XI JINPING’S CRACKDOWN ON THE MEDIA AND ARTS
Xi Jinping officially became the leader of China in 2013.Jonathan Kaiman wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “President Xi Jinping has overseen what experts have called China's most intense crackdown on freedom of speech and civil society in decades: Authorities have closed scores of nongovernmental organizations and detained hundreds of critics and activists, further tightening the already limited space for free expression. The country's independent film scene has been particularly hard-hit. Last year, authorities shut down China's most prominent film festival, the Beijing Independent Film Festival, for the first time in its 11-year history. [Source: Jonathan Kaiman, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2015]
Michael Forsythe wrote in the New York Times: “In China under President Xi Jinping, journalists who stray from the Communist Party’s official line are increasingly being muzzled as part of a widespread crackdown on civil society that has led to human rights lawyers and feminists being imprisoned, influential bloggers having their social media accounts deleted and professors being told to limit the use of foreign textbooks. The Communist Party is increasingly intolerant of what it calls “historical nihilism” that tarnishes its stewardship of the nation. [Source: Michael Forsythe, New York Times, February 16, 2016]
Hannah Beech wrote in Time, “China’s journalists are subject to intense censorship, with editors receiving daily directives on what topics have been deemed taboo. Self-censorship is rampant. While a few enterprising newspapers gained fame for their muckraking after the turn of the century, their exposés have waned in recent years, as liberal editors have been sacked and investigative reporters punished. In 2015, China had the largest number of journalists behind bars of any nation, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Several imprisoned reporters have been paraded on state TV to confess to their purported crimes. [Source: Hannah Beech, Time, February 19, 2016 ++]
Geremie R. Barmé is a professor of Chinese history at the Australian National University, told the New York Times: “There is no doubt that the threnody of the era of “Big Daddy Xi,” as the official media call” Xi Jinping, “is boredom. The lugubrious propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan, the Internet killjoy Lu Wei and Xi himself have together cast a pall over Chinese cultural and intellectual life. At the same time, the party-state is at pains to extol homegrown innovation and creativity. ..Perhaps one of the challenges China poses to our understanding of narratives of development, progress and modernity is that innovative change may well also be possible, if not flourish, under postmodern authoritarianism. Or does one just pickpocket innovation from elsewhere and use state-controlled hyperbole to lay claim to creativity?
[Source: Jane Perlez, Sinosphere, New York Times,, November 8, 2015]
Xi Jinping and the End of Openness?
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “As China ejects Western ideas, Xi is trying to fill that void with an affirmative set of ideas to offer at home and abroad. The most surprising thing about the era of Xi Jinping is the decision to close off the margins—those minor mutinies and indulgences that used to be tolerated as a way to avoid driving China’s most prosperous and well-educated citizens abroad. For years, the government tacitly allowed people to gain access to virtual private networks, or V.P.N.s, which allow users to reach Web sites that are blocked in China. The risks seemed manageable; most Chinese users had less interest in politics than in reaching a celebrity’s Instagram feed (Instagram, like Facebook, Twitter, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Times, is blocked). [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, April 6, 2015 ^^^]
Keeping them open, the theory went, allowed sophisticated users to get what they wanted or needed—for instance, researchers accessing Google Scholar, or businesses doing transactions—while preventing the masses from employing technology that worries the Party. But on January 23rd, while I was in Beijing, the government abruptly blocked the V.P.N.s, and state media reiterated that they were illegal. Overnight, it became radically more difficult to reach anything on the Internet outside China. Before the comments were shut down on the Web site Computer News, twelve thousand people left their views. “What are you afraid of?” one asked. “Big step toward becoming a new North Korea,” another wrote. Another wrote: “One more advertisement for emigration.”
