For AP, Didi Tang profiles Zhou Xiaoping, the blogger lauded by President Xi Jinping who has been mocked online because of his propensity for creating facts out of thin air:
China’s stodgy state-run media often fall flat as they try to portray the West in an unflattering light, but Zhou’s approach has been more successful: His microblog has more than 500,000 followers, and party websites and newspapers have carried his articles. He deftly uses trendy online slang, including calling his readers “dear” with an abbreviated version of the Chinese phrase.
But his posts have drawn criticism from skeptics who say he distorts and misleads, raising the risk that official efforts to glorify him may backfire.
[…] Chinese propaganda officials have argued that it is important to safeguard Zhou’s free speech despite the criticism.
“Even though there are many blemishes in Zhou Xiaoping’s articles, it is a harbinger for free speech when he can speak up,” a statement posted on a government website run by the party’s central propaganda department and its central office for building and guiding spiritual civilization. “We can always analyze and debate whether the viewpoints are correct or not.” [Source]
Earlier this month, anti-academic fraud campaigner Fang Zhouzi wrote an essay critiquing Zhou’s work, and was quickly censored by propaganda authorities. Another netizen posted an annotated version of one of Zhou’s essays, pointing out all the factual errors. Zhou has also become the target of political cartoonists.