Public opinion divisions reflected in Party media

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-16 0:23:01

In one of its recent articles, Hongqi Wen'gao, or Red Flag Manuscript, a political periodical, singled out for criticism some big Vs, which refers to verified Weibo users who have more than 500,000 followers. It poured scorn on "a renowned economist," "a famous actor," and "a real estate tycoon who has over 20 million followers," accusing them of slandering the Party's leadership. The article stirred up public opinion, and it was inferred by some Net users that the anonymous targets of criticism by the journal are respectively Mao Yushi, Sun Haiying and Ren Zhiqiang.

As Hongqi Wen'gao is affiliated to the Communist Party-run magazine Qiushi, it is therefore defined as State media. Some have spoken out, saying that the journal's censure of the three "anti-Party" figures indicates a reoccurrence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

Objectively speaking, Hongqi Wen'gao is a quite pointed magazine but it's open to debate to what extent the magazine represents the government. Most media in China is State-run, but media outlets have become diversified in recent years and differentiated from each other in terms of value orientation.

Hongqi Wen'gao has more freedom of the press than traditional Party-run periodicals. Its rebukes toward anti-Party figures carry a different meaning from those made by Party-run newspapers or magazines. The Hongqi Wen'gao article illuminates views held by some Party members; however, it shouldn't be equated to an official statement from the Party.

In our view, the reason why Hongqi Wen'gao criticized the big Vs is that it intends to play an active role in the public discourse. Such a role has never been assumed by the traditional Party-run periodicals.

The three targets of criticism by Hongqi Wen'gao indeed advocated opinions that are contradictory to the Party and the country's political roadmap, which earned them fame and benefits. They gained popularity among certain groups, including Western forces.

But at the same time, they faced some uncertainties. For instance, they risk being criticized by media outlets such as Hongqi Wen'gao. In such circumstances, they have nothing to complain about. They have influence in the sphere of public opinion, so they could refute Hongqi Wen'gao and its supporters, defend themselves or feel proud of being crowned "anti-Party."

Having rushed to bear the brunt of public debates and received unprecedented attention from the public, Hongqi Wen'gao needs to face up to the consequences.

The magazine could win a growing number of supporters but meanwhile, it is likely to be besieged by liberals.

Now China's public opinion sphere is highly divided. Mainstream society has an opaque attitude toward its division. When anyone raises their head above the parapet of the field of mainstream public opinion, they should have the courage to accept the consequences.  

Posted in: Observer

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