Month: October 2012

Media Control, Qing Dynasty Style

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At the moment, I am preparing to start on a new book, which will be a history of press and media law and regulation in China throughout the 20th century. Obviously, that means digging through imperial archives to find out how the Qing government, and in particular empress-dowager Cixi, dealt with the emergence of the first modern newspapers. The first one of these, Shen Bao 申报 was established in 1872 by a British entrepreneur, Ernest Major, but was aimed at a Chinese audience and run by Chinese staff. Although it was relatively conservative, supporting the Qing government until about 1905, it pioneered the use of communications technology and of vernacular Chinese. This broadened its scope of sources and potential audiences. Hence, it played an important role in a number of social issues of the day, and inspired the establishment of more newspapers in a number of cities.

These newspapers initially concentrated on commercial news and small, local affairs, in order to avoid government attention or post offices’ blocking their distribution. As the Qing weakened, however, a stream of politically-oriented newspapers and periodicals gradually merged. Some of these were run by reform-minded junior officials, who often had spent time abroad or in contact with foreigners. One of these, Huang Zunxian 黄遵宪,  set up a newspaper in 1896, Shiwubao 时务报, which advocated for political reform. These calls were taken up by the reformist emperor Guangxu in the abortive Hundred Days Reform of 1898. These reforms were brutally ended with a coup d’état supported by empress-dowager Cixi, who immediately dialled back most of the reforms enacted by Guangxu. Also, she rescinded the rights of officials and individuals to send memorials to the emperor, and ordered the closure of Shiwubao and other non-government newspapers through a decree which reads interestingly like CCP notices of a century later.

“With an Imperial Decree, the official newspapers and Shiwubao were suspended without exception. Recently, in places as Tianjin, Shanghai and Hankou, but newspaper offices still stand in great numbers, talk wildly and without much thought, fabricate and spread rumours, mislead and deceive the people, have no scruples, and methods must be urgently set up to prohibit them. All governors-general and governors shall earnestly ban them. The editorial writers in their offices are the scum of the literati, do not have a sense of honour or shame, and are to be strictly investigated by local offices and gravely punished, in order to end the fallacies and pacify people’s hearts.”


Report concerning the Work Situation in Deepening Cultural Structural Reform and Promoting the Grand Development and Grand Flourishing of Socialist Culture

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Given on 24 October 2012 at the 29th Meeting of the 11th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

Minister of Culture: Cai Wu

Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress,

I have been entrusted by the State Council to report to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the work situation in deepening cultural structural reform and promoting the grand development and grand flourishing of Socialist culture. Cultural structural reform and development work involve culture, radio, film and television, press and publications, and various other areas, and for this report, the opinions of the Central Propaganda Department as well as SARFT, the General Administration of Press and Publications, the Information Office and other departments were sought, in order to as much as possible, completely reflect the comprehensive situation of cultural structural reform and development work, please consider it. Read the rest of this entry »

Liu Yunshan: Jubilantly Welcome the 18th Party Congress

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There are obvious differences between the leadership transitions in the two largest economies in the world, which will take place within days from each other, in November. Most importantly China doesn’t have a presidential election, as the United States does. Its leadership transitions are organized opaquely, in backrooms filled with the smoke of Panda cigarettes and without any external input. The United States works in quite the opposite way: candidates are intensely scrutinized in the press. Every detail of their private history and public service records are put under the  spotlight. This vetting is considered to be of fundamental importance in the process, and has hobbled (Romney’s tax reviews) or ended (Herman Cain’s alleged misconduct) a number of presidential campaign bid. In China, the opposite happens. The personal life and history of top-level leaders is proclaimed to be beyond reproach and they or their families may not be investigated. Similar things happen with policy. A huge political marketing machine has been set up to market, analyze, compare and criticize the policy proposals made by candidates, whereas in China, a huge political marketing machine has been set up to flood the public sphere with a continuous message that the Party’s policy is correct.

China’s political marketing machine is faced, however, with a few problems. First, the Communist Party is obliged to take responsibility for the overall state of the country. It can’t blame a previous government for problems, as the Party has been in power for over six decades. It can’t blame stubborn opposition, as there is none, and it can’t significantly shift in basic political direction, as it has claimed over the last three decades that their policies are correct and historically determined. It can blame foreign hostility and volatile international circumstances, but then, it needs also to explain why China isn’t using its growing international clout to shape the international environment to suit it better. It can also claim that every historical phase brings along its own challenges, and does so, but this can only be a small part of its propaganda. Dealing with challenges requires political choices to be made, and may engender opportunities for dissent. Rather, the Party contends that policymaking is a scientific manner where optimal solutions to problems can be found, depoliticizing the policymaking process.

