Thinking about the Media Like a Chinese Leader: Lessons from the Southern Weekend protests

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像中国领导一样思考媒体:从南方周末抗议学到的

// 回复中国发生的一系列新的审查故事,CGCS焦点转向 Rogier Creemers, 牛津大学比较媒体法律和政策学院,讨论此事件和对未来进行推测。

在撰写本文时,审查机构在编辑不知情的情况下已经更改了刊登在明主报刊南方周末上新年的信息,抗议者依然在广州持续抗议。此事件已经发展到了第二家新闻,北京新闻。该报社编辑拒绝在人民日报所属的环球时报上发表一条具有攻击性的评论。此事件唤醒了一系列审查和扩大控制有关的其他事件。诺贝尔奖获得者莫言关于审查的评论引发了一些争议;北京镇压了用来越过防火墙的虚拟专用网络;新闻出版总署发表了一系列措施确保网络发表的许可和对于外国媒体公司代表的要求;国务院发布了一则对于网络使用者实名制的要求:需要电话,手机和其他的网络浏览形式,或者将信息发布给使用者,而仅从表面上保护使用者的隐私。

这些事件发生在领导层交替的时间。民众希望习近平可以做出有意义的改革,包括消除互联网和印刷业的审查制度。从而,在圣诞节当天,一封呼吁实际施行中国宪法提到关于自由言论权的公开信发表在多数学术期刊上。之后,在进入新年时,一个极左的杂志《炎黄春秋》的网站在贺年辞里因呼吁宪法基础的政治改革而关闭。现在,就是这个南方周末事件。

明显的问题是这个事件就将中国政治内容扩宽上有多少意义。诚然,这样的内容在西方的媒体上铺天盖地。由于在出版业面临前所未有的阻力,抗议没有以自由言论为开始。在没有获得主席职位之前,习近平迫切地希望这些事件消失,并且这些交易不可避免地在中央集权下发生,地方政府和南方周末,和控制南方周末的新闻机构。然而在我看来,有两件重要的事件可以从此事中看到:有必要完全了解中国领导不允许被越过,并且维持政党权利的平衡做法在1989年后变得越来越困难。

就言论自由而言,一个人可以有慈善的或者愤世嫉俗的观点。以共产党开篇演说对于表面价值而言,此争议非常简单。在它的宪法里,共产党表明它的目标是确保中国成为一个富强的国家。这是由马克思主义的科学事实和它的中国版本:中国特色的社会主义。然而共产党意识到有必要确保有一个争议,偏向专家在改变情况让研究有必要和指导这些权利的事件上。在愤世嫉俗的观点里,共产党是一个滋生腐败,控制和秘密的权力机构。它主要的兴趣是确保政党可以保持权利,而不会涉及到有意义的政治改革。

不管是哪一个版本,在不同的原因上,政治的因果有着明显的重合。就慈善观点而言,审查媒体好像道路上有交通规则一样:对于每个人来说只有正确和安全的信息才不会让世人有任何的困扰。对于愤世嫉俗的观点而言,公开公共交流有碍于政党的利益因为这样揭露了政党人员,阶层和政府的特权。两种观点也可以支持,例如说社会媒体实名制,因为它确保“安全,健康和向上”网络环境使得有危害的信息可以更好的被预防,或者因为它可以根据偏好让有问题的异议被追踪。

媒体和网络政策在近些年的发展没有任何指向自由言论的方向。相反来说,在2011年中央政府发布了一个目的是解决问题的决策。决策指出:“加强网上思想文化阵地建设,是社会主义文化建设的迫切任务。一些地区的道德标准下降,公众和社会观扭曲…… 必须加强和改进网络文化建设和管理,加强网上舆论引导,唱响网上思想文化主旋律。”

涉及文化和网络的实施计划在2012年发布,并为了确保中共领导的总方针实施计划推出了详细的措施:政府对于文化和媒体更多的涉入,更多关于信息圈特别是网络的管理,更多对媒体人员和相关行业人员的培训确保中共控制媒体的基础设施。这些政策明显习近平领导层将接手,并得到了他们建筑师中央宣传部部长刘云山的肯定。

同时,可以肯定的是,这些事实将是习近平领导层面临的第一个挑战。换届之前我曾写道,很多邓小平的方针,出国带动经济发展,技术层领导,同时一个相对良性的国际环境已经不复存在;同时富裕扩大了两极分化,并且潜移默化推动腐败。显而易见,领导层的生活脱离了普通老百姓,但是现在每一个移动电话都有一个内置相机,并且可以随时上网;同时中国增长的中产阶级发现他们与阶层的工作,教育和机会隔离是由于过深的信任政府。这也正是南方周末杂志以曝光腐败和揭示人民被欺压而出名的原因。这不表示政党将在很短的时间内瓦解。很多中国人认为瓦解是唯一的办法。同时,政党成功的探测出社会主义政权的弱点,例如苏联。然而,讽刺地说,这个表示政党可能不会为了不同层面的改革而享受社会的信任或支持。政党仍然会单独,强制的,甚至有时残酷地继续创造自己的敌人。

// Rogier Creemer 的学位为中国学习,国际关系和法律。现在他在牛津大学比较媒体法律和政策项目工作。他的研究为中国媒体政策和中国政治变革的联系。他也是中国版权和媒体网站的编辑,此网站包含了一个关于中国媒体法律和政策文件的数据库。

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// In reaction to a string of  news censorship stories coming out of China, CGCS Media Wire turns to Rogier Creemers, of the Programme for Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford for analysis, contextualization and predictions for the future.

