The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) invests heavily in shaping public opinion by withholding all information that threatens its power and spreading propaganda that increases people’s reverence toward the Party. In recent times, the regime has ramped up its propaganda campaign through all forms of media, whether it be movies, games, music, or social media.
In 2009, the Chinese government released a movie called The Founding of a Republic to mark the 60th anniversary of the country. Contrary to expectations, the film was largely unable to impress the audience. In fact, its approval was so low that the Chinese film review website Douban has actually disabled ratings for the movie.
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But when the movie My People, My Country was recently released to mark the 70th anniversary of China, things ended up differently. The film went on to gross over US$200 million in just five days and got a rating of 8.1 in Douban. “After 70 years… our culture and propaganda departments finally figured out how to combine propaganda with art,” Yan Feng, professor of Chinese literature at Fudan University in Shanghai, said on the social media website Weibo (The New York Times).
The music video My People, My Country has been played over 70 million times on Tencent’s video streaming service. Last year, CCP took control over film regulation from the government, ensuring that it has direct control over what is shown at theaters. As such, events like the Tiananmen Square massacre will continue to remain absent from Chinese movies.
A game developed jointly by Tencent and a state-run media is one of the most popular apps on the Apple Store in the country. Players are required to compete against each other to implement Party policies while building cities. These include targets like low-carbon emitting transportation systems, poverty alleviation, and so on. People who meet the most number of targets get ranked higher.
Concerning the current Hong Kong protests, Beijing has completely muted any honest discussion about the subject on social media platforms. Protestors have been depicted as thugs, with propaganda describing them as ‘anti-China’. The West, especially the U.S., is being pointed out as the ‘foreign enemy’ triggering the demonstrations.
“The [protest] movement is so complicated, unpredictable, and unprecedented, with a very diverse group of participants, but what we see within the Great Firewall of China is actually simplified and distorted,” Fang Kecheng, a communications professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), said to The Epoch Times.
Social media specialists
The CCP is also hiring media specialists in increasing numbers to help with its efforts to spread propaganda to the 800 million Internet users and to censor “undesirable influences.” The selection process is pretty stringent. Those who make the cut are sent to Beijing where they are given six months of intensive training on how to spread propaganda in line with party policies. The recruits are then sent to various provinces and municipalities to be a part of local media teams.
The selection process “includes screening candidates for political loyalty. They also need a background in law enforcement — whether in the police, courts, justice department, or prosecutors’ offices — must be familiar with new media platforms such as WeChat or Weibo and, of course, be willing to work the very long hours more common in Internet start-ups than government jobs,” according to South China Morning Post.
These social media teams are apparently given more freedom in their work in the sense that there is no strict hierarchy. There is no one sitting at the top constantly instructing the employees on what subjects to focus on and how to spread propaganda. Instead, the new recruits have the freedom to do whatever they want as long as they “reach people’s hearts.”