Read the Newspaper, Chinese Official Urges Communist Party Members

wsj-china-communist-party-read-newspapers

Russell Leigh Moses writes: The People’s Daily is the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper. It announces what the party sees as the major issues of the day and the current direction of the nation. It’s also the main platform for political discussion, marking out initiatives and identifying the parameters for debate. Like many other party newspapers, People’s Daily is required reading for party members.

It is also, for too many new party members at least, increasingly irrelevant.

With articles on a typical day involving discussions of party doctrine, dogma and jargon abound. Major stories often include grip-and-grin accounts of Chinese leaders meeting obscure peers from faraway nations.

And headlines in the newspaper can have an eerie similarity, such as the recent edition that had 11 that began with the name Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party leader.

That makes the People’s Daily no different from newspapers around the world struggling to stay significant during the digital revolution. But for the Communist Party, the stakes are arguably bigger: Its power and legitimacy depend on party leaders getting the word out and those words being taken seriously.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

That unease was on display in an editorial in an edition of People’s Daily last month titled, “Is It OK for Party Members Not To Read Party Newspapers?” Yan Jin, an official in Changsha, the capital of China’s southern province of Hunan, noted that these days “some cadres do not bother to even read party newspapers and spend that time browsing through gossip instead.”

Yan concedes that this situation shouldn’t be a surprise as “current party members born in the 1980s and 1990s haven’t grown up with the habit of reading actual newspapers and now have more ways of getting information from the computer or their phone.” In his own district, Yan said, cadres between 22 and 30 years of age comprised 25% of the membership, suggesting that this problem of paying less attention to party news will grow as older officials retire and younger ones join the ranks.

Yan said that party newspaper readership has also declined because a growing number of cadres “justifiably criticized party newspapers as boring.” Many party members simply haven’t wanted to devote the time to wading through the heavy political prose even though, as he contends, party newspapers have “tried to write more and more lively sentences, and attempted to adopt a new style that’s both shorter and addresses real issues.” Yan notes that party newspapers are now easier to access online and at news kiosks, which should help their appeal to younger officials.

Apparently, that strategy is falling short.

People’s Daily has had it own special problems lately. But what really troubles Yan and his like-minded colleagues is that by not reading party newspapers, many younger cadres remain in their own world, not the party’s.

Newspapers such as People’s Daily, Yan insists, are an effective means for officials to know what the Party leadership is thinking. By knowing what Beijing wants, cadres “cultivate themselves spiritually”—that is, they recognize that they are part of a larger organization with a serious and purportedly sacred purpose.

There’s also a practical element involved, according to Yan….(read more)

Source: China Real Time Report – WSJ

Russell Leigh Moses has been an academic teaching Chinese politics for more than 20 years, for most of that time in China. He has been a columnist for China Real Time Since 2010. Read more by Mr. Moses.

 



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