Pre ’79

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 Also, she rescinded the rights of officials and individuals to send memorials to the emperor, and ordered the closure of Shiwubao and other non-government newspapers through a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.”



Central Cultural Revolution Small Group Notice concerning the Issue of Screening and Retrieving Poisonous Weed Films

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All provincial, municipal and autonomous region Revolutionary Committees (small planning groups), Military Control Commissions, all levels’ military regions, all revolutionary mass organizations.

Among the domestic and imported films that were distributed before the movement of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, not a few are poisonous weed films. These films must be earnestly cleaned up. Read the rest of this entry »

Provisional Instructions concerning Issues in Radio Stations

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All Central bureaux, all military regions, all provincial, municipal and autonomous region Party Committees, People’s Committees and levels’ Party Committees, People’s Committees, military regions and military sub-regions to which this is transmitted:

Under the leadership of Chairman Mao, the present Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has entered a new phase. The proletarian revolutionaries are uniting, and have launched a massed struggle to seize power from a small handful of capitalist roader factions within the Party and die-hards who persist in the bourgeois reactionary line. Under these new circumstances, the Central Committee has issued a notice concerning issues in radio stations on 11 January 1967, and the following supplementary provisions need to be made: Read the rest of this entry »

Notice of 16 May

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All Central bureaus, all provincial, municipal and regional Party Committees, all Central ministries and commissions, all Party organizations and Party Committees in departments of State organs and People’s organizations, the People’s Liberation Army General Political Department

The Centre has decided to revoke the “Outline of the Report of the Five-Person Cultural Revolution Group concerning the Present Academic Discussion” it transmitted on 12 February 1966, to abolish the original “Five-Person Cultural Revolution Group” and its office bodies, and to re-establish the Small Cultural Revolution Group, subordinate to the Standing Committee of the Politburo. The report Outline of the so-called “Group of Five” is fundamentally mistaken, it violates the line of the Socialist Cultural Revolution put forward by the Centre and Comrade Mao Zedong, and violates the guiding principles of the 10th Plenum of the 8th Party Congress concerning the issue of class and class struggle in Socialist societies. This Outline feigns compliance with but actively resists this Cultural Revolution that Comrade Mao Zedong himself leads and initiated, and the instructions concerning criticising Wu Han that Comrade Mao Zedong gave at the Central Work Conference of September and October 1965 (i.e. at a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee where all responsible comrades of Central bureaus participated). Read the rest of this entry »

Outline of the Report of the Five-Person Cultural Revolution Group concerning the Present Academic Discussion

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Central Committee-Approved Outline of the Report of the Five-Person Cultural Revolution Group concerning the Present Academic Discussion

12 February 1966.

All Central bureaus, all provincial, municipal and autonomous regional Party Committees, all Central ministries and commissions, all departmental Party organizations and party Committees in State organs, the General Political Department: The Centre has approved the Outline of the Report of the Five-Parton Cultural Revolution Group concerning the Present Academic Discussion. Hereby, this outline is issued to you, it is hoped matters are carried out according to this. The content of this Outline shall be transmitted to the comrades in control of academic discussion work within the Party, and comrades engaging in academic research work. When discussing it, the speech that Comrade Mao Zedong made at the CCP National Propaganda Work Conference in March of 1957 shall be taken as study material.

Central Committee Read the rest of this entry »

Central Propaganda Department Report concerning Work Style Rectification in the Nationwide Cultural Circles and All Associations

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(8 May 1964)

Central Committee:

On 3 February of this year, the China Playwright Association organized an “Evening to Welcome the Spring” in the Consultative Conference auditorium, more than 2.000 drama workers from Beijing and other places attended. Although the evening contained some experience exchange and other beneficial activities, the most important was eat, drink, plays and music, a number of performance programmes were vulgar and low-level, and in poor taste. This matter did not occur very long after transmitting the Chairman’s instructions concerning literary and art work of 12 December last year and the speeches concerning literature and art of comrades Shaoqi, Xiaoping and Peng Zhen on 3 January this year, the nature of the mistake is therefore even more grave. Afterwards, the masses were extremely dissatisfied, and wrote to put forward opinions. Comrade Lu Dingyi conducted severe criticism against this, and put forward that a number of the people in the Association had become corrupt; all Association workers should be transferred downwards by turns to exercise and strengthen political study. Apart from immediately transmitting this to the Playwright Association Party Group and ordering them to inspect matters, we have convened Party Group members, general branch and branch secretaries for the Federation of Cultural Circles and all Associations, more than fifty in total, at the end of March, had three successive meetings and discussed matters. At the meetings, everyone consistently agreed with Comrade Lu Dingyi’s criticism, believing that the occurrence of this matter is not accidental, but is a reflection of the present class struggle in literary and artistic teams, and is the exposure of bourgeois ideologies and work styles among the Association leadership. Many comrades believe that the problems of this “Evening to Welcome the Spring” and the matters that have been exposed by it, also exist to different degrees in other associations. Because of this, everyone feels that it is necessary to conduct a one-time rectification of work styles and study among the cultural circles and all associations, to draw lessons and ensure bad things are changed into good things. Read the rest of this entry »