“A decade ago, the Chinese Internet was alive with debate, confession, humor, and discovery. Month by month, it is becoming more sterilized and self-contained. To the degree that China’s connection to the outside world matters, the digital links are deteriorating. Voice-over-Internet calls, viral videos, podcasts—the minor accessories of contemporary digital life—are less reachable abroad than they were a year ago. It’s an astonishing thing to observe in a rising superpower. How many countries in 2015 have an Internet connection to the world that is worse than it was a year ago? ^^^
“The General Secretary, in his capacity as Big Uncle Xi, has taken to offering advice on nonpolitical matters: last fall, he lamented an overly “sensual” trend in society. (In response, Chinese auto executives stopped having lightly clad models lounge around vehicles at car shows.) In January, he urged people to get more sleep, “however enthusiastic you may be about the job,” saying that he goes to bed before midnight. Online, people joked that it seemed implausible: since taking office, Xi has acquired heavy bags under his eyes and a look of near-constant irritation. For a generation, the Communist Party forged a political consensus built on economic growth and legal ambiguity. Liberal activists and corrupt bureaucrats learned to skirt (or flout) legal boundaries, because the Party objected only intermittently. Today, Xi has indicated that consensus, beyond the Party élite, is superfluous—or, at least, less reliable than a hard boundary between enemies and friends. ^^^
“It is difficult to know precisely how much support Xi enjoys. Private pollsters are not allowed to explicitly measure his public support, but Victor Yuan, the president of Horizon Research Consultancy Group, a Beijing polling firm, told me, “We’ve done some indirect research, and his support seems to be around eighty per cent. It comes from two areas: one is the anticorruption policy and the other is foreign policy. The area where it’s unclear is the economy. People say they’ll have to wait and see.” ^^^
“The era of Xi Jinping has defied the assumption that China’s fitful opening to the world is too critical and productive to stall. The Party today perceives an array of threats that, in the view of He Weifang, the law professor, will only increase in the years ahead. Before the Web, the professor said, “there really weren’t very many people who were able to access information from outside, so in Deng Xiaoping’s era the Party could afford to be a lot more open.” But now, if the Internet were unrestricted, “I believe it would bring in things that the leaders would consider very dangerous.” ^^^
“Like many others... He Weifang worries that the Party is narrowing the range of acceptable adaptation to the point that it risks uncontrollable change. I asked him what he thinks the Party will be like in ten or fifteen years. “I think, as intellectuals, we must do everything we can to promote a peaceful transformation of the Party—to encourage it to become a ‘leftist party’ in the European sense, a kind of social-democratic party.” That, he said, would help its members better respect a true system of law and political competition, including freedom of the press and freedom of thought. “If they refuse even these basic changes, then I believe China will undergo another revolution.” ^^^
On the closing of the Chinese mind, China scholar Willy Wo-Lap Lam told the New York Times: “It applies to ordinary people, including high school and college students, intellectuals and others. You can see it in developments like the party’s Central Document No. 9, which forbids college professors from talking about seven taboo subject matters. Xi has sponsored new legislation on state secrets and national security to crack down harder on dissidents, human rights lawyers and NGO activists. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, June 2, 2015]
Xi Jinping’s Clampdown on the Media and Dissent
Rogier Creemers of Oxford University wrote: “When he took over as General Secretary, Xi Jinping found a Party and a state in chaos: corruption had become endemic, and the Party organization was still reeling from the Bo Xilai fallout. Social media and the Internet had severely challenged the Party’s ability to manage information. Observers both inside and outside China denounced Hu Jintao’s tenure as a “lost decade”, and that democratization and openness had become an inevitable necessity for China’s further development. [Source: Rogier Creemers, “Ideology Matters: Parsing Recent Changes in China’s Intellectual Landscape”, February 8, 2015. Creemers is a Rubicon Scholar at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, an Associate at the China Centre of Oxford University /=/]
“Rather than catering to these demands, however, Xi has methodically neutralized opposition across the political spectrum. When liberal reformers called for “constitutional governance” (xianzheng) at the end or 2012, the leadership countered with Document No. 9, another secret circular that identified seven crucial ideological dangers, including the promotion of Western constitutionalism, universal values, civil society, neoliberal economics, freedom of the press, historical nihilism and challenging Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Internet and the academy were singled out as the two main venues where these ideological risks materialized. /=/
“The Internet was targeted first. In the second half of 2013, a protracted crackdown took down the online celebrities and opinion leaders that had become known as Big Vs. New regulations imposed jail sentences on the publication of harmful information, if it were retweeted more than 500 times. This vastly reduced the attraction of public communication forums such as Weibo, and hastened an exodus towards more private applications, most notably WeChat. The Internet governing order was consolidated in 2014 with the establishment of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs and the expansion of the Cyberspace Administration of China. Public WeChat accounts were put under stricter controls, real-name registration systems began to be more aggressively implemented across various areas, and online video and literature came under closer scrutiny. Concerns about foreign infiltration through computer software and hardware are currently being addressed through import substitution measures and security reviews. /=/
“Tackling the academy was thus the next logical step. According to the January Central Committee Document, universities are to put a higher priority on teaching (research is only mentioned insofar it concerns Marxist and Socialist theory), strengthen a common ideological basis and enhance Party leadership in higher education. Political theory courses and textbooks are to be centralized, and new evaluation and performance management systems introduced, in order to standardize the curriculum. Teaching staff will be required to participate in regular ideology training and study sessions, and to spend time engaging in “social practice” outside campuses. In the weeks since this document was published, the heads of all elite education institutions have published pledges of allegiance in various Party media.” /=/
Xi Jinping’s Media Policy
Hannah Beech wrote in Time, “Xi, who took the nation’s helm in late 2012, has called for China to protect its online sphere from unwanted foreign influences. He advocates national law trumping free flow of information across state borders — a concept known as Internet sovereignty. As the Chinese President steps up a crackdown on independent thinkers — Beijing has detained hundreds of lawyers, writers and NGO workers in recent months — his government has also railed against so-called Western values, like freedom of the press and a vigorous civil society. Chinese universities have been warned against allowing such pernicious foreign values to infect young minds. Meanwhile, the People’s Daily has increased its coverage of the Chinese leader, whose front-page mentions have far eclipsed those of his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, according to a survey by the University of Hong Kong’s China Media Project.” [Source: Hannah Beech, Time, February 19, 2016 ++]
Edward Wong wrote in New York Times: “Under Mr. Xi, there has been a steady rollout of policies aimed at tightening control of every aspect of the media, including social networks, films and books.... Mr. Xi’s policy has been building piecemeal. In 2013, the government began requiring all Chinese journalists to take a test in order to get their press cards renewed, with the aim, among other things, of getting news gatherers to “uphold the Marxist journalistic ideals more consciously.” That year, China’s top legal bodies said the criminal charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” could apply to online speech. Since then, the authorities have used it as a cudgel to silence dissent on the Internet. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, February 22, 2016]
In several prominent cases, officials have persecuted journalists for everything from sharing information with foreigners to “spreading rumors” related to the stock markets and the economy. Chinese news organizations, including formerly adventurous and commercially driven ones like Southern Weekly, are toeing the line. People’s Daily has become a publicity machine for Mr. Xi. On one day in December, his name appeared in 11 of the 12 headlines on the front page.
