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China plans to ban private sector involvement in media, publishing and online platforms – Radio Free Asia

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The ruling Communist Party of China (CCP) has presented plans to ban private investment in media, as part of an ongoing program of regulatory changes aimed at strengthening state control over the private sector.

As part of the proposed changes to the rules published on its official website on October 8, the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) said it was seeking public opinion on adding investments from the sector. private in the media to a list of prohibited investments.

The list, which is intended to apply to all of China without local variation, requires that “organizations without public sector investment should not engage in activities involving the collection, editing or dissemination of information. “.

Banned organizations would include news agencies, newspaper publishing groups, radio or television broadcasters and online news providers, publishing services or publishers, he said.

The recommendation was signed by the State Administration of Radio, Cinema and Television and the General Administration of Press and Publications, as well as the Cyberspace Administration.

Private investors are also prohibited from investing in political, economic, military or diplomatic organizations, and in “the main social, cultural, technological, health, education, sports and other services”.

In particular, there should be no involvement of the private sector in “political orientation and public opinion or values ​​orientation”, according to the proposed list of prohibited investments.

Previously, GAPP was simply responsible for “guiding and regulating” private sector participation in press and publications.

A retired Shanxi University professor nicknamed Luo said the central government no longer trusted the private sector to provide its brand of ideological advice to the general public.

“The government makes sure it controls its message – it won’t hand the pen to anyone else,” Luo said. “He wants a dominant voice to reign over everything.”

“The message is very clear: do not play with the media and do not try to do anything related to them,” he said.

A woman climbs an escalator in front of a movie promotion poster for
A woman walks past an escalator in front of a poster promoting “The Battle of Changjin Lake”, a blockbuster Korean War film, at a Beijing shopping mall on October 11, 2021. Credit: AFP

‘Brainwashing’

Beijing-based news commentator Zhang Tianqi said the CCP under Secretary-General Xi Jinping has continuously tightened its control over public speaking and the media since Xi took power in 2012.

“This is not surprising, because it will promote more brainwashing of the population,” Zhang said.

“They used both military force and propaganda to regain power in 1949, and the media, the power of the pen, has remained a very important pillar of the regime ever since,” he said.

Private capital was banned from investing in the media as early as 2005, but the ban was overturned by then-president Hu Jintao, and then by Premier Wen Jiabao in an attempt to make the media mainstream. more appealing to readers who increasingly turn to online platforms for their news and the like. content.

“Ten years ago, Hu and Wen allowed private sector investment in media because they believed it could save mainstream media,” Zhang said.

Li Guangman, columnist and former editor-in-chief of trade publication Central China Electric Power, said in an online editorial that the move was part of the “deep revolution” he spoke about in August.

Li, whose essay on Xi Jinping’s abandonment of pro-market policies of the past four decades propelled him to instant glory in China, said proposed changes would eliminate “capitalists” from news and other media content Chinese.

“It’s very wise,” he wrote on October 11. “Once the list is published and implemented, we will see profound and significant changes in the news media in this country.”

Li’s previous essay indicated that the CCP launched a “profound revolution” with its crackdown on celebrity culture, billionaires and the private sector in general, citing Beijing’s blocking of the initial public offering (IPO) of ‘Ant Financial in New York in late 2020, as well as as an ongoing investigation into the business operations of the Didi Chuxing rideshare app.

“This represents a return to the original goals of the CCP… and to the essence of socialism. This revolution will remove all the dirt, ”Li wrote at the time.

A critic of a propaganda film arrested

Banning private sector investment in media would also ensure that there is no way for a “cultural elite” to control public opinion, or for foreign venture capital to gain a foothold in the sector, a Li writes about the ban.

Li said the ban was closely linked to the decision to prosecute outspoken former editor Luo Changping for defaming revolutionary martyrs in online comments on a wartime propaganda blockbuster backed by the CCP titled “The Battle of Changjin Lake”.

Luo, 40, was arrested by police in the southern island province of Hainan on Thursday, suspected of having “damaged the reputation of heroes and martyrs,” state television channel CCTV reported.

His detention came after he criticized the film’s description of China’s role in the Korean War (1950-1953).

“The police will conduct a rigorous investigation and punish” Luo’s actions, CCTV said.

Feng Chongyi, professor of political science at Sydney University of Technology, said Luo’s detention sends a message that the CCP will not tolerate any criticism of the official party ideology.

“This kind of brainwashing means that you are not allowed to criticize or argue with anything,” Feng said. “If you do, you will be besieged by all [pro-CCP] little roses or fifty centers, and the state could sue you through the law enforcement system. “

An online commentator who only gave the last name Chen said that the CCP expects its propaganda films to be considered gospel and these films to be considered official canon.

“Propaganda films like The Battle of Changjin Lake … expose what will become political correctness in official propaganda,” Chen said. “Anyone who undermines this political correctness and [questions the] the general direction of propaganda will bring the full force of the criminal system to bear on them. “

Luo Changping is a former chief reporter of Daily business in China, former editor-in-chief of the substantive reports section of the Beijing News, and former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Caijing magazine.

In 2013, it won a Transparency International Integrity Award.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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