Speech for Drama, Opera and Children’s Theatre Writers in Beijing

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17 February 1962

Zhou Enlai

Today, I’ll talk a little about politics, and in passing, I’ll talk a little about literature and art. Today, it is impossible for everyone to speak, half among you must go to Guangdong for a meeting, and matters may be discussed at that meeting.

In March 1959, I made a speech in the Purple Light Pavilion, in which I talked about ten issues for literature and art work to walk on two legs. In today’s speech, the situation has somewhat changed since that time. At that time, I have also been made to wear a “hat”. Some Party Committees did not allow the transmission of my speech. Today, I have read the speech from last time, and the content is basically correct. Read the rest of this entry »

Speech at the Forum on Literature and Art and the Conference on Feature Film Production

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(19 June 1961)

Zhou Enlai


At this time, there is a sort of bad atmosphere, which is that the democratic work style is insufficient. We originally required to liberate thoughts, get rid of superstition, dare to think, dare to speak and dare to act. Now, there are a good many people who do not dare to think, do not dare to speak and do not dare to act. Thinking generally is still being thought, the main matter is not daring to speak and not daring to act, where we are short the two characters of “daring”. Why can matters be thus? Chairman Mao put forward daring to think, daring to speak and daring to act at the Nanning Conference in 1958, and furthermore put forward officially at the 2nd Plenum of the 8th Party Congress, that daring to think, daring to speak and daring to act must be integrated with a spirit of seeking truth, and must be established on the basis of scientific predictions. But in fact, this is not something that everyone can achieve. The fact that thoughts, words and acts are somewhat partial is hard to avoid, this is not something critical, as long as freedom of criticism is permitted, this may be corrected. How can only permitting one person to speak and not permitting everyone to speak, not become “a hall of one voice”? Where does the “hall of one voice” come from? It is related to leadership, therefore, we must create a sort of democratic atmosphere. I first and foremost state, everyone is permitted to consider, discuss, criticize, deny or acknowledge my speech of today. A “hall of one voice”, in one sentence means being correct one hundred per cent, this sort of reality does not exist under heaven. People not only must speak out their incorrect words when making mistakes, and even when they are correct, there may be some words worded not appropriately, or a bit extreme, this is why criticism must be permitted. One person must not write a certificate of guarantee over his own words. If I may offer the comrades writers a word of advice, you must also not attempt to finish in one go. Great politicians and artists are all extremely strict concerning the revision work of their own works. Chairman Mao often says that the works of Marx and Lenin have been meticulously revised. Chairman Mao himself is also like this, many of the things he wrote have been changed repeatedly. Therefore, we must create a sort of atmosphere in which everyone is permitted to discuss and deliberate the opinions that we express. Read the rest of this entry »

