Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Accuracy for the boss (or at least different)

Need to know is a highly developed system in China.

China's secret media
IN A country where independent information-gathering is kept in check, what China’s leaders know and how they know it matters hugely. A recently leaked speech by Xia Lin, a senior editor at Xinhua, China’s government-run news agency, suggests that even though press controls have been somewhat loosened in recent years, leaders still rely heavily on secret reports filed by Xinhua journalists…

The summary [of the speech] has not been verified. But filing secret bulletins to the leadership is one of Xinhua’s crucial roles. Many of China’s main newspapers also have classified versions covering news considered too sensitive for public consumption. They do not rely on secret intelligence, but merely report on issues that in most other countries would be the staple of journalism: public complaints; official wrongdoing; bad economic news; and foreign critics

In recent years China’s open media—which, thanks to the withdrawal of government subsidies, are now more commercially driven—have also been straying into these once-forbidden realms. But despite the growing assertiveness and reliability of at least a handful of open publications, the secret media have shown no sign of withering away…

In 2003 the number of comments written by leaders in the margins of Reference Proofs, a secret bulletin on international affairs for very senior officials rose by 88% compared with the year before. Six were by President Hu. Xinhua compiles such statistics assiduously to measure the impact of its work. An even more secret version of the bulletin, Reference Proofs (Supplementary Sheets), published more than three times as many reports as in 2002...

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