June 22, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9408

Chinese Media Outlet Duowei: Xi Jinping Calls For Overhauling The CCP's Internal And International 'Propaganda'

June 22, 2021
China | Special Dispatch No. 9408

On June 11, 2021, the Chinese media outlet Duowei reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping had recently stressed the need to strengthen and improve China's international communication. This, Duowei reported, is "the first time that Xi Jinping publicly made his demand of 'improving the international communication capability' to the officials and propaganda apparatus of the CCP."

The outlet went on to suggest that the CCP should view Hollywood and Russia Today (RT) as models for a new approach to international communication.

Below is the Duowei article:[1]


Xi Jinping Makes His First Public Demand To Improve CCP's 'International Communication Capability'

"After the surprise announcement of a three-child policy, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping and the politburo members of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party held their 30th group study session. The theme of the latest Politburo study was improving China's international communication capability.

"Xi Jinping stressed in his speech the need to strengthen and improve the effort of international communication and to present a true, three-dimensional and comprehensive China. It was the first time that Xi Jinping publicly made his demand of 'improving the international communication capability' to the officials and propaganda apparatus of the CCP, in his related speeches on CCP propaganda and its media.

"The script of his speech published by the official media revealed that Xi Jinping believed that the CCP had straightened out its systems of internal and external propaganda after the 18th CCP National Congress in 2012.

"But obviously, he thought these were not enough and that in new situations, the CCP faced new tasks, which were 'strengthening top-level design and research layout and constructing the strategic communication system with distinctive Chinese characteristics.'

"These were aimed at achieving 'constructing the strategic communication system with distinctive Chinese characteristics, focusing on improving the influence of international communication, the appeal of the Chinese culture, the affinity of China's image, the persuasiveness of China's discourse and the guidance of international opinion.'

Xi Wants CCP's International Communication To Show 'Credible, Lovely, And Respectable Image Of China'

"Additionally, Xi also mentioned in his speech that CCP's international communication 'must pay attention to grasping the basic content and its spirit, be open and confident but humble and modest and strive to create a credible, lovely, and respectable image of China' in order to achieve 'enhancing the affinity and effectiveness of international communication.' Xi also urged to make as many friends as possible, uniting and winning the majority of international audience.

"Xi Jinping's speech as the top leader of the CCP was interpreted by some as his dissatisfaction with the status quo of the current overall grand external propaganda system. In fact, rather than dissatisfaction, it was more about that the CCP top leadership felt the pressure in the current dilemma of public opinion and was also thinking about how to change China's existing pattern of discourse power on the international stage.

"The frictions between China and the outside world, such as with the U.S., have increased amid the ever-changing international relationships and the enhancement of China's economic development and its science and technology. Xi Jinping once said at the second plenary meeting of the fourth Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee, 'Objectively speaking, the pattern of international public opinion still sees the West as strong and China as weak. But this pattern is not unalterable and irreversible. The key is how we approach it.'

"Plato once said, 'those who tell the stories rule society.' Although they are both transfers of information, communication and propaganda are not the same.

"Communication is the narration of objective facts with the purpose of informing the recipients of what happens. It focuses on how much information is accepted by audiences. 

"Propaganda is the use of various symbols to convey a certain opinion or point of view, trying to influence and guide people's attitudes, views and behaviors, with the goal of propagating the narratives by a communicator. So it focuses more on the content and purpose of an advocate.

"The reality in China is that the CCP's official media has been conducting communication as propaganda under the guidance of the principle of politics in command. This has resulted in the serious situation of rampant bureaucracy and formalism of the official media. Even with news reporting, it filled with the mentality of 'rather be on the left than on the right.'

"With the development of science and technology and the arrival of the information age, the boring and stereotyped remarks and rhetoric by the official media have drifted further away from the aesthetic taste of the Chinese people. So, it is not surprising that the more open and diverse overseas audiences, who are very different from the Chinese audience, do not accept – or even reject – the styles of the external propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party. The misfortune experienced by the Confucius Institutes and other external propaganda organizations is the most direct proof of the dismal outcome of the CCP's external propaganda which utilizes the mentality and thinking of the internal propaganda.

The CCP Has 'To Change Its Thinking And Methods Of Conducting External Propaganda'

"Xi Jinping requested in his speech that it was necessary to 'adopt accurate communication methods that were close to different regions, different countries and different groups of audiences, to promote the global, regional and diversified expressions and narratives of Chinese stories and Chinese voices and to enhance the affinity and effectiveness of international communication.' This was aimed at breaking the awkward situation of 'cannot say it even if having the facts and cannot spread it after saying it,' which was described by Xi Jinping in his speech at the Symposium on Philosophy and Social Science Work on May 17, 2016.

"To achieve such results, the CCP has not only to change its thinking and methods of conducting external propaganda that is hard for the outside world to accept, but also to create its own ideas and framework of international communication. Xi Jinping not only stressed in his speech at the Politburo's 'collective study' the necessity to build up the specialized talent team adaptive to the needs of international communication in the new era, but also demanded that the party organizations at all levels include the work of strengthening international communication capability into the scope of their responsibilities of ideology work, enhance organizational leadership, and increase financial input.

"Xi Jinping first put forward the concept of 'telling China's story well' as early as August of 2013 at the China National Propaganda and Ideological Work Conference. Since then, he has made the same demand on various occasions and sometimes together with 'communicating China's voice well.' In February 2016, Xi Jinping laid out the details of telling the Chinese story well at the CCP Central Committee's Symposium on Press and Public Opinion: Tell the story of socialism with Chinese characteristics well, tell the story of the Chinese dream well, tell the story of the Chinese well, tell the story of China's excellent culture well, and tell the story of China's peaceful development well. It can be considered that Xi Jinping started to conceive the concept and framework of 'international communication' at that time.

'The Power Of International Discourse Is The Embodiment Of State Power'

"Judging from the ongoing public opinion disputes and tension between China and the West in recent years, international communication is part of the struggle in international politics and international public opinion and a tussle for the discourse power on international stage. The power of international discourse is the embodiment of state power in international politics. If CCP wants to 'create a credible, lovely, and respectable image of China,' it needs not only to convey its facts and voices with good scripts, but also to be open and confident but humble and modest at the same time. When coming down to specific strategies, international communication must rid itself of the CCP's thinking of external propaganda, and learn to 'tell the story of China well' in a way that is acceptable to the audiences outside of China.

"Hollywood in the United States and Russian Television Today (RT) can be considered as successful cases in this regard. The former transforms the tangible American ideology into intangible movies that sweep the world and shore up the leading position of American global discourse. The latter uses an open and inclusive approach to governance and a flexible and bold form to accurately target the gaps and weaknesses of the Western media. And it has risen to become Russia's 'propaganda aircraft carrier,' effectively breaking the monopoly of Western discourse.

"However, whether it is external propaganda or 'international communication,' both touch upon to varying degrees the external expressions of the public relations of the national image and of the ruling party's ideas. That is what the CCP says about 'promoting China's image and telling the Chinese story.' To implement precise positioning and to formulate plans and strategies based on the specific conditions of different countries and societies, it is a basic starting point of thinking."


[1], June 11, 2021. It is worth noting that when it was founded in New York in 1999 by Pin Ho, Duowei, which is a news opinion website, recruited several dissidents to write for it; it was considered a "dissident outlet." In 2009, due to poor management, Duowei was sold to CCP-backed businessman Yu Pun-hoi, and its headquarters were moved to Beijing. Since then, it has become one of the semi-official news outlets that the Chinese government uses to test public opinion in the Chinese-speaking diaspora. Duowei News cannot be accessed from within China.

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