CCP Central Committee Instructions concerning the Rectification Movement

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27 April 1957


The first rectification movement that our Party started in 1942 has gained major, revolutionary and victorious results. Now, our country has entered from a period of revolution into a period of Socialist construction, and is therefore undergoing new, intense and magnificent change. Social relationships have fundamentally changed, the people’s ideas are also changing in their wake. Our Party and the working class must be able to further and even better leading all of society in transformation and the construction of a new society, they must be able to even better muster all positive forces, unite all people that can be united, and transform negative forces into positive forces, in their struggle for the objective of constructing a magnificent Socialist country, they must at the same time transform themselves. However, there are many comrades inside the Party who do not understand or do not greatly understand these kinds of new circumstances and the Party’s new tasks. At the same time, because the Party has established its governing position nationwide, and has gained the support of the broad masses, many comrades easily adopt methods of simple administrative orders to deal with problem, and there are some elements whose standpoints are not firm who easily are infected by the vestiges of the old society and the Guomindang work style, have shaped a sort of privileged thinking, and even use methods of attack and suppression in dealing with the masses. Since a few years, in our Party, there has been a new growth of bureaucratism, factionalism and subjectivism that result in separation from the masses and separation from reality. Because of this, the Centre believes it is necessary to, according to the principles of “starting from the hope of unity, through criticism and self-criticism, achieving a new unity on a new basis”, again conduct a universal and profound rectification movement against bureaucratism, against factionalism and against subjectivism in the entire Party, raise the entire Party’s levels of Marxist thinking and improve work styles, in order to adapt to the demands of Socialist transformation and Socialist construction. Read the rest of this entry »

Instruction concerning Transmitting the Nationwide Propaganda Work Conference

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16 March 1957

All provincial (municipal) Committees and autonomous region Party Committees, the Liberation General Political Department, the Party Committees directly under the Central Committee and the Party Committees of State organs:

The Centre convened the Nationwide Propaganda Work Conference from 6 until 13 March 1957. This conference attracted the participation of about 160 science, education, literature, art, news, publishing and other cultural personalities from outside the Party (comprising about one fifth of the total number of participants). The Conference first and foremost listened to a recording of the report “Correctly Dealing with the Issue of Contradictions among the People” that Comrade Mao Zedong made at the Supreme State Conference. During the period of the conference, Comrade Mao Zedong organized six discussion sessions with several dozen representatives from inside and outside of the Party in the areas of propaganda, education, literature and art, press and publications, higher education and science, and gave a speech himself at the plenary session. Read the rest of this entry »

Speech at the Propaganda Work Conference of the Chinese Communist Party

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Mao Zedong

12 March 1957

Comrades! This conference has been run very well. At the conferences, many issues have been put forward, which made us realize many things. I’d like to talk about a few opinions on the issues discussed by the comrades. Read the rest of this entry »

Report concerning the Issue of Intellectuals

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Zhou Enlai

14 January 1956


In order to strengthen Party leadership over intellectuals and strengthen Party leadership over overall scientific and cultural work, the Centre has decided to convene a conference to discuss the issue of intellectuals.

This decision of the Centre is a part of the Centre’s overall struggle to lead the entire Party in opposing conservative ideologies and striving to complete the main tasks of the transitional period Read the rest of this entry »

Decision Concerning Dealing with Illegal Books and Magazines

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(Promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 8 November 1955)


The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress discussed in its 21st meeting and 23rd meeting about the Provisional Books and Magazines Examination Regulations (Draft) put forward by State Council Premier Zhou Enlai, and thinks that all books and magazines in one of the following situations, are illegal: Read the rest of this entry »

Decision concerning Establishing a Film Screening Network and a Film Industry

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In order to ensure that film is suited to the requirements of our country’s economic and cultural development, give even greater rein to its function in educating the broad masses, and satisfy the masses’ daily increasing cultural requirements, the film screening undertaking must be developed in a planned and gradual manner, in order to progressively ensure that a film screening network is established on a nationwide level. Since four years, film screening work has developed rapidly, screening work units are increasing rapidly in quantity and the number of spectators rises every year, which has proven the importance of film in the cultural lives of the masses every day. But in terms of the nationwide scope, the quantity of screening work units remains low, and distribution is uneven, in many localities, the people cannot see films for a whole year, and the demand for films from the labouring masses is extremely pressing. All levels’ cultural controlling departments lack regular leadership and management over screening work. Film production and distribution work has not guaranteed film supply and rational turnover well. At the same time, it has not been able to select films according to different audience targets very well. The political quality of screening teams and screening technology has not reached the required levels. In order to strengthen film distribution and screening work in the future and steadily establish a nationwide film screening network, and to progressively establish a film industry suited to this, the following has been decided: Read the rest of this entry »

Decision concerning Strengthening Film Production Work

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Since four years, the film undertaking of the Chinese people has gained major developments. Already issued feature films and documentary films have reflected the new life and history of struggle of our country’s people, some films have already achieved relatively high ideological and artistic levels, and received the love of the broad masses. Films have exhibited their importance every day in the cause of educating the people with patriotic and Socialist spirits and in satisfying the broad masses’ cultural requirements.