“Some political analysts note that Mr. Xi’s attempts to impose total control over the media say as much about his personal insecurities as they do about any Marxist-Leninist ideological vision that he holds. “The most important thing is for him to announce his absolute authority,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian. “He doesn’t feel effective and confident in dealing with problems, and he lacks a sense of security.” Mr. Zhang added, “He worries the Chinese Communist Party will lose political power, and he also worries that his peers will shove him from his position.”
Xi Jinping: Media Must Serve the Party
in February 2016,Edward Wong wrote in New York Times: “The Chinese news media covered President Xi Jinping’s most recent public appearances with adulation befitting a demigod. Front-page headlines across the nation trumpeted Mr. Xi’s visits to the headquarters of the three main Communist Party and state news organizations. Photographs showed fawning journalists crowding around Mr. Xi, who sat at an anchor’s desk at the state television network. One media official wrote the president an adoring poem. The blanket coverage reflected the brazen and far-reaching media policy announced by Mr. Xi on his choreographed tour: The Chinese news media exists to serve as a propaganda tool for the Communist Party, and it must pledge its fealty to Mr. Xi. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, February 22, 2016 ]
Though the party has been tightening its control over the media since Mr. Xi became the top leader in late 2012, the new policy removes any doubt that in the view of the president and party chief, the media should be first and foremost a party mouthpiece. Mr. Xi wants to push the party’s message domestically — and internationally — across all media platforms, including advertising and entertainment, scholars say. That is a shift from his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who stressed the need for the state-run media to become more responsive to the modern digital environment and shape or channel public opinion. “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,” Mr. Xi told the gathered media officials, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.
“Mr. Xi’s appearances were another major effort in his campaign to build a personality cult that equates him with the well-being of the party and the nation. The act of biao tai, or pledging loyalty, by newsroom leaders was one that Mr. Xi has demanded of military leaders and other important figures. That tightening of control has come as Mr. Xi faces pressure about China’s economy, partywide corruption and widespread public frustration over pollution and environmental degradation.
“An essay in China Daily, the official English-language newspaper, offered an explanation about why Mr. Xi was unveiling his policy now. “It is necessary for the media to restore people’s trust in the party, especially as the economy has entered a new normal and suggestions that it is declining and dragging down the global economy have emerged,” the essay said. “The nation’s media outlets are essential to political stability, and the leadership cannot afford to wait for them to catch up with the times,” it said.
“Mr. Xi’s new policy came about because “despite the continuing tightening of control of the media over the last three years, Xi is not fully assured that the state media, even the most central ones such as Xinhua and CCTV, are fully under his control,” said Xiao Qiang, a scholar in Berkeley, Calif., who researches the party’s information control. David Bandurski, the editor of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, said that “under Xi Jinping, the centrality of the party is explicit for every single medium.” “I think the sense is, ‘We own you, we run you, we tell you how things work,’ ” he said. “‘The party is the center, and you serve our agenda.’ This is much more central now, and it’s being defined for all media platforms, from social media to commercial media.”
“Articles on Mr. Xi’s policy speech, which was not immediately released in full, said the president also demanded that journalists and news organizations “strictly adhere to the news viewpoint of Marxism” and “raise high the banner” — phrases that mean advancing the interests of the party. On Monday, in a sign of how officials were embracing Mr. Xi’s new policy, a website managed by the propaganda unit of the Beijing municipal party committee attacked a popular property tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, who had criticized Mr. Xi’s speech on Friday. The site accused Mr. Ren, a party member, of having “lost his party spirit” and “opposing the party” after he wrote on his microblog that the media should be serving the people and not the party. The posts by Mr. Ren have been deleted. Later, three editors were apparently punished at a newspaper that juxtaposed a headline outlining Mr. Xi’s message to the media with another about a funeral, possibly as a lament over the demise of aggressive news outlets in China. [Source: Austin Ramzy, Source: Sinosphere, New York Times, March 3, 2016]
Mr. Xi also wants to curb the presence of foreign media companies. Hannah Beech wrote in Time, The new rules, “if read literally, could block any foreign or joint-venture company from publishing online content “of informational or thoughtful nature” within mainland China without prior government approval. I [Source: Hannah Beech, Time, February 19, 2016 ++]
“Mr. Xi’s directives would also make it harder for foreign governments to determine which Chinese journalists operating in their countries are legitimate news gatherers and which ones are agents serving propaganda, intelligence or other official interests. The major party and state-run news organizations have been greatly expanding their operations overseas, including in the United States.”
