In recent weeks, after the Olympic Games clampdown, Xinhua adroitly reported on protests and riots that started in Chongqing, spreading to at least eight provinces. But that masked an equally profound shift. Independently minded outlets have run reports by Xinhua or local party publications instead of their own.
Mr Hu was laying out a strategy for the party’s propaganda outlets, such as Xinhua and CCTV, to reclaim control of the news agenda. He was telling them to become responsive to events and relevant to the public so they could lead — if not subordinate — the commercially focused media.
Conservatives in China’s security apparatus sense an opportunity.
On November 10, the flagship People’s Daily gave a general called Xu Tianliang space to write an old-fashioned diatribe about the mainstream media’s “heavy responsibility” to battle “hostile forces in the ideological sphere” and export “our spiritual and cultural goods” to the world.
… In one of this month’s widely publicised riots, in Longnan, Gansu province, Xinhua promptly reported local government had “dealt with it properly with various measures”. None of Xinhua’s hundreds of mainstream commercialised competitors gave any competing version of events. Propaganda officials are becoming far more discreet, but it appears reporters were ordered to stay home. Bloggers such as North Wind (Bei Feng) filled in blanks by gathering photos from the internet and dispatching them to leading websites.