Listen to the Citizens, and Control Them
China Media Project looks at and translates a summary of a recent speech by Yang Yanyin (杨衍银), executive deputy secretary of the Working Committee of Central and State Organs:
The thrust of Yang Yanyin’s speech — and of President Hu Jintao’s media control approach — is that party-state leaders must “treat, use and control the media well” (善待, 善用, 善管). The responsiveness element can be glimpsed in the language about the need for leaders to use public opinion as it emerges on the internet to better understand the needs and demands of the people, and shape policy accordingly. There is also a mention of the “people’s right to know, right to participate, right to express and right to supervise,” the so-called “four rights” (四个权利) that Hu Jintao mentioned in his political report to the 17th National Party Congress in October 2007.
The “four rights” should not, of course, be taken at simple face value. So far, they have been realized predominantly through greater emphasis on the reporting of sudden-breaking news incidents in China, or tufa shijian (突发事件). While this in some sense represents greater openness, we should note that this “right” has so far been exercised mostly through state media, whose critical role in “channeling public opinion” President Hu emphasized in 2008. Meanwhile, there have been further moves to prevent in-depth reporting of news events, and investigative reporting has faced greater restrictions since 2004-2005.