Xi Jinping’s Revisions of History
Sophia Yan wrote in The Telegraph: “Under Mr Xi, China has embarked on a campaign to recast history by deleting past mistakes from the official narrative – mass famine under Chairman Mao; the Tiananmen Square massacre when the Chinese military killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989. “More recently, China has glossed over its cover-up in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, instead focusing on Mr Xi’s leadership in the “people’s war” against the pandemic. “Efforts to stamp out what China deems “historical nihilism” are part of Mr Xi’s push to ensure the party has at least another 100 years to go, and for his legacy as leader will be remembered. [Source: Sophia Yan, The Telegraph, July 1, 2021]
Pamela Kyle Crossley, a history professor at Dartmouth, wrote in Foreign Policy: Xi Jinping is directing a vast ideological war across multiple theaters—politics, culture, ethics, economy, strategy, and foreign relations. Among its most intense flashpoints is historiography, particularly of China’s last empire, the Qing, which ruled from 1636 to 1912. Historians, whether foreign or domestic, who resist Xi’s determination to design a past that serves his ideology have been targeted repeatedly by state propaganda organs. [Source: Pamela Kyle Crossley, Foreign Policy, January 29, 2019]
“American historians, particularly, produced a narrative of the Qing as a conquest empire of global prominence, with not only power and wealth but also with the usual dynamics of violence (including genocide), hierarchy, and marginalized cultural identities. They noted that before its conquest of China the Qing was already an empire of considerable size, controlling Manchuria (including the former Ming province of Liaodong, roughly corresponding to the modern province of Liaoning) and dominating eastern Mongolia and Korea; they argued that that even after the conquest of China, Qing imperial government continued to show deep traces of its origins in Manchuria. They used documents from all the empire’s languages, including Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uighur—not just Chinese. They emphasized that the empire had grown to twice the size of its Ming predecessor by means of conquest—indirectly ruling Mongolia and Tibet, imposing an expensive military occupation regime on Xinjiang, and for the first time incorporating Taiwan into an empire based in China.
“Xi’s strategy in remixing history is to draw selectively from the Nationalist and Communist historiographies, throw in some volatile nationalism, and resolutely suppress the implications of the new globalized and comparative historiography. The primary historical design shop is the Party History Research Office of the CCP Central Committee. Through this mouthpiece, Chinese historians are instructed that a history of Qing conquest incites separatist movements in Xinjiang and Tibet, and in Taiwan it encourages those seeking formal independence for the island. Instead of an empire of conquest, Xi has rewritten Qing as a cultural and economic behemoth that awed and charmed the populations of Mongolia, Tibet, Central Asia, and Taiwan into happy submission.
“Consequently, one of the first orders of business for Xi’s new administration in 2013 was to mount virulent attacks upon foreign historians of the Qing (including me) that continue today. Foreign historians are derided as imperialists in a new guise; these researchers devalue the uniqueness of the Qing as a Chinese dynasty by comparing it to other empires and imply that overland conquest as a historical phenomenon is more significant than Chinese rule. Articles describe them as “historical nihilists”; their imperialist and cosmopolitan perspectives override historical fact. This idea that the full extent of Qing was reached naturally and peacefully is the source of China’s claims today to Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, and it is critical to its claims to the South China Sea. The underlying premise is that sovereign control of any territory is legitimated foremost by the historical geography of the nation that claims it.
“Yet no modern state today adheres to such unreliable and patently illegal principles of territorial legitimacy. Before the 17th century, no states anywhere had considered national sovereignty an absolute. The concept later spread via the European empires to the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Today, territorial borders are ratified by treaty and international recognition, not by extravagant and unverifiable historical claims. Nevertheless, only contiguous countries (the Soviet Union, India, Vietnam, and North Korea) have disputed Chinese land borders, and never on a significant scale. Neither the United States nor any European power has questioned Chinese control over former Qing territories within current Chinese boundaries. Tellingly, the most intense applications of these principles have occurred in relation to various areas of the South China Sea—and the sea is the one place where claims of historical Chinese rule can never be proved or even reasonably inferred."
