The democracy protests of 1989, culminating in the massacre of student demonstrators in Beijing on June 4, brought the birth of new supreme buzzword in the Chinese media lexicon — “guidance of public opinion”. There are now indications that the term, synonymous with press control, is gradually retiring to the annals of party censorship. What does this mean?
“Guidance of public opinion” arose as the pillar of news control in China in the aftermath of June 4, as the ousted general secretary, Zhao Ziyang, was criticized for letting things get out of hand. Zhao had reportedly told top propaganda officials during the protests to “open things up a bit”. “There’s no big danger in making the news more open”, Zhao had said. “By facing the wishes of the people … we can only make things better” [SOURCE: “A Timetable of Events”, (Da shi ji), Biweely Discussion (Ban Yue Tan), 6 May 1989]. Zhao’s failure to control the press, said an official party magazine following the crackdown, had created widespread public support for the student protests and “guided matters in the wrong direction”. The buzzword was officially introduced by President Jiang Zemin in November 1989….[Full Text]
(Graph showing use of terms “guidance of public opinion” and “supervision by public opinion”, or watchdog journalism, in a database of 120 Chinese newspapers)