Dr. Thomas Lairson Professor of Political Science XI Jinping This is a collection of materials relating to the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and President of China, XI Jinping. Nyt

NYT Test for New Leaders as Chinese Paper Takes On Censors

Download 7.23 Mb.
Size7.23 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   63


Test for New Leaders as Chinese Paper Takes On Censors

Some in China feel that media shutdowns in the country have occurred because newly appointed leader Xi Jinping has avoided taking a clear position on the issue.

Published: January 6, 2013

BEIJING — Turmoil at one of China’s leading newspapers is posing an early challenge to the measured political program of the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, pitting a pent-up popular demand for change against the Communist Party’s desire to maintain a firm grip.

Read our ongoing coverage of the 18th Party Congress and a series on the implications of the leadership transition for China and the rest of the world.

The unrest at the influential newspaper Southern Weekend began last week when censors appeared to have toned down the paper’s New Year’s letter to readers — traditionally a call for progress in the new year. That caused journalists and their supporters — including students at nearby Sun Yat-sen University — to issue open letters expressing their outrage.

“Our yielding and our silence has not brought a return of our freedom,” the students said in their petition on Sunday, according to a translation by Hong Kong University’s China Media Project. “Quite the opposite, it has brought the untempered intrusion and infiltration of rights by power.”

By Sunday night, the protests had transformed into a real-time melee in the blogosphere — a remarkable development in a country where protests of all kinds are tightly controlled and the media largely know the boundaries of permissible debate.

In this case, the newspaper’s economics and environmental news staffs appeared to declare that they were on strike, while editors loyal to the government shut down or took control of the paper’s official microblogs. One widely distributed staff declaration with 90 signatures said the publication’s microblogs were no longer authentic.

“I don’t know whether it will be a full strike, but I do know the joint statement about the confiscation of the Weibo account has widespread support,” said one former editor, referring to a microblogging site and speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The turmoil at the Guangzhou-based newspaper resonates especially strongly among politically aware Chinese because Mr. Xi chose southern China for a tour after taking power in November. He made a pilgrimage to nearby Shenzhen, where the father of China’s economic reforms, Deng Xiaoping, initiated them two decades ago.

Indeed, Mr. Xi seems to be casting himself in the mold of Deng, who was known for bold economic reforms but who also brooked no opposition to the rule of the Communist Party.

The latest indication was a speech Mr. Xi made that also was published in newspapers on Sunday. Speaking to senior leaders, Mr. Xi repeatedly invoked Deng, especially on the need to adhere to “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” a phrase often used to mean a combination of pragmatic policies and one-party rule. He also praised the prereform era, in what appeared to be an effort to appeal to harder-line Communists.

But part of the reason for the clamor for reforms are hopes that Mr. Xi himself has raised. So far he has won praise by calling for China’s constitutional protections to be put in effect, ordering officials to cut pomp and setting in motion an anticorruption campaign.

These actions seem to have prompted the calls for even bolder reforms.

Beyond the unrest at Southern Weekend, editors of the edgy historical journal Yanhuang Chunqiu published a cover article last week arguing that the existing Constitution offered a basis for political reform and that the party’s failure to abide by it was a central cause of political instability. On Friday, the magazine’s Web site was shut down, with officials claiming that it had failed to update its registration.

A message posted by the journal about the shutdown was forwarded 31,000 times, provoking many scathing criticisms of the government. The chief editor, Wu Si, said the journal’s staff had filed the paperwork and could be back online in 10 days.

Optimists say they hope the measures against the two publications were the result of recalcitrant officials appointed by the departing team of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, whose decade in power was marked by an overriding desire for stability. Many members of Mr. Xi’s team will not take office until the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in March, and it could take years for Mr. Xi to put allies into important positions of power.

“If Xi does not remove people and promote some officials, his new policies — if he has any — will be sunk by the old people,” said a senior editor at a top party newspaper who asked to remain anonymous because of the delicacy of the subject. “The conflicts between the old and the new have just emerged.”

Chinese politics since Deng’s time have been defined by similar tensions between liberalization and reaction. But Mr. Xi also confronts millions of increasingly outspoken Internet users whose outpourings can confound even China’s heavy censorship.

Zhan Jiang, a professor of media at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the public anger showed how expectations had risen. “Currently in China people are unusually sensitive to developments like this, and so the reaction has been quite intense,” Mr. Zhan said.

Some are less sure that the atmosphere is more open, saying the media shutdowns have occurred because Mr. Xi has avoided taking a clear position.

“There are still no clear rules on the media, and so officials stick to using their habitual ways to control the media,” said Li Datong, a prominent Chinese newspaper editor fired for his views. “There won’t be any change until Xi Jinping enunciates any ideas about major change.”

Other commentators doubt this will happen. They note that in previous jobs Mr. Xi upheld the status quo and that now that he has reached the pinnacle of his career he is unlikely to support systemic reform.

“This is a traditional viewpoint: if you change the emperor you’ll have a change of policy and maybe some new, hopeful things,” said the exiled Chinese political commentator Zhang Ping, who goes by the pen name Chang Ping. “But I don’t think this is likely, because you still have an emperor.”

Download 7.23 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   63

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2020
send message

    Main page