Beijing, Media – Following the Chinese President Xi Jingping’s landslide victory with the Chinese Congress voting 2958 to 2 for his term limits to be removed, the Chinese government – or more aptly described, the Communist Party of China – has in a recent Congressional meeting proposed to abolish the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), and will instead put the State Council (China’s presidential cabinet) in charge of media production and censorship.
SAPPRFT was formed in March 2013 as a combination of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the General Administration of Press and Publication. It was the main regulatory body overlooking the media and entertainment industry until now, where the control will be transferred directly into the hands of President Jinping.
It’s worthy to take note of how serious the Chinese government is about censorship to fully understand the significance of this move. Take for instance the American employee Roy Jones, who worked a night shift at a social media job for the multinational hotel-chain Marriott International in Omaha, Nebraska. He was responsible for the company’s Twitter account, and used his working hours reviewing and liking tweets which could boost the company’s social media presence and influence. On this particular night shift, however, he liked a tweet by a group called ‘Friends of Tibet’:
Seems harmless, right? ‘Wrong!’ says the Chinese government, who responded to Marriott International by shutting down reservations to 300 of their hotels in China for a week. They did so because they deemed Friends of Tibet to be an unacceptable Tibetan seperatist group and that the tweet honored Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan to be listed as seperate countries instead of all being included as the People’s Republic of China.
Another illustration is their radically protectionist policies to “protect” their industries from foreign competition (especially Western). They most notably have what they call the “Great Firewall,” which prohibits Western websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, etc. These policies have been the foundation of two of the ten most valuable companies in the world: Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alibaba Holding Ltd. These companies have been predicted to draw scrutiny if US President Donald Trump escalate his recently imposed steel and aluminium tariffs into a full blown trade war. This is why the Chinese tech giants show support for President Jinping’s policies instead of questioning the administration’s censorship.
Victor Shih, a University of California at San Diego associate professor who studies the interaction between China’s elite an politics claimed that, ‘a close working relationship with China is part of the business model for companies like Tencent,’ adding that ‘the fact that Google, Facebook and others can’t be in China basically affords these tech companies a domestic oligopoly, which compels and incentivizes these companies to work closely with the Chinese government.’
American news agency Bloomberg reports that the government has in the last year imposed strict regulations on how data can be shared, and stored, introduced criminal sanctions for people breaking its new cybersecurity law, cracking down virtual private networks to bypass restrictive web filters, and put fines on companies who doesn’t ‘meet national standards.’ The news agency also wrote that the government takes significance use of tech in their censorship, forcing companies like Tencent and Weibo to clean their websites for everything from pornographic material to criticism of the party.
The decision of the Chinese Congress to take over control over censorship of the nation’s media and entertainment sector therefore becomes significant, as it’s not merely telling them what to do, but that the State Council does whatever it wants to itself, extending the power of the Communist party over the country. USC professor Stanley Rosely recently commented on President Jinping’s advances toward extending his power, saying that the abolishment of his term limit ‘reverses the attempts of Deng Xiaoping in 1982 and after to separate the Party from the Government and avoid the installation of a future Mao-type leader who can rule completely unchecked.’