Master of the Media Spotlight Is Now Its Victim in China
Disgraced Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai once majored in journalism but later worked hard to bolster his public image by closely managing coverage of his administration by local media. Now, he has fallen victim to a propaganda campaign promoting the decision to dismiss him from his Party posts, which has, according to the New York Times, “arguably been the greatest mobilization to support a decision by the party since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989”:
For example, editors at Global Times, a popular newspaper that has Chinese and English editions, have been ordered to run commentaries or editorials that separate criticism of Mr. Bo from the welfare-oriented economic policies he championed in Chongqing, perhaps because party leaders want to take credit for similar policies in the future. The English edition is also supposed to criticize Western news coverage that has emphasized splits within the party, one person with knowledge of the order said.
Not in decades has such a widespread and finely tuned propaganda campaign been rolled out during the purge of an official. In the last two major purges, in 2006 and 1995, party leaders did not flood the media with nearly so much propaganda. And not since the bloodshed of 1989 have editorials insisting that officials and cadres reaffirm fealty to the party appeared with such frequency and vehemence.
Some analysts have said the purging of Mr. Bo presents the biggest challenge for the party since that period. The crisis was set off in February when Wang Lijun, a former police chief in Chongqing, fled to an American Consulate to present evidence of what he said was a murder plot involving Mr. Bo’s family.
“We haven’t seen this kind of direct meddling with the media across the board in a long, long time,” said David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong. “You can really sense the anxiety and the uneasiness. They’re pushing so intently this message of unity and solidarity, and you know all is not well.”