Can China Continue to Dictate the News Agenda Online?

For Chatham House, Vincent Ni looks at how the Xi Jinping administration is managing to control the media message even as the media industry shifts from traditional outlets to the Internet:

Since Xi came to power, Chinese journalism has been affected by a wave of digitization. Even the state-owned news agency Xinhua maintains a big presence on Chinese social media, using modern techniques to attract younger readers. When referring to Xi Jinping, who is both president and party leader, Xinhua’s Weibo microblogging account will use the sobriquet ‘Xi Dada’, which means ‘Uncle Xi’. This contrasts with the sterner sounding, ‘General-Secretary Comrade Xi’ that is often used by newspapers and traditional media.

These changes partly reflect a shift in global media trends, but also stem from a push initiated by Xi himself. In August 2014, Xi brought up the issue of the media for the first time in a meeting of the Central Leading Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, a body set up to push his plans through all levels of China’s vast administration.

Xi stressed that ‘[we must] forge a batch of new mainstream enterprises that are diverse in form, with advanced methods, which are competitive, and build a number of new media groups that have strong force, strength, credibility and influence, and shape a three-dimensional, diverse and modern communication system with converged development.’

Investors know this kind of party language well. The next day, media stock prices soared and rumours circulated suggesting that the government would increase funding to state-owned news groups. In the weeks that followed Xi’s speech, media organizations such as China Central Television redesigned their new media strategies and extended their operations. [Source]

See also a previous discussion on how the Party utilizes the Internet to harness public opinion, via CDT.