Xi Jinping’s Crackdown on the Publishing Industry
In February 2106, government agencies announced a regulation that would prevent foreign companies from publishing and distributing content online in China. That could affect Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, among others. Edward Wong wrote in New York Times: “The latest such regulation, announced last week by two agencies, said that starting March 10, foreign companies — even ones that form joint ventures with Chinese partners — would not be allowed to publish and distribute online content. Many foreign publishers and producers of online content aimed at a Chinese audience are based overseas, but a handful have significant operations or joint ventures in China that may be in jeopardy, including Microsoft and Apple, which has a Chinese App Store. Amazon sells e-books in China and operates Amazon.cn. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, February 22, 2016 ]
Shanghai-based independent scholar and writer Jiang Danwen told RFA: "I think that the recent crackdown by the government on freedom of expression and on the publishing industry stems from the fact that they don't want there to be a wider understanding of history, of the truth, among their citizens," he said."At a time when more and more banned books are finding their way [into China], we can only say that the publishing industry and freedom of expression are going through some very hard times right now. It's a sign of growing centralized control over ideology." [Source: Xin Lin RFA, January 21, 2016 /+/]
Xi'an-based independent journalist Ma Xiaoming, who has previously worked for the party's propaganda department, told RFA Chinese censors are now starting to micromanage the publishing industry, although there is rarely a paper record of their bans. "I worked in the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda departments for a number of years, and this sort of crackdown is nearly always carried out through verbal orders," Ma said. "But it's not a question of people sitting in the propaganda department censoring stuff. There isn't a single form of mass media in China that isn't controlled by the party in the first place, so they don't need censoring. The people who work in them naturally protect the interests of the party." He said the authorities will clamp down hard if the publishing industry steps out of line, even in the case of a book...which has a small print run. "They have to make an example of it... in case it has a negative impact on the regime," Ma said. /+/
Xi Jinping Uses Book of Speeches to Attack “Plotting” Rivals
Reporting from a Beijing bookstore in January 2016, Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in the New York Times: “On the “new arrivals” shelf by the entrance” was “a book containing the first public and official declaration by President Xi Jinping of “political plot activities” by senior Communist Party officials “to wreck and split the party” — code words for a coup attempt, several Chinese analysts said. Its release was a signal, they said, that the challenge was over, that the party had agreed on what happened and that Mr. Xi wanted people to know that he had overcome his adversaries. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, January 27, 2016 =]
“Rather, it’s a sober collection of 200 extracts from more than 40 internal speeches and essays by Mr. Xi from 2012, when he rose to power, to late last year, according to the publisher, the party’s Central Documents Press. And it was selling quite well, a store clerk said. “Mostly people from groups and government organizations are buying it, not so much individuals,” she said. The book arrived on the shelves in mid-December, she said. =
“The pertinent extract is from a speech by Mr. Xi on Jan. 13, 2015, to the fifth full meeting of the current Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s anticorruption agency. The Chinese news media carried scattered reports of the speech last year, but publication in book form by an authoritative press makes it a statement of what China wants the world to know, said Liao Ran, a German-based employee of a nongovernmental anticorruption organization that he asked not be named because he was discussing this politically sensitive issue as an individual. =
“The speech shows that Mr. Xi believes he has vanquished his rivals, Mr. Liao said. “When you look back on these past years, he has dealt with all these challenges, so he’s superconfident,” he said. In the speech, Mr. Xi said: “From cases investigated over the past few years that involved serious violations of party discipline and the law by senior cadres, especially those of Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Xu Caihou, Ling Jihua and Su Rong, it can be seen that the problem of damaging party political discipline and rules was very serious and merited serious attention.” =
“The men Mr. Xi named have been the subject of rumors in China of plots to unseat him: Mr. Zhou, the former security chief; Mr. Bo, former party secretary of Chongqing; Mr. Xu, an army general, and Mr. Ling, a right-hand man of the former president, Hu Jintao. Mr. Su, who was deputy head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, was their associate. All five have been disgraced since 2012, either imprisoned for corruption and abuse of power or faced with similar charges. Mr. Xu died last year of cancer. “The greater these people’s power, the more important their position, the less seriously they took party discipline and political rules, to the point of recklessness and audaciousness!” Mr. Xi said. “Some had inflated political ambitions and for their personal gain or the gain of their clique carried out political plot activities behind the party’s back, carried out politically shady business to wreck and split the party!” =