This is especially important now, as the 18th Party Congress is coming along. This transition is a delicate moment, and all stops are being pulled to ensure that no opposition can organize. One key aspect of this is propaganda. The Party believes it needs to not only tell the people that they are better off, China is getting more important and stronger internationally, and Hu Jintao’s decade of leadership has been a great success; it also believes it needs to mobilize the people to give full and enthusiastic support to the new generation of leaders. The propaganda campaign for this Congress was officially launched late in July, two days after Hu Jintao gave his valedictory speech. Liu Yunshan gave a speech to a conference of propaganda department directors outlining the measures that must be taken “to welcome the victorious convocation of the 18h Party Congress” (Available in translation).  Liu heads the Central Propaganda Department and is widely tipped to succeed his political godfather, Li Changchun, to the Standing Committee propaganda and ideology portfolio, . Most of these measures are taken directly from the standard Communist playbook. Advanced models of communist virtue and concrete examples of Communist development will be trotted out, there will be a series of books, articles, films, exhibitions and cultural activities extolling the virtues of the CCP, and closer attention will be paid to sudden incidents. Interestingly, Bo Xilai’s Red Song initiative didn’t leave the scene with him, but there are now two major events, “Everyone Sings patriotic Songs” and “Singing about China”, touring from city to city.

The most interesting remarks in the Liu speech are about foreign-oriented propaganda. Liu now seems to understand that, as the second largest economy in the world, more eyes are pointing towards China than in the past, and that there is more and more non-official interaction between the Chinese and international spheres of public communication. What Liu does not yet seem to comprehend, is the nature of the many soft power own goals that China has made in the recent past. China has often appeared petulant, in spats involving Tibet for example, has thrown its weight around regionally that has sent many smaller South-East Asian nations run towards the United States for cover, and every time it jails another dissident, another corruption case comes out or a food scandal is uncovered, it adds another bullet hole to the many it has in its foot already. Liu seems to believe that this can be rectified with patient and reasonable explanation of the facts as the Party sees it. This is exactly the same path that the Party took after Tiananmen, where it claimed that all that was needed to justify sending tanks at students to the international community, was a rational exposé about Chinese politics. Now, Liu argues that the Party must concentrate foreign attention on the Party’s claim to put people first and govern for the people, but these claims are at best misguided and at worst mendacious when we look at the endemic corruption that sustains the Party’s position in power. In this light, Liu’s contention that the Party must gain “the moral commanding heights” is risible. But there is a more fundamental problem as well. Westerners fundamentally don’t believe in the system that China proposes. Europe’s historical relationship with dictatorial regimes and powerful religious organizations has led to a relativist, postmodernist position that instinctively distrusts any claim to truth and power, while the powerful anti-government stance in US society causes a lack of trust in any overbearing regime, regardless of what political colour. In other words, CCP rule is mistrusted for what it is, even before the discussion starts about what it does. Conversely, many Chinese will instinctively distrust American and European politics for being chaotic and disorganized.

Whether or not this distrust is justified is another discussion. It certainly is the case that China does better materially than in the past, and it is equally the case that the economic, political and social crises besetting Europe and the United States indicate that many improvements there remain to be made. It is, however, undoubtedly so that these perceptions exist, and that China’s ideas on how to deal with them are often ill-informed and cack-handed. China hires foreign law firms as council in its WTO disputes, possibly it could to with a bit of foreign PR expertise as well.

Hu Jintao Says Goodbye and Starts Preparing Legacy

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On 23 July, Hu Jintao gave a speech at a training seminar for high-level provincial officials, on the importance of continuing the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. He evaluated the Party’s work over the last ten years, his period in office, and set out a number of goalposts and principles for the future. According to Bill Bishop, Hu Jintao spoke for many hours, clearly outlining the problems and challenges facing China. The full text of the speech has not been made public, but since then, the Party magazine Qiushi has published a number of articles drawing from this speech and the People’s Daily has opened an entire website dedicated to it, with commentaries from Xi Jinping and a number of experts from different fields. Also, this website contains a summary of the speech, which is available in translated form hereunder.

This speech sets the stage for the 18th Party Congress and outlines the agenda for the new leadership generation, although, in this acrimonious transition, it is not completely certain this speech reflects a consensus between the different factions. Nonetheless, there are some things we can learn from the summary, which consists of two parts. The first part takes stock of the experience of the last few years, while the second part lists plans for the future. In evaluating the last ten years, Hu indicated that China had a bumpy ride, but that generally, the government managed to successfully fend off domestic and foreign issues. Hu unsurprisingly attributes that success to his own theoretical innovation, the scientific development concept, while paying the necessary dues to the policies of Mao, Deng and Jiang, as well as Marxism-Leninism. As a result, China is still on track to complete the objective of building a relatively well-off society (xiaokang shehui) by 2020, and complete Socialist modernization by 2050. In order to do so, the core requirement is persisting in Socialism with Chinese characteristics. Conveniently, Hu provides few details about what this may mean, but it does signal that no basic political change is on the agenda.

