Measuring Media Progress?

CCTV’s uncut airing of the long-banned 2005 film V for Vendetta – the dystopian story of revolution that has become a global allegory of rebellion – incited droves of Weibo users to wonder if this broadcast signaled the loosening of China’s strict censorship policies. A Global Times op-ed candidly blasts hopeful netizen commentary about censorship reform, and questions the societal value of independent media:

 Throughout China’s media system, there are direct or indirect opinions against certain censorship policies.

But V for Vendetta seemed to attract particular attention due to its calling for the masses to vehemently overthrow their rulers.

Media freedom is a goal that is worth working relentlessly to reach, but how much an unchecked media can positively contribute to a country’s development is a debatable question.

[…]V for Vendetta being broadcast on CCTV created a brief cyber sensation among Chinese netizens, but soon gave way to new eye-catching stories such as scandals involving officials and the latest leadership appointments in several provinces.

In fact in China’s robust Weibo sphere, where the most active ideas are often exchanged, quotes as V for Vendetta contains are often seen and hardly cause a fuss.

The film being aired on CCTV can be seen as a diversified offering of entertainment programs in today’s China. Hailing it as a barometer of China’s media censorship is amusing but ludicrous.

An AP article covering reactions to the broadcast quotes Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a public intellectual with connections to China’s top brass, who believes that while media restrictions may be changing, that change can only go so far:

An American business consultant and author with high-level Chinese contacts said there is no less commitment to one-party rule in China, so any media reforms will only go so far.

“You can’t have a totally free media as we would have in the West and still maintain the integrity of a one-party system,” said Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who wrote the book “How China’s Leaders Think.” He said he thinks restrictions are being eased, “but it has to be limited.”

The new leadership has to tread carefully, Kuhn said, because in the age of the Internet, talk about reforms won’t be forgotten.

“High expectations, if they are not fulfilled, will create a worse situation,” he said.

Also see prior CDT coverage of the editorial voice of Global Times and censorship in China.


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