State Control Over Chinas Media
and the Possible Influence of WTO
the Claremont Institute
Capital Hilton, Washington, DC
I. The History of Two Barrels: the Barrel of A Gun and the Barrel of A Pen
On August 1st, 1928, the Chinese Communist Party established its first armed force. Since
then, it became a militarized party. In other words, a party with a military force. Mao
Zetong once said: "We used our two barrels, the barrel of a gun and the barrel of a
pen, to gain political power. We also must use these two barrels to protect our political
The Chinese Communist Party-controlled-Chinese government has always followed this
instruction, which is now a part of Mao's legacy.
Control over the media is control over political power. In 1957, the Anti-Rightists
Movement turned more than half a million Chinese intellectuals into enemies. Most of them
were writers, editors, journalists, professors and teachers. They were the intellectual
elite of the country. They only demanded to have some limited freedom of press and freedom
of speech. Yet, because of these demands many of them lost their lives. Most of them
were deprived of the rights to work as intellectuals and journalists for more
than 20 years.
My elder brother was labeled as a rightist in 1957. He had to undergo political struggles
and suffer economic punishment when he was only a 18 years old young worker. As a rightist
his only crime was daring to disagree with what the Branch Party secretary had said. This
appears to be absurd, but, this was also the reality in China.
During the Cultural Revolution, more human lives were wasted. According to the Chinese
government information source, about 100 million people, including many journalists and
editors, suffered various forms of tribulation. This was a national tragedy. This
movements still needs to be researched in depth and all the people who experienced this
tragedy should engage in deep self-reflection. This is including myself. Even though, I
was 14 years old at that time.
After June 4th, 1989, some of Chinese journalists and intellectuals fled to the US and
other Western countries. Some of Chinese journalists and intellectuals were put in
jail. Many Chinese journalists and intellectuals were politically criticized and punished.
Fortunately, this time, most of them have their situation improved since 1992.
The history of the Chinese Communist Party is the history of the destruction of the
freedom of speech and freedom of press The previous leaders and the current
hard-liners of the CCP use the barrel of a gun to kill their so-called political enemies
and political competitors. They use the barrel of a pen to manipulate the mass of people.
II. The Current Media Situation in China
Now a days, there is still a very tough control over the media in China . In 1996, the
Chinese government started the so-called Rectify and Overhaul Movement to wage a battle of
Anti-Spiritual Pollution in the media. They closed more than 300 local newspapers and 470
magazines. And, more than 10 thousand internal newspapers and magazines had been closed or
merged with other official publications.
In September 1999, the Central Committee of the CCP issued a official document which
demands all party branches and organizations to do the Rectify and Overhaul Movement
again. This is another movement to suppression against those newspapers and magazines
which are mostly owned by private individuals and non-state-run business enterprises.
Nevertheless, compared with the Cultural Revolution, there are three very
interesting phenomena in China media:
1. The Central TV Station produces its own TV interview programs and talk show programs
which attract the ordinary people's attention. These programs discuss the peoples concerns
and social problems such as corruption. It is called Focus on Issue. The Focus on Issue
Crews went to local areas to disclose and reveal the officials mistakes and crimes.
Sometimes the producers and staffs were violently attacked by the local officials and
their followers. Mr. Zhu, Rongji supports these programs strongly. Of course, Chinese
media is still quite different from the Western media. Still under controlled by the
Party. But, this is a progress for the Chinese official media.
2. Many private publishers of books and CDs still exist and are developing. but they
have to deal with the quota system and with sever official administrative measures. There
are now more than 200 private publishers in Beijing.
3. The circulation system of publications in China is undergoing a process of
In October 1998, the 9th National Book Exhibition was held in Xian, Shanxi Province. There
were 560 publishers and 2,500 book wholesalers and retailers. Among them, there were 114
non-state-run publishers and 1,245 non-state-run bookstores .
