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14 Illnesses of China’s Propaganda Ministry

Jiao Guobiao’s article condemning the Chinese Propaganda Ministry. This is an important political essay, and it’s no surprise it caused a stir. It begins:

What is the bottleneck in the cultural development of Chinese society? It is the Central Propaganda Department (and the entire propaganda system). What is the stumbling block in the cultural development of Chinese society? It is the Central Propaganda Department. Which is the largest and most powerful protective umbrella for the forces of evil and corruption in China? It is the Central Propaganda Department. Why do I say that? Everybody knows that China does not have too much freedom of the press; it is has too little. And who is trying to impose even more limits on the very little freedom of press? It is the Central Propaganda Department. Freedom of press is a measure of the development of civilization. Western philosophers have said that they can do without government, but they cannot do without the freedom of press. The Central Propaganda Department treats freedom of press as the enemy, and does not even permit the words “freedom of press” to be used freely.

They will not permit the media to use the term “citizen” (公民). Only the term “common people” is allowed. They will not permit the words for “democracy” and “freedom” to appear in the media. Those two words can appear in the Constitution and they appear in the Sixteen Big Reports, but common folks cannot use it. This is obviously treating the concepts of “democracy” and “freedom” as purely decorative. What kind of question is this? They are the enemy of humankind, the enemy of civilization, the enemy of democracy, the enemy of liberty!

This is an interesting argumentative essay. What it reveals is an intelligentsia partially free (and able to conceive of social criticism) and frustrated with any strictures placed upon it. Later on, Jiao Guobiao makes clear that he is ready to be a martyr (I think he is joking):

Thirteenth reason, at worst I’ll die since I don’t want to live anymore. Every time that I hear the Central Propaganda Department issue another “Don’t”, I wish I could kill myself. Or else go to Yuanming Yuan or Yiwo Yuan where there must be thousands of trees on which to hang myself so as not to look at this world anymore. It is always another “Don’t”! Is there no way to get the Central Propaganda Department to stop? Some deaths are weightier than the Taishan mountain while other deaths are lighter than feathers. A fellow student when I was a researcher student once said, “When Szema Chin wrote “The Book of History”, he broke eggs on bricks.” When the egg is broken, it is broken. But can you stop him from writing the “The Book of History”? I have gone through the constitution, the criminal law code and other laws of the People’s Republic of China. Criticizing the Central Propaganda Department probably does not merit a death penalty. There will probably be some jail time, but there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s just going to jail, right? I might even get the Qincheng treatment. Going to Qincheng prison is just like depositing your body at the bank, you can collect interest and it does not depreciate. These days, who amongst the famous oldtimers have not stayed at Qincheng? Gandhi said that the prison is the free hotel provided by the British Empire, with easy living and three meals a day. The Chinese jails are just as civilized as the British jails in that both are totally free (at one point it was not the same — every time they execute a counter-revolutionary by shooting, the family of the counter-revolutionary has to pay 50 cents for the bullet or else they can’t take the body back for burial). Will my sex life be empty? There is nothing wrong about trying to live a monk’s life in jail. It can’t be worse than high school or university. When I was in high school and university, I was not eating enough and it was no big deal. People who have suffered before know what to expect. A few days ago, I was watching Phoenix Satellite TV and Hsu Fufei was interviewing Ding Ling’s partner Chen Ming. He said that the food at Qinccheng was not bad. When was that? Those were the days of shortages. These days, nobody is starving in the country, so how bad can it be for the people at Qincheng? Will I be beaten a bit? I get into shock whenever I am excited, like the faked deaths of certain insects. So if they touch me, I’ll pass out. I don’t think that they’ll beat me again.

Read an interview with him (bottom of the page). A few remarks. First, while these sort of tirades are bold and eloquent, in fact the Western World is flooded with them by now, so it’s hard to appreciate them when they come from a repressive country. Second, the problem with Western media is being drowned out by big media companies. A blogger can scream truth and justice all he wants, but if Fox News is saying things differently, the blogger will be ignored (for a time anyway). The good thing about the Internet is that it preserves written documents and lets surfers catch up to controversies. Big Media’s reporting goes quickly out of date and loses relevance, while small media’s messages stays alive by personal dedication. Ultimately Big Media is indifferent to the content of its message. They view content in purely economic terms; it doesn’t matter whether they are reporting about Michael Jackson or the US Constitution or a daredevil stunt, as long as the advertising revenue keeps coming. Truly subversive journalism cannot be stomached by Big Media because it spoils the appetite of watchers being spoonfed a steady stream of commercial messages. The blogosphere, on the other hand, is a huge institutional memory with slower momentum, but longer staying power.

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