In setting out ideas on the future, Hu subsequently lists a number of policy areas, which may reflect the order of priority they have on the CCP agenda. In order of appearance, these are transforming economic development methods, political structural reform, building a strong Socialist culture country, improving the people’s livelihood and providing social services, and protecting the environment. On the economy, Hu Jintao reiterates that shifting development methods remains the first priority. However, thus far, little rebalancing seems to happen. On political structural reform, Hu continues the line established by Deng Xiaoping that the Party’s leadership position may not change, but that under this condition, the people are to manage their own affairs. While he also pays lip service to democratic election, decision-making, management and supervision, these refer to intra-Party structures and do not indicate that the Chinese franchise will be broadened. On culture, which may take the central space accorded to Zhou Yongkang’s coercive internal stability apparatus, Hu repeats the line established at the Plenary meeting in October last year. On ensuring the people’s livelihood, Hu indicates that it is necessary to expand China’s social services. Lastly, Hu argues that environmental protection should become an integral part of China’s economic, political, cultural and social policy in all areas.

In short, this speech avoids any contentious statement in the run-up to the 18th Party Congress, and provides a relatively blank space on which Xi can begin to establish his leadership. At the end, Hu does pay special attention to the necessity of improving Party building and fighting abuses. In the wake of the Bo scandal, and the different incidents that have battered the CCP over the last few years, and in the fact of corruption, the Party must embark on a new round of Party building. However, Hu does not go beyond calling for the strengthening of existing measures, including internal organization and supervision, campaigns and political education. Without the full text of the speech, it is difficult to assess to what extent Hu aims to push appointments or policy in a certain direction, but at least according to this speech, it seems that the key objective the Party pursues, is not to pursue any clear objective at all.

Valiantly Forge Ahead Following the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

Hu Jintao pointed out that Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the banner for the development and progress of the China of today, and is the banner for the united struggle of the entire party and the people of all ethnicities in the entire country, we must unwaveringly take Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important “Three Represents” thoughts as guidance, deeply implement the scientific development view, persist in and develop Socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must grasp work, grasp implementation, and in the next five years, lay a decisive basis to completely realize the objective of a relatively well-off society, on time, by 2020, and after that, basically realize Socialist modernization by the middle of this century. We must unwaveringly march the correct path opened up by the Party and the people through a long time of practice, not fear any risk, and not be mislead by any interference. Liberating thoughts is a strong ideological weapon to promote the development of the undertaking of the Party and the people from beginning to end, reform and opening up is a strong force promoting the development of the undertaking of the Party and the people from beginning to end, we must unwaveringly move reform and opening up forward, never become fossilized, never stagnate, unite all forces that can be united, muster all vigorous factors that can be mustered, and with unbounded confidence, overcome all difficulties and risks on the path ahead.

Hu Jintao pointed out that, comprehensively analyzing present trends inside and outside the country, we face unprecedented opportunities, and also face unprecedented challenges, our country’s development is still in an important strategic period of opportunity with great potential. Whether we will be able to grasp the opportunities or calmly meet challenges, crucially depends on our ideological understanding, depends on our work strength, depends on our moving the pace of reform and development forward. We must completely examine development trends of the present world and the present China, completely grasp the new requirements for our country’s development and the new expectations of the popular masses, scientifically formulate action plans and major policies adapted to the requirements of the times and the aspirations of the people, press on more enthusiastically, work cautiously and conscientiously, continue to promote scientific development, stimulate social harmony, continue to improve the people’s lives, enhance the people’s happiness, and do all we can to complete the glorious and formidable tasks entrusted to us in these times.

Hu Jintao stressed that, since the 16th Party Congress, we have walked a very uneven path. Looking at these ten years overall, the international situation has constantly changed, the domestic tasks of reform, development and stability were grave, we have closely grasped and used our country’s important strategic period for development well, overcome a series of severe challenges, spared no effort to move the undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics towards a new development phase. The reason that we are able to achieve such historical accomplishments and progress, most importantly is that we have persisted in taking Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important “Three Represents” thought as guidance, have dared to move the practical and basic theoretical innovation forward, have formed and implemented the scientific development view, and have provided powerful theoretical guidance for completely constructing a relatively well-off society and accelerating the pace of Socialist modernization. Deeply implementing the scientific development view still is a long-term, arduous task, facing a series of extremely challenging contradictions and difficulties. We must implement the scientific development view with even firmer determination, even more powerful measures and even more perfect systems, and truly make the scientific development view into a strong force promoting both strong and good development in the economy and society.

