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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fascinating story developing in China the past few weeks. The South China Weekly (南方周末), which has a reputation for being a little more independent than the main propaganda papers in China, published a New Year's editorial calling for constitutional government. In China, as you may know, all newspapers are subject to having articles checked by the local propaganda minister. But the Guangzhou area has a new propaganda minister. Instead of blocking the article, he rewrote it and made it a tribute to the Communist Party. The young journalists responsible for the editorial blew a gasket. They hit the streets and threatened to shut down the paper. This is unprecedented in China. Well, Party Central knew they had to do something. So the Global Times (print edition of the People Daily) put out an editorial scolding the 南方周末 reporters and informing them that they could not expect to have complete press freedom. The Party then ordered several news outlets to publish this editorial. The news outlets complied, but included a statement emphasizing that they were publishing the editorial because they had to, not because they agreed with it. This was, in effect an editorial. I have also heard that the editor of the Beijing News has resigned over the issue, which I have not been able to confirm. I have never seen this kind of open rebellion on the part of the Chinese media. In the picture, you can see an expression of support disguised in a news article (circled in red). The first four characters are the name of the paper (南方周末). The next two characters spell "jia you," which literally means "add oil (or gasoline)," but can also mean "step on the gas," or "refuel." It's a common cheer at athletic events. This kind of thing is reminiscent of Tiananmen, where three hundred journalists from the People Daily carried a huge banner that read, "Do not believe what we write. We print lies." Clearly the local propaganda minister overstepped. He certainly did not expect the reaction--a reaction which created a permanent change in the landscape. The times they are a changing.

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