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By The Guardian
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has made a rare and high-profile tour of the country’s top three state-run media outlets, telling editors and reporters they must pledge absolute loyalty to the Communist party and closely follow its leadership in “thought, politics and action”.
His remarks are the latest sign of Beijing’s increasingly tight control over the media and Xi’s unceasing efforts to consolidate his power as head of the party.
At CCTV, Xi was welcomed by a placard pledging loyalty. “The central television’s family name is the party,” the sign read, anticipating remarks made by Xi at a later meeting.
“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name,” Xi told propaganda workers at the meeting, during which he demanded absolute loyalty from state media.
“All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority, and safeguard the party’s unity,” he said. “They must love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action.”
Willy Lam, an expert on elite Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Xi is raising standards for state media by requiring they obey the will of the Communist party’s core leadership, which is increasingly defined by Xi himself in another sign of how he has accrued more personal authority than either of his last two predecessors.
“This is a very heavy-handed ideological campaign to drive home the point of total loyalty to the party core,” Lam said. “On one hand, Xi’s influence and power are now unchallenged, but on the other hand, there is a palpable degree of insecurity.”
Lam said Xi faces lurking challenges not only from within different party factions but also from among a disaffected public, who are unhappy with the slowing economy and a recent stock market meltdown.
Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based independent historian and political observer, said the tour of state media further added to Xi’s burgeoning personality cult. “I am afraid we will see more personal deification in the media in the future,” Zhang said. “I think Xi is declaring his sovereignty over the state media to say who’s really in charge.”