Hu Jintao stressed that, through a long period of efforts, our persisting in and developing Socialism with Chinese characteristics has obtained great theoretical and practical results, the most important one is that the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics has been opened up, a theoretical structure for Socialism with Chinese characteristics has been formed, and a system of Socialism with Chinese characteristics established. This is the basic achievement of ninety years of struggle, production and accumulation by the Party and people, and must be utterly treasured, completely persisted in, and incessantly developed. Under new historical conditions, to continue to move Socialism with Chinese characteristics forward, we must incessantly enrich the practical characteristics, theoretical characteristics, ethnic characteristics and characteristics of the time, of Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Hu Jintao pointed out that, the comrades in the entire Party must keep firmly in mind that the rapid development of our country over the last thirty years relied on reform and opening up, and our country’s development in the future must also resolutely rely on reform and opening up. Only through reform and opening up is it possible to develop China, develop Socialism and develop Marxism. We absolutely must persist in the line, principles and policies of the Party since the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress, persist in implementing the spirit of reform and opening up in all parts of governing the country, move reform and opening up forward even more consciously and even more firmly, incessantly stride forward in a new pace in areas of constructing and innovating systems, and do all we can to push reform and opening up forward.”

When discussing accelerating the transformation of economic development methods, Hu Jintao stressed that, having economic construction at the core is what is needed to rejuvenate the nation, development still is the key to resolve all problems of our country. In the China of today, the basic requirement that persisting in development is a hard principle is persisting in scientific development. Taking scientific development at the core, and taking accelerating the transformation of economic development methods as the main line, is the strategic decision of the overall picture of our country’s development. The comrades in the entire Party absolutely must unify thoughts, raise understanding and firmly implement the major policy deployments of the Centre on accelerating the transformation of economic development methods, shift the foothold of promoting development to raising quality and efficiency, firmly grasp the implementation of the strategy to have innovation drive development, move strategic readjustment of economic structures forward, promote the integration of urban and rural development, completely raise economic openness levels and other strategic tasks, strive to arouse all sorts of market subjects to develop new vitality, promote the synchronous development of industrialization, informatization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization, completely deepen economic structural reform, incessantly strengthen long-term development aftereffects.

When discussing moving political structural reform forward, Hu Jintao stressed that, since reform and opening up, we have always put political structural reform in an important position in the entire picture of reform and development, have unwaveringly moved it forward, have obtained major progress, successfully opened up and persisted in the political development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. To move political structural reform forward, we must persist in organically unifying the leadership of the Party, letting the people master their own affairs, and governing the country according to the law, develop people’s democracy even more broadly and even more fully, guarantee that the people conduct democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision according to the law, pay even more attention to giving rein to the important function of the rule of law in governing the State and society, safeguard the unity, dignity and authority of the national legal system, and guarantee that the people enjoy broad rights and freedoms according to the law.

When discussing the construction of a strong Socialist culture country, Hu Jintao stressed that, constructing a strong Socialist culture country is a major strategic policy decision in our Party’s grasping the developments and changes in the times and the trends, and vigorously responding to the spiritual and cultural requirements of the people of all ethnicities. We must unwaveringly march the culture development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, persist in the orientation of serving the people and serving Socialism, persist in the policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend, persist in the principle of sticking close to reality, sticking close to life, sticking close to the masses, establish high levels of cultural consciousness and cultural self-consciousness, promote the complete development of a Socialist spiritual civilization and material civilization, and construct a ethnic, scientific Socialist culture facing modernization, facing the world, facing the future, of the masses.

When discussing the improving of the people’s livelihood and strengthening social construction, Hu Jintao pointed out that progressively raising the people’s material and cultural life levels on the basis of economic development, is the basic objective of reform and opening up, and Socialist modernization construction. Since reform and opening up, and especially in the last few years, we have exerted extremely large efforts obtained clear achievements in the area of improving the people’s livelihood. At the same time, we also must consider that the popular masses’ requirements to live an even better life are also strengthening, and their expectations concerning resolving prominent problems in the area of the people’s livelihood are also rising. We must continue to strengthen work, seek the benefit of the people’s livelihood more, resolve the worries on the people’s livelihood more, resolve the problems of interests that are of the most concern, are the most direct and the most real for the people, continue to gain new progress in ensuring that there are matters to learn, there are jobs to do, there is medicine for the ill, there is care for the elderly, and there are houses in which to live, ensure that the gains of reform and development are extended to the whole body of the people even better and even more fairly, and guarantee that the people lead an even better life.”

When discussing moving the ecological civilization construction forward, Hu Jintao pointed out that, moving the construction of an ecological civilization forward, is a strategic tasks involving fundamental change production methods and life methods, we must profoundly merge and implement ecological civilization construction concepts, principles and objectives, etc., into all aspects and the complete process of our country’s economic, political, culture and social construction, persist in the basic national policy of saving energy and protecting the environment, strive to move green development, recycling development and low-carbon development forward, and create a fine production and life environment for the people.