The situation in China is very complicated, the force of market economy is very strong and
will be inevitable. But, the hard-liners in China are afraid of truth and reality. What
they want is to protect their personal power and group interest. That is why they are not
only monopolizing political power and propaganda, but also take a very hard line against
the people in Taiwan. They are also strongly opposed to Chinas participation in WTO.
III. The Path of Taiwan towards Democracy and Free Media
The Taiwan experience is extremely significant to the reformers and the people in Mainland
China. The ruling party-KMT reformed the political system and itself through a peaceful
evolution, but not through a violent revolution. It was a long political process to
transform from the Military Rule, to Authoritative Rule, and to the Constitutional Rule.
The real press freedom was realized in 1988 after Mr. Chiang, Ching-Kuos declaration
It is very clear that the path of Taiwan to democracy and free media has the
following three characteristics: (1) economic freedom first; (2) evolution not revolution;
(3) political reform and real constitutional guarantee and protection for free media and
According to my research, a middle-aged generation of leaders in Taiwan is now arising.
They not only have very strong ability and experience for leading a modern and democratic
government in Taiwan, they also have a great vision for the future of a democratic China.
Therefore, the US policy should not passively maintain the stability between Taiwan
Straits. The passive maintenance is very dangerous strategy. Moreover, my suggestion to
the White House and the Congress is that the US policy should encourage and help the
leadership in Taiwan be more involved in the economic and political change in Mainland
IV. The WTO and the Future Media in China
The participation of China in WTO has three major significance to the future media in
1. WTO will increase the spirits of competition and the sense of free market among the
Chinese managers and workers. It also will decrease the parties control and interference
in businesses, entertainment industry and some media businesses. For example, Focus on
Family Foundation in the US has established offices in Shanghai and Beijing. At very
beginning, they tried by their own and failed. And, they asked an American Chinese
consulting company for help, then they succeed. All the programs are broadcasted in
Chinese by China Central TV Station without any limitation.
2. The establishment of legal system in the economic field and the training of Chinese
employees will lay a solid foundation of the rule of law in the future. This is the
foundation for free media. On Oct. 28, 1999, the European Union decided to provide 13.2
million European dollars to conduct the projects for economic laws and trade regulations
in China. Hundreds of American law firms have established branch offices and business
relations all over China. Many well trained Chinese and American Chinese MBAs and law
professionals are working there now.
3. WTO will not only stimulate economic trade and investment in China, it will also become
a tremendous powerful cultural and political instrument to change and reform China. More
importantly, it will bring the new international business standards and new ways of
thinking to the Chinese business world and Chinese people. More information and freer
thoughts will pour into China. At the same time, there is some worry about the coming
Chinese new generation who has less interest in political activities. They are becoming
the business type. This is a very goodevolution. Sooner or later, they will be educated
and have a real westernized business behavior. They will explore and solve the
political obstacles which are blocking the development of businesses.
Free business means free information and free ideas.
We are all happy to hear from the US representative for WTO negotiation with China last
Monday. The most important breakthrough in the WTO talk is that Chinese government has
retreated from their hard control over the internet. They allowed the foreign
investors to make investment on Website Company in China. And, those investors include the
web site contents providers whose web sites have been banned by the Chinese authority.
Unfortunately or fortunately, my web site, a very popular Chinese Forum among American
Chinese scholars and professionals, is one of them, which has been banned by the Chinese
authority in China since July 28th, 1999. By the way, the web site visitor can visit my
web site any place in the world except China with www.tangben.com.
So far, it is a Chinese web site. We are planning to have English columns soon.
Of course, from agreement to reality, there is a long way to go. But, WTO will eventually
help to dispel the state control over China media.
We can imagine that in the near future, instead of street protests, the political
protest on the internet will prevail. I am not going to touch this topic further
since this is Mr. Longs topic.
As John Quincy Adams promised, Whenever the standard of freedom and independence has been
or shall be unfurled, there will be Americas heart, her benediction and her prayers.
All in all, we will continue to work hard together for the freedom of press and freedom of
speech in China. We have a dream. We shall realized our dream. The dream is that American
people and Chinese people are united together to build up a peaceful, democratic world.