which is why it tops the list, you must “be firm in your political position” (政治立场坚定), and that position must of course be the CCP’s position. This means — as the announcement says — that you must “support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system, be firm in upholding the ‘Four Consciousnesses,’ resolute in the ‘Four Confidences,’ and must achieve the ‘Two Safeguards.’”

If you do not know what these phrases mean, you are probably best not to apply for a position. But they are essentially about the emphasis on Xi Jinping as the “core” of the Party and the fountainhead of the ideas propelling it into the glorious future. The first of the “Two Safeguards” is about the need to protect the “core,” meaning Xi himself. Meanwhile, the  “Four Consciousnesses” are about the need to 1) maintain political integrity, 2) think in big-picture terms, 3) uphold the leadership “core” (again, Xi Jinping), and 4) keep in alignment with the CCP’s central leadership.

Beyond holding the above as a matter of faith and practice, the successful job candidate must “maintain a high degree of consistency with the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core in ideology, politics and action, and be ready to join work in propaganda, ideology and culture with conviction.”

Is this you?

There are a host of other prerequisites in the propaganda department announcement, including age requirements. Those with undergraduate level education must not be older than 24; those with master’s degree level education must not be older than 27; and those with PhDs must not be older than 35. But candidates who feel they meet the necessary requirements need only fill out the “Central Propaganda Department Units 2023 Open Recruitment Application Form” (中宣部直属单位2023年度公开招聘报名表) to begin the rigorous process involving a credentials check, written tests and face-to-face interviews,  a physical health check, an on-the-spot investigation (for example, at the candidate’s school), and finally the singing of the employment agreement.

According to the announcement, there are an estimated 114 positions to be made available at 21 subordinate units of the Central Propaganda Department. That means plenty of opportunities for those willing to check their sense of dignity and conscience at the door. All others need not apply.