At the time of writing, protests continue in Guangzhou after provincial censorship authorities were alleged to have changed the New Year message of the liberal newspaper Southern Weekend, without the knowledge of its editors. The affair is now engulfing a second newspaper, Beijing News, whose editors refused to reprint an aggressive commentary by the People’s Daily-owned Global Times. The affair follows in the wake of a number of other stories related to censorship and the expansion of control. Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan caused quite a stir with his comments on censorship; Beijing cracked down on VPNs, the service providers that facilitate bypassing the Great Firewall; the General Administration of Press and Publications issued a number of draft measures which promise to impose more licensing requirements on Internet publishing, and on representative offices of foreign media enterprises; and the National People’s Congress issued a decision confirming the earlier imposition of a real-name system for all “network service providers that handle website access services for users, handle fixed telephone, mobile telephone and other surfing formalities, or provide information publication services to users”, ostensibly in a bid to protect users’ privacy.

These matters have occurred in the wake of a leadership transition, where there had been widespread hopes that the new Party Secretary General Xi Jinping would usher in meaningful reforms, including an easing of Internet and press censorship. Hence, on Christmas day, an open letter calling for, amongst others, the implementation of the right to free expression as guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution, was published by a number of high-profile academics. Then, at the turn of the New Year, the website of the pro-reform magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu was closed after it had published a New Year’s message, also called for political reform on the basis of the Constitution. And now, there is the Southern Weekend incident.

The obvious question is how meaningful this incident will turn out to be in the wider context of Chinese politics. Certainly, matters such as this tend to be overvalued in the Western press. The protests were not started by an open call to free expression, but because of an unprecedented intervention in the editorial process. Xi Jinping, who has not yet even taken over the State presidency, will be eager to see this go away, and some horse-trading will inevitably take place between the central authorities, the provincial government and Southern Media Group, the overarching Party newspaper organization controlling Southern Weekend. In my view, however, there are two important matters to take away from this: it is necessary to thoroughly understand the lines that the Chinese leadership will not allow to be crossed, but also that the balancing act that has sustained Party power after 1989 is becoming increasingly difficult.

On the matter of freedom of expression, one could take a charitable or cynical view. Taking the Party’s pronouncements at face value and good faith, the argumentation is relatively simple. In its Constitution, the Party states that its objective is to ensure China is a prosperous and strong country, based on the scientific truths of Marxism and its Sinified version: Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Party recognizes, however, that it is necessary to ensure that there is debate, preferentially by experts, on matters where changing circumstances make research necessary, and also that the public has a role in supervising those in power. In the cynical view, the Party is a mafiose organization that thrives on corruption, control and secrecy. It co-opts the interest groups that will ensure that it remains in power, but will not engage in meaningful political reform.

Whichever version one prefers, it is necessary that the policy consequences of both visions overlap significantly, if for different justifications. In the charitable view, having media censorship is akin to having rules of the road: it is in everyone’s interest that only correct and safe information reaches the eyes and ears of audiences that are easily confused. In the cynical view, open public communication is inimical to the Party’s interest because it reveals the extent of the privileges that Party members, cadres and officials enjoy. Both visions would also support, for example, real-name registration of social media users, because it enables a “safe, healthy and upward” Internet environment in which harmful information can be better prevented, or because it ensures that problematic dissidents can be traced, depending on preference.

The development of media and Internet policy over the last few years has also not indicated any turn towards a greater space for free expression of press freedom. On the contrary, In 2011, the Central Committee published a decision in which it aimed to remedy the problems it described as:

the function of culture in promoting the raising of the entire nation’s civilization level must be urgently strengthened; in a number of areas, morals are defeated, sincerity is lacking, the view of life and value system of a number of members of society is distorted, […] public opinion guidance capacity must be raised, network construction and management must be urgently strengthened and improved”.

Implementation plans concerning culture and the Internet published in 2012 further outlined the specific measures that would ensure the continued domination of the Party voice: more State input into the cultural industries and the media, more regulation concerning the circulation of information, particularly online, more training for media professionals and the creation of mechanisms that ensure Party and State departments control media infrastructure. These are policies that the Xi leadership seems to have clearly taken over, which is confirmed by the appointment of their architect, ex-propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, to the Standing Committee.

At the same time, it must be recognized that the fact that the protests are a first significant challenge to the Xi leadership. As I wrote before the leadership transition, many central aspects of the Dengist model, export-led economic growth, technocratic governance, and a relatively benign international environment are no longer present, while the expansion of wealth has created inequality, and, perhaps most insidiously, rampant corruption. Obviously, the perks and living standards of Party cadres have been far removed from the life of the ordinary Chinese citizen since just about the foundation of the People’s Republic, but the fact that every mobile phone now comes with a camera and an Internet connection, and that, China’s growing middle class finds itself often excluded from jobs, education and opportunities for the benefit of cadres has deeply eroded trust in government. It is exactly because Southern Weekly is well-known for its muckraking and exposure of corruption and abuse that its purported muzzling evokes such reactions among Chinese citizens. This does not mean that the Party regime will collapse anytime soon. Most Chinese recognize that the deluge is the only other alternative. Also, the Party has successfully navigated around the weaknesses of other Socialist regimes, such as the Soviet Union. It does mean, however, that ironically, the Party may not enjoy the social trust or support for necessary reform in different realms.  By its exclusivity, mendacity, and sometimes brutality, the Party continues to create its own enemies.

//Rogier Creemers has degrees in Chinese Studies, International Relations and Law. Presently, he works for the Programme for Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford, where he researches the interaction between Chinese media policy and political change. He also edits the website China Copyright and Media, which contains a database of Chinese media law and policy documents.

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