A Chinese Government Official Exposes How the Forced Circulation of the "Party Newspapers" Spreads the Party's Propaganda
A Dajiyuan reporter (Chinese version of The Epoch Times) had a sincere talk with a Chinese government official who is in charge of ideology in China. The official disclosed how the mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party, the "Party's Newspapers" require subscription quotas in order spread the propaganda from the central government to the township and villages. For safety reasons, the official's name is withheld.
Official: We are in charge of things within the domain of ideology, including criticizing Falun Gong. In addition, newspaper subscription is also within the domain of ideology. Did you know this? Now it is the end of the year. We are very busy. Every province, city, county, and village is working on the circulation of the "Party's Newspapers" which refer to People's Daily, Economic Daily, and Qiushi Journal. A subscription quota is imposed on each province. Each province then imposes a quota on each city with designated provincial newspapers. Each city then imposes it on each county with designated city newspapers. It is imposed like this from one level to another. It is said that each level of the government can decide whether they subscribe to them or not, however, it is not allowed to not subscribe to them. The task is huge. Generally speaking, a township government must subscribe to more than 100,000 copies. It is a heavy burden for peasants. Furthermore, the readability of these newspapers is very low. They are usually about issues related to work, regardless of the levels. The major content is the same. But you have to subscribe to them.
Reporter: Many Chinese people say that it is enough to read just one of these newspapers to know what's in all of them.
Official: This is to maximally keep the same pace with the central government. Some officials at lower levels complain, "Since it is of no use, why do we have to do it?" When we have meetings with our subordinates, we explain it like this, "This is a political task. We don't have other options since the task from our supervisors is not small. If we cannot finish it, the image and work performance of our whole province and the whole city will be affected. For instance, every level of the government will invite a reporter from a big newspaper to have dinner at the end of the year and invite him to relax a bit in the ballroom after dinner, offering a lady (a prostitute) to him. When we stay on good terms with the reporters, this guarantees that he will report more about the work achievements of our province and of our cities."
Reporter: Do you come across many difficulties when imposing the subscription quotas for the Party's newspapers?
Official: It used to be very difficult. Now there is a policy from above: Every township, county, and city must make an effort to finish the subscription task by the end of the year. The task for a county is over 2 million. If you cannot finish the subscription task for the 2005's Party newspapers by December 31, 2004, the county committee's Party Secretary in charge and the Chief of Treasury Bureau will have to go to the capital city to attend a meeting, bringing checks with them. They will finish by transferring money there. Anyway, you have to subscribe to them. The governments at lower levels follow suit. In the end, there are so many newspapers that everyone can have one or two copies. There is a lot repetition in the newspapers of all levels. For example, what is in the first section of the provincial newspaper is also in the first section of the city newspaper. If Liaoning Daily publishes the news about Li Changchun's inspection in Liaoning Province, Shenyang Daily will have the same piece of news. People's Daily seems also to have the same in the first section. It is overlapped among the newspapers at all levels. It is of no use.
Reporter: What is the use of your controlling your subordinates to the point of being hypocritical?
Official: We have no alternatives since politics is all like this. When it is imposed from above, shouldn't the subordinates carry it out?
Reporter: Politics in other countries is not like this, is it?
Official: Of course, it is definitely not like this. Isn't this a dictatorship? For example, the first section of Shenyang Daily is for the content about the Party Secretary and the Mayor. The news about their inspecting the subordinate levels must be the news in the first section. This is a rule. If the Party Secretary does not have any activities while the Mayor inspecting the lower levels, the report about the Mayor's inspection must be the first news in the first section. The activities of the main deputy Party Secretaries are also published in the first section but with smaller space. The second section carries the news about the deputy mayors and other officials such as Deputy Director of people's Congress and Vice Chairman of the Political Consultative Conference. It is of this nature. And it is regulated. In fact, what the officials say and how they say it are all the same. That is why it is said that Chinese newspapers and news reports on CCTV are of no value for reading and watching. The first twenty minutes of the news report on CCTV about the domestic news is always the same. There is a big harvest somewhere and there is a prominent achievement in reform somewhere. The news before this is arranged according to the officials' positions in the standing committee such as who is meeting whom. Of course, the general party secretary is always the first one. The rest are arranged according to their position in the standing committee, regardless of the importance of the activities. Only the international news has some content from abroad. The newspapers are the same. There is no use reading the first part. It is all done in the same manner. All these are unwritten rules.