Hu Jintao stressed that, since reform and opening up, we closely revolved around the magnificent undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, completely moved the new magnificent project of Party building forward, and have gained great achievements. Under new trends, major changes have occurred in the historical bearing and governance conditions of the Party, and the composition and structuring of Party member teams, the risks coming from outside are unprecedented, the aspect of Party building and especially in Party members and cadre teams, many prominent problems that urgently need to be resolved have emerged. The entire party must strengthen a sense of urgency and a sense of responsibility, persist in the fact that the Party must manage the Party, and governing the Party strictly, completely strengthen the Party’s ideological building, organizational building, work style building, anti-corruption and clean government building, system construction, guarantee that the Party becomes a strong leading core of Socialism with Chinese characteristics from beginning to end. We must continue to move the new magnificent project of Party building forward, persist in ideals and convictions, preserve the blood-and-flesh relationship of the Party with the popular masses, vigorously develop intra-Party democracy, deepen cadres’ personnel system reform, tamp down an organizational basis for Party governance, unwaveringly oppose corruption, consciously safeguard the concentration and unity of the Party.

Lastly, Hu Jintao pointed out that, all levels’ Party Committees and government must, with a spirit of high responsibility, enthusiasm and accomplishment, do all work matters on reform, stability and development well, continue to be earnest and down to earth, firmly grasp implementation, earnestly implement the general fundamental key of seeking progress in stability, preserve the tendency of smooth and relatively rapid economic development, and establish a solid basis for the stability of the larger picture. We must realistically do well the work of caring for the masses’ production and lives, always keep the masses’ safety, danger and daily life in our hearts, and especially must do the work well to care for masses in difficulty, in all manners assist them in getting rid of worries and overcoming difficulty. We must strengthen propaganda and public opinion work, forcefully propagate our Party’s magnificent achievements in leading the people to move reform and opening up, and Socialist modernization construction forward since reform and opening up and especially since the 16th Party Congress, and strengthen the confidence of the entire Party and the people of all ethnicities in the entire country in unwaveringly marching the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The entire Party must even more closely unite around the Party Centre, firmly do work in all areas well, and welcome the victorious convocation of the 18th Party Congress with magnificent achievements.











Ex-CCTV Chief Dismissed from GAPP Vice-Chair Position, Possibly also from Party

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According to Caixin, Jiao Li (焦利), who was the head of CCTV until November last year, and was appointed as Vice-Chairman of the General Administration of Press and Publications, has been removed from his position. Jiao seems to have been the latest victim of the Bo Xilai fallout. Both men started their careers in Liaoning Province. Jiao worked his way through the ranks of the Liaoning Daily, becoming editor-in-chief and chair of its Party Committee. In 1997, he became a member of the Liaoning provincial propaganda department and joined the Central Propaganda Department in 2008. In May 2009, he was appointed as CCTV director. Here, he suspended a news anchor on request of Bo Xilai. However, he was removed from his position after only two and a half years in office, prompting suspicions that Jiao had ruffled feathers in his handling of news items. He also made himself unpopular among staff through the appointments and dismissals he made. Furthermore, Jiao’s private life came under scrutiny.  He allegedly had a relationship with Tang Can, a singer who, according to rumours, has been secretly sentenced to 15 years in July after being involved in numerous high-level scandals, and was closely acquainted with Bo Xilai. Officially, he was transferred to a vice-director position in the General Administration of Press and Publications, but has not been seen in public events since. Now, it seems that he has been removed from all State posts and expelled from the Party.

This calls into question his relationship with Li Changchun, a fellow Liaoninger, number 5 in the Standing Committee and propaganda chief, and Liu Yunshan, director of the Central Propaganda department and Standing Committee hopeful at the 18th Party Committee. Rumours indicate that although Li distanced himself from Jiao as scandal started to broaden, Liu tried to protect Jiao, on whose assistance he relied in the CPD.

Unfortunately, in this case, most we have to go on are reports by partisan overseas Chinese media, which may not necessarily reliable. However, let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that they are true. This might have interesting consequences for the relationship between the propaganda apparat and the Standing Committee. Propaganda is, together with discipline inspection and personnel appointments, one of the three large supporting pillars of the Party, and the head of the propaganda apparat has been a Standing Committee member since 1989, when the structure was overhauled. There has been an increasing emphasis on media and culture in recent years but until now, the institutions in those fields have generally been staffed by the conservative side of the Party. It is not unimaginable to think that in the raging political crisis, control over propaganda, and therefore the tools of public opinion guidance, has been one of the major points of conflict for the next round of appointments. Also, political battles in China often are fought through underlings. For example, Chen Liangyu’s dismissal in 2003 signalled Hu Jintao’s consolidation of power over the Shanghai faction, while the dismissal of his right hand man Ling Jihua was considered to be a great weakening of his power. It seems inconceivable that Jiao’s dismissal, especially at this time, has nothing to do with Liu Yunshan’s Standing Committee aspirations. However, there are different options. Liu might now be out of the running for one of the spots, but it might also be the case that Jiao’s dismissal is part of a compromise in which Liu will succeed Li Changchun, but will be beholden to other factions in the Party. One more story on the rumour mill, one more reason to watch the line-up, somewhere by this time next month.

