China will be more open about the often secretive workings of the government and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the coming year, although strict controls over the Internet would remain in place, a senior propaganda official said yesterday.
Officials will expand the use of government spokespeople, boost the overseas reach of state media, and further promote the use of microblogs to interact with the public, Chinese State Council Information Office (SCIO) Minister Wang Chen (王晨) told reporters.
“In this new year, we will adopt an even more open attitude and even more forceful policies,” Wang said.
Chinese government departments have traditionally been tightlipped, a result of authoritarian one-party rule in which officials had little accountability to the public and policies were drafted in high-level meetings without input from ordinary citizens.
However, amid rising incomes and increased demand for transparency and efficiency, departments over the past decade have appointed spokesmen to deal with media and the general public and released an increasing flow of information.
Wang said news and -information about the government’s day-to-day activities as well as emergency responses would be expanded and systematized. Spokesmen would receive intensified training with an emphasis on obtaining first-hand information rather than simply passing on information from other departments, he said.
Meanwhile, China will expand real-name registration for microblog users, the government’s propaganda and information arm said yesterday, in its latest step to better control China’s wildly popular Twitter-like Web sites.
Officials acknowledge that microblogs are useful as an outlet for critical public opinion, but have repeatedly accused them of spreading what they call unfounded rumors and vulgarities. They have issued warnings that online content must be acceptable to the CCP.
The Beijing city government said last month it would tighten control over microblogs, which have vexed authorities with rapid dissemination of news. The government said it would give users three months to register with their real names or face legal consequences. Other major cities followed suit.
“Currently, this type of registration is being tested in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and we will extend it to other areas once the pilot programs prove successful,” Wang told reporters in Beijing.
A unit of the SCIO, the State Internet Information Office, is the main agency responsible for regulating the Internet.
Wang said name verification would be standard for new users of microblogs, such as Sina’s Weibo, which allow users to issue short messages of opinion — a maximum of 140 Chinese characters — that can course through chains of followers who receive messages instantly.
Existing users will be required to register later, he said.
“Microblogs on one hand can reflect the social situation and public opinion and broadcast a positive public voice,” Wang said. “At the same time, microblogs ... can make it easy to disseminate a few irrational voices, negative public opinion and harmful information.”