“An anticorruption sweep ordered by Mr. Xi has led to thousands of officials being dismissed or otherwise punished since 2012. “Openly, they didn’t use the word ‘coup,’ ” said Ren Jianming, a professor at the School of Public Management at Beihang University. “But ‘plot activities’ and ‘wreck and split the party’ are coup activities, because it’s the ruling party.” “It was all very secret at the time,” he said, “and this is the first time they have officially published about it, so it’s very important.” The government has not disclosed any details of a plot. So is the “superconfident” Mr. Xi now safe? “One really can’t say ‘safe,’ ” Mr. Liao said. “There will be one challenge after the next. But this is a way of telling us he is extremely confident that he has the ability to overcome these challenges.” =
“Chilling” Threats Over Publishing a Book Critical of Xi Jinping
In February 2014, Chris Buckley of the New York Times wrote: “The exiled writer Yu Jie takes a bleak view of President Xi Jinping of China. In his latest book, still awaiting publication, Mr. Yu describes Mr. Xi as a thuggish politician driven by a dangerous compound of Maoist nostalgia and authoritarian, expansionist impulses. No wonder Mr. Yu’s jeremiad, “Godfather of China Xi Jinping,” has no chance of appearing in mainland Chinese bookstores. But Mr. Yu, who lives in Virginia, has said plans to publish the book have encountered worrisome hurdles in Hong Kong, the self-administered territory that preserved a robust tradition of free speech after returning to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. One Hong Kong publisher who planned to issue the book was arrested when he visited mainland China, and now a second has abandoned plans to publish it after receiving a menacing phone call, Mr. Yu said. [Source: Chris Buckley, Sinosphere, New York Times, February 19, 2014 ***]
“Mr. Yu left China in early 2012 after years of increasingly harsh surveillance and harassment by the police and by security guards hired by the government. He said the fate of his latest book reflected growing pressures from the Chinese government on writers and publishers, including on Hong Kong’s long-lively community of independent publishers and bookstores. Mr. Yu has published similarly damning books about China’s previous president, Hu Jintao, and a former prime minister, Wen Jiabao. “If this book can’t be published in Hong Kong, at a minimum, it demonstrates that freedom of press and publication in Hong Kong is in retreat,” Mr. Yu said in a telephone interview. “I argue that Xi Jinping’s entire approach is harsh repression at home and expansionism abroad, so China increasingly resembles a fascist state.” ***
“The Hong Kong publisher who first agreed to issue “Godfather of China Xi Jinping,” Yiu Mantin, was arrested on a visit to mainland China on charges of falsely labeling and smuggling bottles of industrial chemicals. But Mr. Yiu’s son, Edmond Yiu, said he believed the authorities’ real reason for the arrest was his father’s publishing work, including Mr. Yu’s planned book. Wu Yisan, another small Hong Kong publisher who then offered to issue the book, recently received a chilling phone call that has deterred him, Mr. Yu said. The author said he believed the call was made by, or with the approval of, security officials in Beijing, but he said he had no firm evidence. The publisher, Mr. Wu, did not answer repeated phone calls and an email. Mr. Wu has said he will not comment publicly on the matter, according to Mr. Yu. ***
Mr. Wu “received a telephone call saying very clearly that Beijing — the caller didn’t say whether it was from the authorities or from what department — thought the contents of the book were highly sensitive, and absolutely cannot be published,” according to Mr. Yu, citing an email from Mr. Wu. “The message was that if he went ahead with publication, then his personal safety and that of his family couldn’t be guaranteed,” Mr. Yu said. “His wife became extremely worried. His wife was adamantly opposed to publishing the book.” Mr. Yu said he still hoped to find a publisher in Hong Kong, among the several that have no business dealings or vulnerable family ties in mainland China. If that fails, he said, a publisher in Taiwan could issue the book there and prepare an edition for sale in Hong Kong. ***
“Many books about Communist Party politics published in Hong Kong are bought by mainland visitors who sneak them back to the mainland, despite the censorship and customs checks the ruling Communist Party uses to maintain an overwhelmingly positive view of leaders. If Mr. Yu’s book does appear, readers will find an unsparingly negative report card for Mr. Xi. ***
The title was inspired by Mr. Xi’s comment that as a young man he watched “The Godfather,” In an excerpt from the book that Mr. Yu sent by email, he wrote: “The Hollywood film ‘The Godfather’ is Xi Jinping’s political study guide. The Communist Party is China’s biggest Mafia, and the party boss Xi Jinping is the Godfather of China.” ***
Hong Kong Publisher Suspends Launch of Xi Jinping Book
Xi Jinping’s control of the publishing industry extends, it appears, into Hong Kong. In January 2016, a publisher in Hong Kong suspended the launch of dissident’s new book critical of Xi Jinping due to “fear and pressure”. Kris Cheng wrote in the HK Free Press: Yu Jie, a writer based in the US, wrote in an op-ed for Apple Daily that he finished the book “Xi Jinping’s Nightmare”... The book was a critique of the Xi regime. It would have been his second book on Xi, after China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping was published in 2014. “When I finished the draft, I had a discussion with Open, the company that published “China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping,” and we reached an initial agreement on publishing,” Yu said. “We completed preliminary work such as editing and cover design on it shortly before Christmas. It would start printing on New Year’s Day.” [Source: Kris Cheng, HK Free Press, January 12, 2016 |::|]
