China Targets News Media in Xi Jinping’s Campaign to Expand Communist Party Control

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The proposed new restrictions on investment and the detention of a former journalist are part of Beijing’s effort to tighten its grip.

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The same day, authorities in southern China detained a well-known former journalist for insulting national martyrs in a post on social media that questioned the Communist Party’s account of the Korean War.

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Both incidents come on the heels of other tough moves, including a decision by China’s internet regulator in late August to muzzle more than 1,000 independent financial bloggers, some with large followers, who are falsely accused. Accused of spreading information.

Media scholars and analysts said Chinese leaders have always maintained strict controls on the country’s media, but the latest clampdown is significant for its time. It comes amid a campaign by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to limit the power of private business and give the Communist Party a greater share in everything from entertainment to finance to education.

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“Mr. Xi wants to build a new China, and as part of his creation, he is taking these steps,” said Fang Kecheng, assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “His role in shaping public opinion Because of this media plays an important role in this entertainment of the society. He wants the Chinese people to think more alike and be less influenced by private capital.”

China’s national planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, and its main Internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, did not respond to requests for comment.

The draft regulation released Friday by the planning agency is an update of the country’s restrictions on private investment in the media. This includes new restrictions on private investment in platforms that provide live-streaming content related to the economy, sports, education and other topics “related to political matters, the direction of public opinion and the orientation of values”.

The draft regulation also reiterates existing rules that prohibit private enterprises from collecting and disseminating news, and adds a new restriction on hosting news-related forums or awards ceremonies.

Henry Gao, an associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University, said the new sanctions are aimed at reducing the influence China’s private Internet companies have on the media and public opinion.

Mr Gao said the ban on holding events would cut off a source of revenue that Chinese media companies have come to rely on as well as advertising sales. If approved and actively implemented in its current form, the updated list of sanctions would force private investors to sell their shares in media assets to state-owned enterprises, possibly at a discount, he said. .

According to media scholars, many of the restrictions described in Friday’s draft have existed in some form for years, but China’s big internet companies have long operated in a legal gray area when it comes to online news content. While print and broadcast media are heavily controlled in China, Internet companies such as Sina Corp and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

It has produced news, financial and entertainment coverage and commentary with very little scrutiny, according to Zhan Jiang, a retired journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

With Friday’s draft, the government is sending a signal to internet companies to keep an eye on their move, even in areas such as sports, which previously had little attention from authorities, Mr. Zhan said.

Gu Yonghua, former secretary of the All China Journalists’ Association Secretariat, described the draft sanctions as being guided by Marxist principles.

“No matter how media companies expand, they need to meet relevant regulations, and they have to prevent private capital and profit motivation from interfering with mainstream public opinion,” he said. said in a social-media post by the Economic Media Association. Dissecting China’s changes.

Chinese officials have been particularly aggressive in attempting to exercise greater control over financial information as Mr. Xi tries to steer the Chinese economy through uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising concerns with debt-levels in the country’s all-important asset sector. Let’s try.

Since late August, Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo Corporation

said it has closed or suspended nearly 1,000 accounts related to financial bloggers, including millions of followers, as part of a campaign launched by China’s internet regulator to denounce finance-related rumors, inappropriate comments and other information. which misrepresents China. economic condition or its financial markets.

The CAC said on September 8 that as of early September, more than 1,800 social media accounts had been closed and more than 47,000 harmful information had been erased.

The custodial arrest of Luo Changping, the former deputy chief editor of financial news magazine Caijing, on Friday highlighted the gravity of the shutdown. Mr Luo was detained by authorities in the southern island province of Hainan for making “derogatory” remarks about Chinese soldiers during the Korean War, according to a statement posted on Weibo by the Public Security Bureau in Hainan’s Jiang district .

Weibo said on Friday that it had suspended Mr. Luo’s account. A top Chinese official was sacked in 2013 because of a Weibo post by an influential former journalist.

The Jiang police did not say what Mr Luo had written to insult the soldiers. A screenshot circulating on the Chinese Internet, which the Journal was unable to verify, shows a comment Mr. Luo apparently posted about “The Battle at Lake Changjin”, a Korean currently dominating Chinese box office. War movie, which questioned intelligence. China’s involvement in the war.

Mr. Luo could not be contacted.

If China approves new restrictions on private investment, much uncertainty remains about how stringent any cleaning or enforcement of the rules governing news media will be, Mr. Feng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said in a blog on Monday. wrote in the post.

“All society has already realized that we have entered an era very different from the past, and that past experiences may not be suitable for assessing current events,” he wrote.

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