Reporter: Why don't you wake up and why do you still do the same thing when you have reached such a point? Don't you think that you are deceiving yourself? I think the Communist Party is already on shaky ground.
Official: It is true that it's on shaky ground. However, we have to keep our jobs. For example, we have to write those articles saying that there is a big foreign trade development in a certain city and a certain city's economy has moved to a new level, the peasants have benefited, and so forth.
When speaking of international media's reports on some rebellious incidents in China, the official said that he did not want to listen to these things. Often, there are hundreds of people appealing at the gate of government buildings.
Reporter: I know you have "The Premier's reception day, The Mayor's reception day, and The County Magistrate's reception day." Do they meet people who are appealing?
Official: Yes, they do. They basically shift responsibility as much as they can when the matter is small. They may look after the bigger things. However, most of the things are small conflicts associated with economic benefits. What you call "violent rebellion" is called "conflicts between officials and the public" by us. The relationship between officials and the public is very tense in China. Everyone knows this. There is a document called "Notes on News Reporting" in China stipulating that any report on group violence, rebellious incidents, and appealing must be approved by a certain level of government officials and must match reports by the Xinhua News Agency. Even one word more is not allowed. You cannot report it even if you know it. You must get approval first. Only when the higher officials say yes, can you report it. And you must report it exactly the same as Xinhua News Agency does.
Reporter: Does the reporter feel guilty as a journalist when doing this?
Official: (Laughing) They are, after all, better off than the peasants. The peasants don't even have enough to eat, do they?
Reporter: No, they don't. How can you ignore this when you see that they don't have enough clothes and food while the corrupt officials commit crimes?
Official: We have no options. If you stand up to show sympathy to them, the day you stand up is the day you lose your livelihood. Then you will be in the same boat they are, at best. The worst case is that they put you in jail.
Reporter: I recommend that you read "Nine Articles Commenting on the Communist Party" published in our Dajiyuan Newspaper (Epoch Times). It comments on the basis of Communist Party's ideology. Although you are a Party member, you cannot be always deceived by lies from the Party.
Official: The articles we write every day are lies. Of course I know this. I am clearer about this than you are. But we have no alternative.
Reporter: You write articles to deceive yourself as well as others. Wouldn't you say that you have committed huge crimes?
Official: Of course, I don't believe what I write. So I cannot deceive myself. Nor do others believe it. For example, the peasants don't believe it. Nor do they read it. There are two classical sayings in Chinese: "He who has been written about reads it. He who has written it reads it." Except for these two kinds of people, no one else reads it. For example, if I write about someone's good deeds, some great things, or the government of one level serving the public, whoever the leader was that I wrote about will read it. He reads what I write and he also reads what he writes. Another person reads what he writes. Others won't read it. As soon as it is printed out, it becomes waste paper.
Reporter: You think that nobody reads it, but some people will read it. In China, lies are accumulated level by level. When there are too many lies and everyone spreads lies like this, people at the bottom will take them as truth. Don't you think it is not worthwhile to spend your life lying?
Official: Not worthwhile? What can you do about it even if it is not worthwhile? What do you think we can do under such circumstances?
Reporter: Many Chinese people think the same as you do, which has led to your cynicism.
Official: This is the inferior quality of human nature. That is, one can only speak for others when his life is safe.
Reporter: You said that Chinese people are just holding on to their lives. I don't think they are just doing that. Your living standards have become higher and higher. What extent has the pursuit of material goods reached? What kind of mess has it created between men and women? To my knowledge, capitalism in foreign countries in the world hasn't yet reached this point. Is it the issue of not having enough to eat? It is far beyond that. People have fallen prey to the pursuit of material gain.
Official: There is a part of the people who are like that. My human nature is very kind.
Reporter: Is it? I hope so! However, don't do bad things. What you have written is not based on facts, is it?
Official: There are some facts. It is the same as yours (He refers to Dajiyuan.) For example, you write a bit when there is no such thing. You expand it when there is such a thing. You change an individual's benefits to a group's benefits. An article is created when you just change a little.
Reporter: (Laughing) When did we (Dajiyuan) ever do this? We are always truthful. If we violate this principle, our conscience will feel disturbed. We are a media in a democratic country. If we tell lies, nobody will read our paper, nor can we survive. You should stop writing those lies. You have fabricated so many lies to deceive people. Without mentioning other things, let's say how many Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted to death by the Party when your lies are everywhere? If there is a final trial on this some day, can you say that you did not disappoint your conscience and higher beings?
Official: (Thinking) Well, in the future, I have to be responsible to society to the best of my ability.