The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
Two leaked images of propaganda directives issued by the Xinhua News Agency and the Central Propaganda Department show that Chinese media are being instructed to report positively on the economy. CDT has translated both.
The first below is the Xinhua notice, which asks its various departments to draft plans for “promoting the discourse on China’s bright economic future.” The second is the first page of a document issued by the Central Propaganda Department, marked as notice number 320 for the year 2015, asking state media and outlets affiliated with the state to “properly interpret economic data.”
Office of the Xinhua News Agency Editor-in-Chief
To the departments of Domestic News (Central Government Procurement Center), International News, Domestic News for Overseas Service, Photography, Reference News, and Audio-Video; the CNC [China Xinhua News Network Corporation], Xinhua Online, the New Media Center; all media reporting platforms; and the Editorial Department:
In keeping with the spirit of notifications from superior authorities and Agency leadership requirements, the focus for the month of September will be strengthening economic propaganda and guiding public opinion (the related notification is in the attachment that follows). This includes taking the next step in promoting the discourse on China’s bright economic future and the superiority of China’s system, as well as stabilizing expectations and inspiring confidence. We request that your departments take immediate action to plan related reporting; identify individuals to take responsibility; and confirm reporting topics, individuals responsible for those topics, and publication dates.
Please plan related reporting. After the responsible parties within the relevant department have signed off on the plan, send it to the Creative Planning Center at the editor-in-chief’s office through 0A prior to 5 p.m. on September 9, and fax the leadership signature page to 63071200.
The topic formatting should be as follows:
- Topic (Responsible Party: Department Name, Individual’s Name; Publication Date: Month, Day)
Contact: Wang Xiaoshun [Office:] 51366 [Cell:] 13661390548
Office of the Editor-in-Chief
September 7, 2015 [Chinese]
Communist Party of China Central Propaganda Department
Notice 2015 #320
Notice Regarding Increased Economic Propaganda and Guidance in the Near Term
To the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, Guangming Daily, Economic Daily, China Daily, China National Radio, China Central Television, China Radio International, China News Service, and subordinate emerging media outlets:
According to instructions from central leadership comrades, all news media outlets must continue to deepen their study and transmission of the spirit of Secretary-General Xi Jinping’s series of important speeches, revolving around the strategic positioning of the “Four Comprehensives,” combined with deep concern for public opinion. The focus for the month of September will be strengthening economic propaganda and guiding public opinion, as well as overall planning for domestic- and foreign-facing propaganda and Internet propaganda, in order to take the next step in promoting the discourse on China’s bright economic future and the superiority of China’s system, as well as stabilizing expectations and inspiring confidence.
- Properly interpret economic data. In September, the National Bureau of Statistics will successively release for circulation important information on changes in means of production and market prices and the monthly reports on the consumer price index, industry production price index, above-scale industry production, and total value of retail sales for consumer goods. In the near future, listed banks will also successively announce their annual reports for the first half of the year. Every news media outlet must interview representatives and experts from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, and other relevant organizations; properly interpret economic data; and correctly report on new changes in economic market conditions and relevant industry management.
- Strengthen propaganda related to economic highlights and their effects. Closely follow economic market conditions, and diligently… [Chinese]
Both state and independent media have been pressured to keep economic reporting upbeat and to downplay the stock market crash last month as well as slumps earlier in the summer. Detained Caijing reporter Wang Xiaolu confessed on CCTV to “causing panic and disorder” with a negative story, while almost 200 others have been taken into custody for “spreading rumors” about stories including the stock market turmoil. A directive from August 25 requires that Chinese websites delete specific essays about the crash, while in June the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television instructed TV and radio stations to “rationally lead market expectations to prevent inappropriate reports from causing the market to spike or crash.”
News media have not been the only ones under pressure. At the New York Times, Edward Wong, Neil Gough, and Alexandra Stevenson detail the government’s aggressive interventions in the financial sector:
Police officers have downloaded extensive trading data and asked fund managers why they sold shares when the market was going down, prompting discussions about basic investment strategy. Officers have bluntly told some fund managers to just stop selling.
While regulators and law enforcement elsewhere in the world routinely meet with investment companies to monitor trading for potential abuse and illegal activity, they seldom do so with the aim of steering the direction of the markets.
[…] The measures include restrictions on short-selling, or betting that stocks will fall. Regulators in the United States took similar action for a month at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, but the Chinese authorities have been vague about what kinds of transactions have been prohibited and for how long. The police have said they are investigating “malicious” short-selling but have not said what that entails.
[…] The state news media has stoked the flames in the campaign against short-sellers, hedge funds and other investors, especially foreign ones. In July, the official newspaper of China’s state banks, Financial News, ran an editorial that accused Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and other foreign investment banks of trying to cause a market “stampede” and said that outsiders wanted to prevent China from becoming a strong financial power. [Source]
Read more on the authorities’ search for scapegoats via CDT.
Despite Beijing’s anxiety about the stock market, analysts interviewed by NPR’s Planet Money reassure that China’s economy isn’t about to crash. “On one side of extreme, you have people saying China is totally, you know, it’s crashing,” says Ted Wang of Puissance Capital. “And you have on the other end of spectrum, you have people who say China is going to be the superpower, going to take over the United States. The truth is both are probably wrong.”
Translation by Heidi.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.