“Devils on the Doorstep”: An Interesting Look into Film Censorship

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In 2000, Jiang Wen’s film Devil on the Doorstep was banned in China, after coming in second for the Cannes Grand Prix. The film depicts a situation in which a Chinese villager, Ma Dasan, is forced to watch over a Japanese prisoner and a Chinese interpreter. Unable to bring himself to kill them, Ma hides them in an old watchtower and starts taking care of them. In the end, the two prisoners are traded back to the Japanese Army in exchange for carts of grain, but a subsequent misunderstanding ends in a massacre.

Interestingly, China Digital Times published the verdict of the SARFT film censorship board on Devils on the Doorstep. Normally, censorship decisions are not made public, and their content is only revealed by reference in interviews with filmmakers. However, this document provides an insight into some of SARFT’s methods and priorities.

The most important part of the verdict relates to the portrayal of Chinese villagers and Japanese soldiers against the background of the Second World War, or, using the Chinese term, the War to Resist Japan. Throughout, SARFT takes the film to task for incorrect depictions of the nature of the Chinese people. An old grandfather should not be shown as being sympathetic to a young Chinese soldier, it is deemed incorrect that the villagers care for the Japanese soldier and the Chinese traitor (汉奸 hanjian), or that they indicate that they haven’t really suffered under the occupation. When the Japanese soldier imagines being attacked by the villagers, he imagines them as Samurai. However, SARFT feels that what he should feel most are “the armies resisting Japan, such as the Eighth Route Army or guerrilla forces”. Imagining villagers as samurai “uglifies the Chinese people”. In short, in this film, the “common Chinese people” do not show sufficient hatred towards the Japanese, do not sufficiently differentiate between foe and friend, and display ignorance and apathy. At the same time, according to SARFT, the film does not correctly display the cruelty of the Japanese army but, amongst others, shows a Japanese soldier giving sweets to children. Also, “Japanese army songs are played often, putting a spin on the Japanese imperialists flaunting their strength, which may gravely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

A smaller issue comes at the end of the film, where a Guomindang general declares that only the Guomindang can legally accept the surrender of Japanese troops. Again, this does not fit in official CCP historiography and is therefore beyond the pale.

Lastly, there are a few issues of obscenity and language. A sex scene between Ma Dasan and his lover Yu’er is deemed to “bring about strong, harmful sensual stimulation to people.” A scene in which the villagers’ pack donkey gets aroused by a Japanese army donkey is described as vulgar and boring.

In the light of recent, island-related events, the focus on the manicheist separation between the heroic Chinese and the agressive Japanese invaders provides an interesting insight in the politics of division practiced by the censorship board. By insisting on one-dimensional representation of ethnicities, the board seems to deny the possibility to portray a human connection between the Chinese and the Japanese, as has been explored in many Western WW2 films, including Schindler’s List. Rather, the insistence of a politically correct vision of history reinforces Chinese exceptionalism and the dehumanisation of the Japanese, however horrifying some wartime acts might have been.

In terms of obscene content, again, a logic of dehumanisation takes place. By denying the sexuality of Ma Dasan and Yu’er, the board seems to require these characters to become larger than life superhumans. Perhaps the underlying purpose of this direction of censorship can be best explained by understanding the process of content review as an effort to direct the content of film towards the grand objectives of the CCP. In this view, film is not an open artistic expression to be judged on its own merits by audiences, but is a purposive tool to build awareness of the century of humiliation, the innate superiority of the Chinese people, and the grand destiny to which it is called. That being said, this document is now twelve years old, and more light would be shed on the evolution of this matter if more censorship decisions were made public. If anyone is aware of such documents, please contact us.

