Expert pans PRC controls

PROPAGANDA MACHINE: The Chinese government has controlled the media throughout its history, considering it a mouthpiece for the state's theories and ideologies


Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 2

China's crackdown on the media should not come as a surprise, as the Communist government has always considered the media to be a part of its propaganda machine to promote Marxist and Maoist theories and ideologies, an academic said yesterday.

During a seminar held at the Academia Sinica, Nicolai Volland, a postdoctorate fellow at the institute of Chinese literature and philosophy who specializes in Chinese media research, said that control of the Chinese media has traditionally and historically been grouped together with ideology and theory.

Volland said supervision of the media falls under the control of the Central Propaganda Department, which is also in charge of the bureau of theory and ideology that propagates Marxism and Maoism.

Education, science and public health are all included in the greater propaganda system of China, he said.

That means journalists, teachers and scientists all dwell in the same political space, he said.

Volland said that the groupings were not made at random, but were rather a part of a larger plan for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to bring about change and control the public mind.

Volland used the example of the recent closure of Freezing Point, a four-page weekly feature section of the state-run China Youth Daily, to show the CCP's intolerance for any article or publication that did not agree with its interpretation of history.

Freezing Point, which had often tested the censors' patience and challenged the party line, published an article written by Yuan Weishi (袁偉時), a reform-minded scholar who criticized Chinese textbooks for teaching historical inaccuracies about China's last imperial dynasty -- the Qing -- that foster blind nationalism, closed-mindedness and anti-foreign sentiment.

The CCP ordered the closure of Freezing Point on Jan. 24.

Volland said although government propaganda was toned down after the Cultural Revolution, the CCP continued to maintain control of the media.

Chinese propaganda is now repackaged in a more sophisticated and not easily recognizable form, he added.

China has pulled off an "amazing balance" on the Internet, allowing it to stimulate economic growth but at the same time controlling the flow of "sensitive information" online, he said.

Volland added that this probably discourages people from continuing to read "sensitive information" online at the risk of having "their Internet connections shut down seven times in a row."

When asked whether CCP-style propaganda could be at play in Taiwan, Volland said that he did not consider it possible.

"The Taiwanese government or political parties cannot, by any force, close down the media, whereas the CCP has an astounding degree of control over the press," he said.

Web sites such as Wikipedia and other blog sites where everybody is free to post their opinion have been either closed or had their entries deleted in China, Volland said.