The world knew that a well-planned, intense propaganda campaign was being planned in China when a meeting of the National Propaganda Ministers was held in Beijing on 6th of January this year. Wang Hunting, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and Secretary of the CCP CC Secretariat, along with Huang Kunming, head of the Central Propaganda Department, had been directed to employ ‘Xi’s thought’ as the foundation of all the propaganda activities ahead of the 20th Party Congress to be held in October this year. The full extent of this planning is getting gradually unfolded as massive propaganda activities are being undertaken to convince the domestic population of the ‘spirit of the whole party and the whole society’.
This time the propaganda activities have started much in advance compared to those held before the 19th Party Congress. Last time, the activities began around May while this year they have started as early as February. Incidentally, the centenary of the Communist Youth League is also being celebrated this year. At the centenary celebrations this year, President Xi Jinping mentioned that the aim of the celebration is to encourage the youth to forge ahead on the new journey of realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. For that reason, a major focus of the propaganda machinery this year is on winning the recognition of young people, along with creating an atmosphere of democracy. Various platforms, including apps have been launched that solicit people’s opinions on the 20th Party Congress, in a shallow attempt to portray China as a democracy both within and outside the country. The People’s Daily has started a new column under the title ‘Navigating China’ to propagate the idea of a stronger, better China under Xi Jinping’s rule. The Chinese social media, Weibo, is trending #Welcome to the 20th Party congress, to demonstrate the support of ordinary citizens.
Many publicity purposed educational and press conferences are being held to highlight China’s democratic credentials. Educational activities promoting the theme of ‘my participation in the rejuvenation of a strong country’ were conducted in April this year for the same purpose. In the same month, a thematic conference on ‘China in the past 10 years’ was held, which focused on publicising and introducing Xi Jinping’s achievements in the fields of politics, law, economy, ecological civilization, scientific and technological innovation, trade, transportation and other fields since he came to power. This and many
other conferences, themed lectures, model learning and educational activities have been held since then to showcase the CCP’s ruling achievements.
The scale of these propaganda activities does not come as a surprise to anyone. It is important now more than ever that Xi’s achievements be exaggerated, and an image of him being close to people be portrayed. The intention is to create a momentum before the party congress to extend his term at office. Unfortunately for him, this is also a time when his legitimacy is being questioned more than ever before. There are protests breaking out in various parts of China against the establishment. The latest protest in the southern city of Shenzhen, a Chinese tech hub, broke-out after a snap lockdown was announced on account of rising COVID cases. Protests are also being held against economic issues currently ailing China, including a high rate of unemployment and the crisis around home mortgage payments.
On its part, the Chinese establishment is leaving no stone unturned to silence any voice of dissent. The country’s Cyberspace Administration has reportedly shut down 1.34 billion social media accounts and deleted 22 million posts. Chinese social media platform, Weibo informed that it had deleted around 20 million posts that ‘violated’ rules and regulations. Most of these posts were against the ruling government.
Xi Jinping’s ascent as the Chinese premier for a third term is unlikely to be stopped. Yet, the ramping up of propaganda activities indicates a sense of discomfort within the Chinese establishment. These last few days before the Congress are important and CCP is watching closely for any sign for dissent in the country. Not even a small spark is being allowed to live, lest it may catch fire.