“On January 3, Yu received an email from Jin Zhong, chief editor of Open, that the publication of his book was to be suspended. “The difficulty of publishing political books in Hong Kong is already in the international spotlight. People in the industry are feeling great fear and pressure; they want to stay out of trouble so that they won’t be the next one [to disappear]. I received many calls from friends and family trying to persuade me. Because of that, we decided after much deliberation to suspend the publication of your work,” Jin wrote. “I sincerely ask for your understanding. We published “China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping,” but circumstances have changed, and I am not able to face the huge consequences,” Jin said, adding that he was “deeply sorry”. Jin confirmed to HKFP that the letter was his. |::|
“Jin’s concerns are not without precedent. Hong Kong publisher Lee Bo went missing on December 30. He is a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, which specialises in books on political gossip banned in the mainland. Yiu Man-tin, a Hong Kong publisher who had earlier planned to publish “China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping” was arrested in Shenzhen in October 2013 for “smuggling ordinary goods”. In May 2014 he was sentenced to ten years in jail. Jin Zhong then took over the publication of the book. |::|
“Yu says that he understood the unprecedented pressure and potential harm that publishers faced. He contacted five or six other Hong Kong publishers, but none were willing to publish Xi Jinping’s Nightmare. Yu says that the book will be published in Taiwan in late February, calling Taiwan the “last lighthouse of publishing freedom for ethnic Chinese society”. On whether the Taiwanese version will be available in Hong Kong bookstores, Yu says he is “not optimistic”. Yu, originally from Chengdu, is a prolific writer with more than 30 books to his name, including “China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao” – on the former Chinese premier – and other titles banned in China. He was under house arrest between 2010 and 2012 before he and his family emigrated to the US. “ |::|
Awful Poem About Xi Jinping Goes Viral in China
Pu Liye, a deputy director at China’s official Xinhua news agency, wrote a poem about Xi Jinping, apparently to mark his visit to the offices of Xinhua as well as those of the party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, and CCTV, the national broadcaster.[Source: Hannah Beech, Time, February 19, 2016 ++]
The poem goes:
General Secretary, your back and my gaze,
My eyes are giving birth to this poem,
My fingers are burning on my cellphone,
I think hard for this poem,
Searching almost every part of my body,
It blocks my blood vessels and nerves,
It fluctuates in the Yellow River and Yangtze River,
It’s running on the Great Wall,
It follows the camel bell on “One Belt, One Road”,
And the warm bliss from mighty ships and high-speed trains. ++
Hannah Beech wrote in Time, “Three hours after Pu published the poem on his personal WeChat social-media account, his paean had garnered 20,000 hits. (A previous poem Pu posted the day before only received 314 hits.) On its Twitter feed, Xinhua noted that Xi gave reporters a few tips, like encouraging “journalists to write stories that ‘people like to read.’” While Twitter is blocked in China by state censors, state media like Xinhua are prolific users of the social-media service, often posting pictures of indolent pandas, comely female soldiers and the occasional cute cat. ++
The poem ends:
General Secretary, your back and my gaze,
You march on with vigorous steps and rising head,
We will continue singing loudly and walking fast,
On the road to a well-off society,
Closer and closer to that dream,
There will be troubles and shadows on the way,
Just keep calm, like this noon,
The haze can’t hide the bright and clean sky,
General Secretary, your back and my gaze,
The admiring gazes are from me and numerous Xinhua staff.
Xi Says Internet Users must Be Free to Speak Their Minds
In December, 2015, Xi Jinping said internet users must be free to speak their minds and governments must respect citizens’ right to exchange ideas as a as prominent free speech advocate was put on trial for for sending seven tweets. Tom Phillips wrote in The Guardian, “Speaking at the start of a major Beijing-organised conference on the internet, Xi said it was crucial his nation’s 670 million internet users enjoyed online “freedom”, despite widespread censorship and the blocking of many foreign internet services including Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Instagram. “As in the real world, freedom and order are both necessary in cyberspace,” Xi told the opening of the so-called world internet conference, taking place over three days in Wuzhen, a town in eastern China. “Freedom is what order is meant for, and order is the guarantee of freedom. We should respect internet users’ rights to exchange ideas and express their minds and we should also build good order in cyberspace in accordance with [the] law as it will help protect the legitimate rights and interests of all internet users.” [Source: Tom Phillips, The Guardian, December 16, 2015 ]
“Hanging over Xi’s 25-minute address was the trial of Pu Zhiqiang, an internet-savvy civil rights lawyer who is facing eight years in prison for seven posts he made on Weibo, China’s Twitter, criticising the Communist party. Pu went on trial in Beijing on Monday in what campaigners described as a landmark freedom of speech case that will help define what can and cannot be said on the Chinese internet in future. The outspoken lawyer has 138,000 followers on Twitter and had a similarly large following on Chinese social networks, where his accounts were repeatedly closed by government censors.
“Xi’s speech made no direct reference to Pu’s case – which critics have slammed as a “sham trial” - and offered no hint that Beijing would back away from its tight control of the internet.“Cyberspace is not a place [that is] beyond the rule of law,” the president told delegates from some of the world’s leading tech companies, as well as Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and Pakistani president Mamnoon Hussain. “Everyone should abide by the law, with the rights and obligations of parties concerned clearly defined. Cyberspace must be governed, operated and used in accordance with the law so that the internet can enjoy sound development under the rule of law.”
