China Media Project carries a translation of an article from the Southern Metropolis Daily [zh], written by fellow Zhang Ming. Zhang surveys the history of news dissemination in China, arguing that recent changes and the authorities’ failure to adapt have demolished public trust in official information.
In today’s China, lack of popular trust in officials has become a vexing problem for the government. Something happens, big or small, the government comments, and the public is incredulous. The public always assumes they are covering something up, they are lying, they are twisting the facts, or even destroying evidence. Online, suppositions fly, but all in the same general direction — thinking the worst of the government. When the government conducts an accident investigation, no matter how it is done, there’s no way to earn the confidence of the public. And so, in the case of every major incident, the truth is always, inevitably, regarded as incomplete or delayed.
We must confess, concerning truth and trust, that the China of the past and the China of the present are two different worlds [existing side by side], operating each by its own logic. Government officials in China have, with little preparedness, been thrust overnight into an age of explosive information and fierce communication. But the ideas in their heads are still mired in the past. They find it impossible to avoid feeling panicked, angry, at a loss, or even wronged [by public opinion] ….
It’s quite simple. In modern societies, no state or government is trusted. The era in which the relationship between the government and the people is like the relationship between parents and children is long gone. The mark of a modern society is how “modern” its sources and transmission of information are. This means, too, that people have changed.
Source: Trust in China’s new media era – China Media Project