If China's recent record surge in loan creation, and its revision of a key PBOC capital outflow "data" wasn't sufficient proof that the world's second largest economy is on the verge of panic, then the explicit propaganda directive issued to the the local press by China's president Xi Jinping late on Friday should certainly seal it.
As SCMP reports, according to a commentary published by a leading mouthpiece online "having public opinions that are different from the official ones will shake the foundation of the rule of the Communist party and the country."
Xiakedao, a social media account operated by the overseas edition of People’s Daily, said in a commentary on Friday’s high-profile tour by President Xi Jinping to the three largest state media outlets – People’s Daily, Xinhua and Central China Television — "that the party was alarmed by how different public opinion is from official media."
Sure enough, it is time to remind "public opinion" influenced largely by the unofficial media who is boss.
There are two spheres for opinions — official and unofficial media. The latter refers to social media or means of communications not controlled by the party.
“Information dissemination is diversified and fragmented. A real army is no rival of the guerilla (opinions spreading on social media). It becomes a crisis of traditional media,” the commentary said. “Official and unofficial opinions are very different … and even contradictory,” it said.
Unofficial opinions are different because what the public experiences is different from what is described by official media.
Perhaps that is because the "unofficial opinions" tend to reflect reality, not the communist party's communist ivory tower which over the past few months have been dangerously shaking.
And in the starkest warning to the uncontrolled media to toe the party lines, the Friday commentary warned that “if the gap lasts, it will erode the legitimacy of the rule, and distabilise the root of the party and the state,” it said.
In other words, China is worried that popular anger and negative sentiment is starting to stir especially after the recent economic troubles, and that those who dare to promote an objective version of reality will likely be promptly quieted.
As SCMP notes, "the commentary said making sure that public and official opinions did not deviate was important, especially when China is facing economic downturn."
“As China’s economy slows, theories about the threat of China, the collapse of China and how China drags down the world’s economy are on the rise. How to prove they are false?”
It did not elaborate how to bridge the gap except to say that state media should be in touch with the public. But in what is seen as a political signal that the party would further tightened its grip on media, Xi said in a speech that all news outlets and “genres” should strictly toe the party line.
And just like Friday's decision to eliminate a key FX outflow tracking data set, China is now openly declaring war on anyone who dares to even suggest that not all may be well in China. A separate commentary by Xinhua yesterday said that controlling public opinion was essential for a a ruling party: “With one hand we grab the guns; with the other we grab the pens,” it said. “Mobilising public opinion is the great tradition of our party.”
And while such periodic clampdowns on the local media are endemic to the country which reminds everyone now and then that it is a communist bastion where insubordination will not be tolerated, the fact that it comes just days after Japan went "Full Goebbels" with a "Government Crack Down On Media Over Negative Economic Reporting" is sufficient proof that something very bad is afoot if the economic truth is now grounds for imprisonment Asia's two largest economies.
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Below are some excerpts from the Xinhua piece, indicative of what will happen in the US once the First Amendment is eliminated, and fringe websites are quieted. Don't worry about the U.S. mainstream media though: it already reports only what its biggest advertisers and shareholders demand.
BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday ordered news media run by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government to strictly follow the Party's leadership and focus on "positive reporting."
Speaking in a symposium Friday afternoon after touring China's three leading news providers, the People's Daily, Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television, Xi, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, called Party- and government-run news outlets the "publicity fronts" of the party and the government.
All news media run by the Party must work to speak for the Party's will and its propositions and protect the Party's authority and unity, Xi said.
They should enhance their awareness to align their ideology, political thinking and deeds to those of the CPC Central Committee and help fashion the Party's theories and policies into conscious action by the general public while providing spiritual enrichment to the people, he said.
Marxist journalistic education must be promoted among journalists, Xi added, to make them "disseminators of the Party's policies and propositions, recorders of the time, promoters of social advancement and watchers of equality and justice."
According to Xi, the mission of the Party's media work is to provide guidance for the public, serve the country's overall interests, unite the general public, instill confidence and pool strength, tell right from wrong and connect China to the world.
To do so, Xi continued, they should also stick to guiding public opinion on the correct path in every aspect and stage of their work.
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And here is where Excel would #Ref! out:
"Truthfulness is the life of journalism, and the facts must be reported based on the truth," Xi said. "While accurately reporting individual facts, journalists must also grasp and reflect the overall situation of an event from a broad view."
Yes, this is from the same commentary in which the CPC demands the media only engage in "positive reporting."
Finally, the piece de resistance:
According to Xi, the journalism industry should accelerate its progress in fostering workers with firm political beliefs, outstanding professional skills, moral excellence and whom the Party and people can trust.
"Officials should improve their ability to interact with the media and make good use of it to publicize their policies and ideas, understand grassroots opinions, uncover conflicts and problems, guide public feelings, mobilize the people and push forward work in real life," Xi said.
Or, as Xinhua said just sentences prior, "report facts based on truth"... with a few exceptions.
And yes, everyone got the warning: Friday's symposium was attended by about 180 central media officials, Beijing municipal officials and representatives of central media groups.