State Administration of Radio, Film and Television Film Examination Committee Examination Opinion concerning “Devils on the Doorstep”

The coproduced film “Devils on the Doorstep” that your company submitted has been examined by the Film Examination Committee. The Examination Committee believes that:

The script of this film has not been revised strictly according to the Film Bureau “Response concerning Project Establishment of the Coproduction ‘Devils on the Doorstep'” (DZ No.[1998]302), and has been filmed without authorization under the circumstances that no script has been submitted for filing, at the same time, lines and scenes have been added in many places without authorization, resulting in a film, that on the one hand, not only has not expressed the hatred and opposition of the common Chinese people against the invasion, against the great background of the War to Resist Japan (the sole person daring to scold and oppose the Japanese Army is a madman annoying the villagers), on the contrary, it prominently displays and concentratedly exaggerates their ignorance, apathy and servility, and on the other hand, has not only not fully revealed the Japanese imperialist and aggressive nature, but prominently plays up the rampant manner in which Japanese invaders flaunt their strength, leading to grave deviations in the basic concept of the film.

Filthy words appear repeatedly in the film, and Japanese soldiers often take the insult “Chinese pigs” into their mouths, furthermore, there are shots with naked female bodies, the overall style is vulgar and does not conform to the standards of the “Film Examination Regulations”.

The name of the film must be chosen again according to the repeated requirements of the Film Bureau.

The film must, after earnest revision according to the attachment, be resubmitted for examination.

Attachment: “Major Differences Between the Film “Devils on the Doorstep” and the Approved Script”

I, Unauthorized revised and added scenes, resulting in grave deviations in the basic concept of the film:

1, On pages 7 and 8 of the script, when the masses of villagers in the original literary script try the Japanese Soldier Hanaya and the Chinese traitor Dong Hancheng , they does not show fear, but excoriate them: “You want to make trouble, there are no sweet cakes for your to eat” and “We will beat all the yellow out of you”, etc.  But the film shows that the villagers fear them from the start. And the lines of Grandfather in shot 240 were added: “I see you are also children”, displaying common Chinese people as stupid and ignorant, making no difference between foe and friend.

2, The film bureau has insisted on deleting the scene on giving the devils wheat flour and rice to eat in the literary script, but in the film, not only has this scene not been deleted, but it repeatedly plays up Ma Dasan’s lending rice to Erbozi, agreeing on repaying eight times the loan, and the villagers also excitedly wrapping dumplings for Japanese soldiers and Chinese traitors. It objectively expresses the times of extreme difficulties of life for the common Chinese people during wartime, but their active care for Japanese soldiers and Chinese traitors, gravely violates history.

3, Shots 1027; In comparison with the literary script, the film adds lines for Erbozi: “The Japanese have come to our village eight years ago, what happened in those eight years, have they dared to touch one hair of mine? I’m doing fine, walking level, wherever I go, they will look highly at me”. The Japanese invaders were burning, killing, pillaging and looting China for eight years, committing heinous crimes, however, the film says, through the mouth of the wife of Erbozi that the Japanese army was highly disciplined towards them, embellishing the Japanese invaders.

4, Shots 472 to 496, in comparison with the literary script, the film added a section in which the Japanese Soldier Hanaya thinks that Ma Dasan has brought the villagers and comes breaking through, and imagines Ma Dasan and the villagers with the appearance of Samurai. Against the great background of the War of Resistance, the most dreaded fear of the Japanese soldier Hanaya should be the armies resisting Japan, such as the Eighth Route Army or guerrilla forces, the scene in which Ma Dasan and the villagers are imagined as Japanese samurai is not only false, it also uglifies Chinese people.

5, Shots 877 to 893, shorts 918 to 931, shots 941 to 947, and shorts 954 to 959, in comparison with the literary script, the film has added the storyline that the villagers think Ma Dasan killed the devils, pay not attention to him, and even Yu’er avoids him, upsetting Ma Dasan’s nerve. It displays multitudinous common Chinese people who don’t have the necessary hatred against the Japanese army, don’t differentiate between foe and friend, are ignorant and apathetic.

6, Shots 1002 to 1069; in comparison with the literary script, the film has added a storyline where after the small child’s learning Japanese creates danger, a crowd of villagers gets angry at Ma Dasan, and compete one by one to let him kill himself, and put his head on the table; Yu’er sais to the villagers: “isn’t letting him kill people, also letting me harbouring sinister designs? Look at these two days, you haven’t paid any attention to him. If we don’t kill people, we are forced to kill people, if we have killed people, we are not given any attention, looking at Ma Dasan is the same as looking at the devil, no-one has died, and you clash with us and do this…” It displays that common Chinese people not only do not dare to resist the enemy, but also are full of servility towards and fear of the invaders, can only fight among themselves, and are mutually suspicious and jealous.

7, Page 34 of the script: In the original script, when One Stroke Liu talks about his skill in killling, he says he killed a palace eunuch having a clandestine affair, but in shots 1177 to 1199 if the film, it has changed to One Stroke Liu having killed “eight ministers from the side of Cixi” and “the master of the Hundred Days of Reform, Tan Sitong”, this not only endows it with new political content, but also plays up the pride in beheading skills, with the result that he fails in killing the Japanese soldiers, exclaims “all my life’s glory, destroyed in a moment”, and runs away despondently. For people, it is a metaphor that in the last century, Chinese people were only able to take the axe to their own people, and did not dare to resist foreign aggression.