But, at present, the quantity and quality of film products cannot yet satisfy the broad masses’ requirements. The main factor creating this sort of situation is a grave lack of film scripts, this issue is undoubtedly caused by the fact that there are insufficient full-time film playwrights and their are insufficiently skilled professionally, but even more importantly, it is because of a lack of clear film production policy and film production plans geared to reality, and because all effective measures to attract large amounts of literary and artistic writers to vigorously participate in film script creation, and organizing and guiding creation with correct methods could not have been adapted yet. In order to improve film production work in the future, the following is hereby decided:

Read the rest of this entry »

Regulations on the Punishment of Counterrevolutionaries of the People’s Republic of China

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(Approved at the 11th meeting of the Central People’s Government Committee on 20 February 1951, published by the Central People’s Government on 21 February 1951)

Article 1: According to the provisions of Article 7 of the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference Common Programme, in order to punish counterrevolutionary crimes, suppress counterrevolutionary activities and consolidate the democratic dictatorship of the people, these Regulations are formulated. Read the rest of this entry »

CCP Central Committee Instructions concerning Conducting Propaganda on Current Affairs Nationwide

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(26 October 1950)

All Central bureaus, all branch bureaus, all military regions, all provincial and municipal committees:

The American army has expanded its invasion of Korea and has directly invaded Taiwan, this severely threatens our country’s national security, our country cannot ignore this. In order to ensure that the whole body of the people correctly understand the present circumstances, firmly establish confidence in victory, and eliminate the mentality of fearing America, all localities shall promptly launch propaganda activities concerning current affairs. In propaganda, attention shall be paid to the following matters: Read the rest of this entry »

CCP Central Committee Decisions concerning Establishing a Propaganda Network for the Popular Masses in the Entire Party

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(1 January 1950)

I, At present, organizations at all levels of our Party overlook conducting regular propaganda work towards the popular masses, with the result that many mistaken and reactionary propaganda and rumours regularly circulate among the popular masses, these do not meet with timely, necessary and deadly attack by our Party, and the Party’s policies and positions have not been fully propagated and explained among the popular masses in a timely manner, because of this, great damage has been done to the undertaking of the people. At present, one of the main weak points of the Party’s propaganda work towards the popular masses is that all levels’ Party organizations often make it into a temporary work for a number of people, and have not set up the necessary structures to ensure it becomes a regular work of the whole body of Communist Party members, and that all levels’ Party committees provide systematic leadership and management. One of the duties of Communist Party members is that they must conduct propaganda towards the popular masses at all times and in all places, and go and educate the popular masses untiringly and with a revolutionary spirit, conduct and uncompromising struggle with all reactionary and mistaken ideologies and positions, enlighten and raise the consciousness of the popular masses. The fact that propaganda work towards the popular masses lacks regularity and organization will certainly hamper Communist Party members in effectively carrying out their duties in this regard, and cause that, when a number of Party members conduct work among the popular masses, they will easily be infatuated with dealing the popular masses with simple administrative ordering methods and not with persuasive and explanatory methods. The Party must resolve and eliminate this phenomenon, and strengthen propaganda work towards the popular masses. To this end, a regular propaganda network must be established for the people in a systematic manner, propaganda officers must be set up within every Party branch, announcers are to be set up in all levels’ leading Party organizations, and certain structures are to be established for the work of propaganda officers and announcers. Read the rest of this entry »

CPPCC Common Programme (Excerpt)

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Art. 5: The people of People’s Republic of China have the freedom rights of thought, expression, publication, gathering, organizing, communicating, body, residence, movement, religious belief and demonstration. Read the rest of this entry »

Instructions concerning Abolishing the Six Codes of the Guomindang and Determining Judicial Principles for the Liberated Areas

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(1) The understanding of the Six Codes of the Guomindang, among a good number of our judicial cadres, is mistaken and confused. There are not only a number of people who have studied old laws, revere them as sacred, and stress that they can also be used in the liberated areas; even among political cadres with relatively high responsibilities, there are people who believe that the Six Codes agree with the interests of the broad people, and that only a part of them, not the essence, does not conform with the interests of the broad people. In “How to Build Judicial Work”, published by the Northeast Press, all sorts of viewpoints concerning the Six Codes are raised, which is only one clear case in point. Read the rest of this entry »