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24 Aug, 2013

What people think vital to China’s future – Xinhua commentator

by Xinhua writer Fu Shuangqi

BEIJING, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) — High-level publicity officials from across China gathered at an important conference earlier this week in Beijing about publicity and ideological work.

President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech about priorities in this line of work.

The CPC cares about what people think. In its revolutionary days, the belief in Communism united its members and forged the party into an effective and courageous force, which won wars and pulled through hard times.

It is a very different time now. China is the world’s second largest economy and open in almost every aspect of its society. Hollywood blockbusters show in Chinese cinemas and foreign bestsellers line bookshelves

Chinese people think differently. Even a commercial film targeting teenage audience, such as “Tiny Times,” roused greatly divided feedback.

New situations pose challenges for the CPC to consolidate the ideology and affect public opinion.

Although the promotion of Marxism and socialism with Chinese characteristics remain the top priority in the publicity work, Xi stressed innovation and new approaches that can truly resonate with the public.

In his speech, Xi highlighted one significant task as introducing “a comprehensive and objective view of contemporary China as well as the exterior world.”

He stressed the importance of explaining the uniqueness of China to the outside world, including its “unique tradition, history and reality,” while being open to new ideas and knowledge from across the world.

He urged new ways of expression that may connect the country with the rest of the world to ensure “the stories of China are well told and voices of China well spread.”

The CPC and Chinese government are showing greater flexibility in communication with the public, at home and abroad.

In 2011, China for the first time put a 60-second video, with red as its theme color, on the screens at Times Square in New York, featuring Chinese celebrities like basketball star Yao Ming, astronaut Yang Liwei and producer John Woo.

In response to the fast growth of social networks, governments and Party organs have opened accounts on popular microblogging websites. According to a report from the Chinese Academy of Governance, more than 170,000 accounts at four leading microblogging sites were opened by governments and officials by the end of last year.

According to Prof. Xue Lan, dean of the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, notable progress has been made in government-people communication since the outbreak of SARS in 2003.

Spokespersons have been appointed and trained and the Party and government departments started to regularly brief media.

However, more needs to be done to meet public expectation of transparency and openness.

As President Xi said in his speech, publicity work is not only the work of publicity departments but of all Party and government departments and is an important part of governance.

In fast changing Chinese society, public communication is essential in handling emergencies and managing crises. It requires finer skills than the CPC’s traditional methods in political campaigns.

Performance in this line of work will greatly affect the image of the CPC.