News / Asia

    Chinese President Continues to Expand Media Controls

    FILE - A plainclothes policeman grabs the hand of a foreign journalist as he prevents him from filming the supporters of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang's gathering near the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2015.
    FILE - A plainclothes policeman grabs the hand of a foreign journalist as he prevents him from filming the supporters of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang's gathering near the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2015.

    China's recent announcement of a stringent new publishing law for online content and a visit by the country’s increasingly powerful leader to several state-run media headquarters is but the latest chilling sign of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to exert increasing control over society, analysts say.

    But, it also highlights the limits of that authority as well.

    From academia to culture, technology and science, the party is looming large, casting an ever-expanding shadow.

    Since rising to power nearly three years ago, Xi Jinping has exerted increasing control over society, cracking down on dissidents and detaining anyone perceived to be a threat to stability in the view of the Communist Party.

    FILE - A man holds an iPhone as he visits Sina's Weibo (China's version of Twitter) microblogging site in Shanghai.
    FILE - A man holds an iPhone as he visits Sina's Weibo (China's version of Twitter) microblogging site in Shanghai.

    Xi wants music and art to reflect Chinese socialist values, and late last year, the party even ordered its own members to not play golf, meet alone and criticize the party.

    When Xi visited the headquarters of party-backed media organizations late last week, flanked by a group of other older men, all donning the same bland wind jacket, the message to editors and reporters was similar: they must pledge absolute loyalty to the party and closely follow its leadership in "thought, politics and action.''

    Some who work for state-run media say the visit highlights just how bad things have become since Xi came to power. “While there used to be some room to maneuver and do our work, now there is little room left at all,” said one source who did not want to be named.

    Serve public or party?

    On social media, the visit has sparked a backlash from some, led by prominent commentator and real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, who is also known by his nickname “Big Cannon.”

    In a post that was later taken down, Ren argued that it was the public, not the party leadership, that such media organizations should serve; especially since they get their funding from taxpayers.

    A quote from former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping was also making the rounds on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, as many voiced concerns about recent moves even as the party is seeking to tighten its chokehold on speech.

    “The one thing a revolutionary party does not need to worry about is its inability to hear the voice of the people. The thing to be feared the most is silence," a tweet of the Deng quote read.

    In response, one user who goes by the name “Zhang Wenwen’s Little Friend” wrote: “I feel like our country is heading in a bad direction and that if we go any further there may be no turning back. I hope I am wrong.”

    FILE - A book featuring a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials on the cover, is showed at the entrance of the closed Causeway Bay Bookstore in Hong Kong, Feb. 5, 2016.
    FILE - A book featuring a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials on the cover, is showed at the entrance of the closed Causeway Bay Bookstore in Hong Kong, Feb. 5, 2016.


    History repeats itself

    Others such as Lu Zheng the Brave saw the situation from a historical perspective. Many of China’s current leaders, including Xi, grew up during China’s disastrous and deadly Cultural Revolution era.

    Xi’s own father was jailed during the period.

    “Now it is those who were victimized during the Cultural Revolution who are using those same methods to victimize others,” Lu Zheng wrote.

    Chinese historian and political commentator Zhang Lifan said that while the government can crackdown and tighten up things for a while, ultimately things will loosen up again, adding that social media is especially difficult to control.

    Zhang said that right now there is a fierce battle going on between two camps, the party and private media, and it is clear that the party has lost control.

    “The leadership is trying to dominate the battle for public opinion,” Zhang said. “But right now it is a situation where each side is just voicing its own views. The public on the other hand, does not believe the government’s propaganda, and just searches out information on its own.”

    Online content controls

    The new publishing law, the details of which that were revealed just days before Xi’s visit to the media outlets, goes into effect on March 10. The law requires digital publishers of everything from scientific to cultural content and online games to seek approval before they can operate online.

    One hurdle includes permission from a total of 32 propaganda departments in all of China’s provinces, municipalities and special administrative regions.​

    And that is just one of a lengthy list of requirements, in addition to information about the publishing companies financial records, professional experience of its managers and a place of business.

    How tightly the rules will be enforced is a big question as is the possible impact the rules could have on foreign firms. What several analyst noted is that the law appears to be aimed at closing existing loopholes that exist online for publishing and online games.

    “This is similar to a regulation last year targeting online videos/ foreign TV shows, they closed a loophole allowing streaming shows/self-produced videos without pre-approval from the governments,” said Percy Alpha, an independent Internet freedom researcher.

    FILE - Computer users sit near a monitor display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the Internet at an Internet cafe in Beijing, China.
    FILE - Computer users sit near a monitor display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the Internet at an Internet cafe in Beijing, China.

    He said that gaming is a natural step forward to tighten controls, but adds that it appears to be more aimed at control, rather than creating barriers for competition as foreign cloud services are already blocked.

    “There will be loop holes,” Alpha adds. “However, the law will have more of a chilling effect to make those [with] relevant content self-comply [or self-censor] before publication."

    Publishers who violate the lengthy regulations could be banned from the sector for up to 10 years, and that’s a huge career incentive for self-censorship.

    Foreign ban
     
    So far, the new publishing law has sparked the biggest concerns from foreign media because of its ban of foreign companies – even those in joint ventures – from producing content online.

    Whether that means that content produced by foreign media could not be published or sold online, or whether foreigners or Chinese alike can purchase and download electronic books from sites such as Kindle or even play online games on the Steam gaming website is unclear.

    “What’s new about this, in my view the most important thing, is that it includes provisions on the fact that publications that are going to be offered for sale on the Chinese Internet will have to be stored on Chinese servers,” said Rogier Creemers, a lecturer of politics and history of China at Oxford University.

    Creemers said that while there will be huge questions about legality and enforcement powers, the regulations are not necessarily a big change for domestic publishers, but “an extension to the Internet of a situation that existed for quite a long time.”

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Wangchuk from: NY
    February 25, 2016 10:44 AM
    Freedom of speech & media freedom is not respected by the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP imprisons journalists, internet bloggers, and political dissidents simply because of their speech or writings. The CCP doesn't respect the constitutional rights of its citizens.

    by: Frankie Leung from: Los Angeles
    February 25, 2016 1:00 AM
    This kind of draconian control has not been implemented since 1981. It may even get worse.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora