At the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held in 2002, Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) was appointed General Secretary. Li Changchun (李长春) became the Standing Committee member tasked with coordinating propaganda and ideology. In China, where ideological formulations are of supreme importance, the new leadership under Hu Jintao needed a concise formula to deliver their policy on media control.
The result was the “Three Closenesses,” a phrase meant to encompass both the CCP notion of the imperative of media control, and at the same time the need to commercialize the media and make media products broadly more attractive to ever more savvy audiences.
In January 2003, Li Changchun announced top leadership would take a “Three Closenesses” approach to the control of mass media: “Closeness to reality, closeness to the masses and closeness to real life” (贴近实际，贴近群众， 贴近生活). Li said the emphasis of propaganda work should be uniting the “spirit” of the Party with public opinion. This was an elaboration of Jiang Zemin’s notion of “guidance of public opinion,” or yulun daoxiang (舆论导向), the idea being that people should be both guided and given media they found more attractive, interesting and relevant (in other words, could actually consume). The concept of the “Three Closenesses” was also seen as a key component of the so-called “Marxist View of Journalism” (马克思主义新闻观), the CCP’s vision of the purpose and practice of the media.
Li Changchun also called for “enlarging and strengthening” (做强做大), the idea being that “cultural” organizations (media, arts, etcetera) should push actively to become full-fledged businesses, forming an industry made up of powerful Chinese conglomerates (“aircraft carriers” they were actually called) equipped to do battle with foreign media groups like News Corp (China’s WTO accession had come in December 2001).