“Government action was needed to strengthen “civilised behaviour” on the internet, Xi added, calling for measures to “rehabilitate the cyber ecology”. The president’s comments were live-tweeted by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, and broadcast on YouTube, even though both services are blocked by Beijing. Activists and supporters of Pu reacted to Xi’s claims about internet freedom with scorn. “He says he respect our rights, but what he does is the exact opposite,” said Du Yanlin, a dissident who spent a month in detention earlier this year after posting a selfie of himself in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. “All his high-sounding rhetoric doesn’t have any meaning,” Du added. “He says he respects our rights, but Pu Zhiqiang is facing jail simply for writing seven posts on Weibo. I can be placed under detention simply for tweeting from Tiananmen Square.”
“Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s China researcher, said rather than encouraging Chinese citizens to share their thoughts and ideas, Xi’s three years in power had seen growing intolerance for free speech. “Under Xi Jinping there has been a very aggressive assault on internet freedom which includes the imprisonment and detention of outspoken [online] opinion leaders.”Wang said the result was a more cautious Chinese internet that was increasingly devoid of debate over important political and social issues. “People are becoming much more fearful to share their thoughts online,” the activist said. While Chinese citizens did have right to post large amounts of information on the internet, “everyone knows where the boundaries are”.
Red Song Concert Highlights Xi Jinping
In May 2016, a concert that featured “red songs” from the Cultural Revolution was held at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Nectar Gan wrote in the South China Morning Post: “The show, which staged songs from the Cultural Revolution against a backdrop of propaganda posters from the period, comes at a politically sensitive time ahead of the 50th anniversary of the start of the movement on May 16. [Source: Nectar Gan, South China Morning Post, May 6, 2016 ==]
“Photographs of the concert showed performers singing against the backdrop of a huge screen, which flashed images such as photographs of Mao and Xi, as well as propaganda posters from the Mao era, including the Cultural Revolution. One poster read “the people of the whole world should unite to defeat the American invaders and their lackeys”. It was the headline of an article by Mao in 1970 voicing support for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the war against the US. ==
“Most of the musical scores were so-called red songs praising the party and its leadership, mainly produced during the height of Communist propaganda in the Mao era. Some songs also praised Xi. Some people commenting online drew comparisons between the show and the campaign to promote “red culture” in Chongqing under the city’s disgraced former leader Bo Xilai, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption. One person commented: “This is the role of power at play. They [the people with power] reminisce about it, so they can directly put on a show about it. They are only representing their own interests, which have nothing to do with the people’s interests.” Another said: “These scenes remind me of one thing: the political legacy of Bo [Xilai].” ==
Kwan Hing-ling wrote in the South China Morning Post, “The organisers also appear to have had a hidden agenda. Of the 30 songs performed, some were from the Cultural Revolution, including Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman. There were also two songs praising President Xi Jinping – Steamed Bun Shop and Don’t Know What to Call You. The first depicts the scene in 2013 when Xi queued up at the Qingfeng Steamed Dumpling Shop in Beijing to buy a meal. The second recalls Xi’s visit to Shibadong village in Huayuan county, in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture in Hunan. Further, the concert takes its name from In the Field of Hope, the song which made Xi’s folk singer wife, Peng Liyuan, famous. [Source: Kwan Hing-ling, South China Morning Post, May 28, 2016 ]
“Usually at such red concerts, either Mao would be exclusively venerated or a mix of state leaders would take their turns in the limelight. But, notably on May 2, songs praising Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao were conveniently left out, while only songs about Mao and Xi were performed. Moreover, silhouettes of Mao and Xi alternately appeared as backdrops on stage.”
Xi Jinping Mistakenly Says: “Take One’s Clothes Off”
In 2016, VOA News reported: “Censors in China are working overtime to scrub the Internet and social media of any mention of a slip-up made by Chinese President Xi Jinping made during a speech in Hangzhou. In a speech to the Business 20 (B20) summit, which advises the G-20 leaders on policy decisions, Xi talked about the global economy and quoted an ancient Chinese phrase: "Make the tariff light and the road smooth, promote trade and ease agricultural policy." “But because the last character in the phrase for agriculture is very similar to the one for clothes, he ended up saying “taking one’s clothes off” instead of "ease agricultural policy."[Source: VOA News, September 6, 2016]
“The phrase was quickly censored on China’s Weibo microblog website, after many comments on the slip-up began to surface. Searches for this term return no results, suggesting it has been removed. Such content is also censored on the Chinese mobile messaging app WeChat. A Twitter user said, "Xi mistakenly read 'easing agricultural policy' as 'taking off clothing' means that he did not read the texts beforehand, nor does he care about the content." “Another joked that "'Taking off clothing' promotes communication. ... To run business, you must take off clothes first."
“A commenter on an overseas Chinese blog says the incident reminds him of the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes." "The reality is that the child shouting that the king is naked is silenced," he writes on his blog. “Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist, drew a cartoon picture depicting a naked Xi in a neon adult toy signboard with the caption "promoting trade and taking off clothing."
Image Sources: China.org, Wikimedia Commons,
Text Sources: Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.
Last updated September 2021