Rise Of The Mediacrats?

zhang baoshun.jpg

The third and fourth generations of Communist Party leaders have featured the technocrats. The fifth could showcase the legicrats – a klatch of apparatchiks who got law degrees, though often nominal or rudimentary, in the eighties and nineties. But in recent years, another subset of specialists has been climbing the party ranks too: the mediacrats.

Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao (§ßÂÖ¨Êä•) spotlights the trend in an article published this week (link). By the newspaper’s count, more than ten cadres with backgrounds in party media organs have moved into top party slots at the provincial level ahead of the late next year, a development the paper describes as rare. Among the so-called ‘press officer’ party secretaries ([Êñ∞ÈóªÂÆò’ÂÖö‰π¶ËÆ∞’):

– Jiangsu party chief Li Yuanchao, regarded a top candidate for the Politburo in 2007, who was formerly deputy director of the State Council Information Office Politburo
– Henan party secretary Xu Guangchun, formerly head of State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and vice-chief of the propaganda department
– Shanxi party secretary Zhang Baoshun(pictured), also a Politburo hopeful, who previously was deputy director of Xinhua News Agency.
– Guizhou party chief Shi Zongyuan, previously head of the General Administration and Press and Publications (GAPP)
– Hebei party chief Bai Keming, formerly president of the People’s Daily
– Guangxi party chief Liu Qibao, another highly touted prospect, once People Daily’s deputy editor-in-chief

These mediacrats, notes the Beijing-backed paper, have applied their P.R. expertise toward troubleshooting in some of China’s worst-off provinces and regions…


Xu, for example, began tackling the image issues of Henan immediately upon his arrival in the country’s most demonized province, the article says, inviting international and domestic press to visit and slapping up promo posters in train stations from Beijing to Shenzhen. Shi began plugging tourist sites and business opportunities in Guizhou province, the country’s least developed based on per capita GDP. It has splashed out on exhibits in Beijing and Hong Kong and events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the party powwow in Zunyi, the Mount Sinai of the Long March.

The deployment of more mediacrats, the article concludes, reflects the party’s need for a more versatile brand of official to cope with the plethora of problems at the grass-roots:

In fact, this is an issue that China has taken great pains to study with respect to reform of the cadre personnel system, namely, how to make a large number of traditional “political-work cadres” grasp more the scientific operational flow of a modern government, in order to adapt to the changing economic modes and social environment.

Many mainland news outlets picked up Ta Kung Pao’s analysis, including the China News Service. Judging by readers’ comments attached to the Youth Daily item, though, some people view the mediacrats as more of a cover for mediocrity:

– The way it looks on the surface, it appears the aim to strengthen guidance of public opinion. If that’s the way it is, then [the party] might as well use more officials with backgrounds in the justice system. Why the need to try so hard?

– To pretend all is well renders such a great service!

– These people are too unreliable…even more sinister than corrupt officials.

November 30, 2006, 8:36 AM