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‘Emperor Xi’ gags the press

Posted March. 02, 2018 08:12,   

Updated March. 02, 2018 08:12


Devumi, a company that created and sold 3.5 million fake tweeter accounts in the United States, was investigated earlier this year. It turned out that main purchasers of the fake accounts were celebrities and politicians seeking to increase their follower base, including Xinhua News Agency, China’s official press agency.

It is ironic that Xinhua, who would go far as to manipulate its social networking account, has recently suffered from delivering a fact-based report. The Hong Kong media reported that the CEO of Xinhua was investigated, while the reporter in question was fired. The article in question came to the fore on grounds that it overly emphasized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitions to amend the constitution to abolish his political term limit as president. As criticism increased home and abroad, the Chinese government began to control media reports and censured the initial reporter. As the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection under the Communist Party of China began to investigate the press, reports from the People’s Daily and CCTV on abolishing the term limit and constitutional amendment began to disappear.

Media control of the Chinese government is not confined to mainstream press. Key word search related to the prolonged premier terms such as the “term of the premier” and “emperor dream” have become prohibited on social networking platforms such as Weibo, WeChat and Baidu as well as portals. Even the world “manse,” which means cheers and once used to wish longevity of the emperor, was prohibited, on grounds that it was sarcastically used to express Xi Jinping’s ambitions.

According to Reporters Without Borders last year, China ranked 176th out of 180 countries in terms of Press Freedom Index. Its ranking is just above Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea. According to The Political Program in Zhenguan Times, a Chinese classic on the reign of the Chinese emperors, Emperor Taizong of Tang was said to ask his subjects to “not to avoid royal wrath and offer truthful advice.” In all ages, criticism on those who govern the country becomes foundation for advancement. Xi’s refusal to accept criticism and control the media suggests that even if he does become an “emperor,” it is unlikely that he would be known as a wise ruler.

Sung-Won Joo swon@donga.com