8, On page 39 of the script, everyone is discussing to send the devils back, in the original script, it is described that when the Japanese army arrives in the village, they draw a circle by sprinkling white rice, encircling the commoners, and force them to eat the rice, those who are unable to eat more, have their heads restrained and rice pressed into their mouth, an when the Japanese captain talks, the commoners pay no attention to him. However, in shots 1763 to 1871 of the film, this scene has been changed into a get-together, and forcefully plays up that they drink wine and sing songs together, the villagers are eternally grateful, the Japanese army is as close as brothers with the villagers, and there are lines such as “Today, I am happy, not only because of these grain carts, but mainly because the Imperial Army has given us face”, etc., this is a major change to the concept of the script, and is utterly contrary to the theme.

9, On pages 47 to 40 of the script; in the scene of the massacre of the villagers, in the original script, there are descriptions of common people who finally come to there senses, rise up and revolt, such as Erbozi picking up a steel helmet and striking Japanese soldiers with it, and the mother of Erbozi who takes of her shoes to hit the devils, and shouts: “Don’t be stupid, pick up weapons and fight.” But in the films, in shots 1872 to 2073, the commoners don’t fight with the devils until they die, and when facing massacre, essentially wait helplessly for death, and let themselves be trampled.

11, The only person who dares to scold and resist Japan in this film is a lunatic who annoys the villagers.

12, In comparison with the literary script, a scene is added in which a Guomindang general convenes the commoners, he openly executes Chinese traitors, and when giving his speech to accept surrender, says: “Only the republican armies are the legal acceptors of surrendering Japanese troops.” He also has a Japanese person lend a hand to kill Ma Dasan. This utterly reverses factual acts, but receives the agreement of the surrounding commoners, it gravely distorts history, and has not achieved the effect of criticising and mocking the Guomindang.

13, In the film, there are two persons singing ditties, who appear three times in total, there is no description of this in the original literary script. In shot 1099, lines such as “The Imperial Army comes to our village, let’s jointly build a common flourishing circle in East Asia, the Imperial Army has come to help the needy and relieve the distressed” have also been added. This is typical of the imagery of ignorance, apathy and being slaves without a country.

14, The content of Crazy Old Seven’s words when cursing Ma Dasan and Yu’er and when cursing Japanese devils is similar, this is extremely inappropriate.

15, In many places in the film, the mouths of Japanese people are used to insult Chinese people for “Chinese dogs”, gravely harming the image of China.

II, In the reply to the script, revision opinions were put forward, but in the following places, these revisions have not been made in the film:

1, On page 2 of the script: after Nonomura finishes juggling, he puts away his pack of sweets into his bag, displaying the Japanese army’s teasing children. In shot 24 of the film, he not only gives sweets, but also repeatedly displays Chinese children in pursuit of Japanese soldiers, asking for sweets.

2, On page 2 of the script: the scene in which Ma Dasan and Yu’er gasp violently for breath on the bed and  Yu’er is naked should already have been deleted in the original script. In shots 28 to 41 of the film, it has not only not been deleted, but lines have also been added: “Let me look”, “Look at what, faster, don’t have a rest”. The effect of the length, imagery and sounds of this bed scene are strong, and bring about strong, harmful sensual stimulation to people.

3, On page 40 of the script: When the donkey is in heat, in the original literary script, it was changed into the donkey running into the devils’ granary. In shorts 1590 to 1606 of the film, it has not been revised. This storyline has a vulgar style and is boring.

4. In the original literary script, the absolute majority of dirty works should have been deleted, but in the film, they are ubiquitous, and many characters use dirty words.

5, In the film, Japanese army songs are played often, putting a spin on the Japanese imperialists flaunting their strength, which may gravely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.


影片多处出现污言秽语,并从日本兵口中多次辱骂“支那猪”,另外还有女性的裸露镜头,整体上格调低俗,不符合《电影审查规定》的标准。影片片名须按电影局多次要求重新选择。影片须在参照附件认真修改后,重新报请审查。 附:《影片<鬼子来了>与批准立项剧本主要不同之外》


一, 擅自修改、增加情节导致影片基本立意出现严重偏差:

















2,剧本第2页:马大三与鱼儿在床上剧烈的喘息声、鱼儿裸体镜头原文学剧本已经将其删除。影片第28至41镜不仅未予删除,还增加了台词:“让我看看。”“看啥呀,快点的,别歇着。” 这段床上戏时间长,画面、声音效果强烈,给人造成强烈的不良的感官刺激。