As a follow-up to their earlier post about efforts to “channel” public opinion, China Media Project translates an editorial by writer Xiao Hanjie (肖汉杰) which responds to this line of thinking, especially by state-owned enterprises:
Channeling public opinion? Isn’t it more to the point to say they dread public opinion? They say they channel public opinion “in order to create a favorable public opinion environment for the reform of state-owned enterprises.” I disagree with this completely . . . Public opinion can reflect on advantages and disadvantages, and so it can assist central-level enterprises in assessing their own faults and strengths. Why, then, would you attempt to channel public opinion, twisting its original purpose and the spirit of free criticism? And in a false public opinion environment, how are central-level enterprises supposed to assess their own advantages and disadvantages?
A French writer once wrote that “without the freedom to criticize, praise is utterly worthless.” This could no doubt be taken as a jab at the idea that central-level enterprises should “channel public opinion.” Public opinion channeling is about releasing “positive news” and avoiding “negative news,” about talking up political achievements and playing down problems. This process affects the ability of the public to really understand the facts and come to their own judgments, and ultimately it does harm to the public’s freedom of expression. If we begin to see public opinion turning very kind in favor of state-owned enterprises, what meaning is there in that?