The press guidance provided by China’s censors is so voluminous and detailed that leaked copies of the guidance are now available on a regular basis. China Digital Times publishes a weekly list of what China’s censors tell their journalists not to report or hype. It’s a remarkable glimpse into the dark soul of Chinese bureaucracy, a guide to what really scares China’s rulers. But there’s irony there as well. I mean, why read Chinese papers when we can get all the juiciest bits from the censors themselves?
And juicy they are. The censors’ guidance is a kind of Drudge Report for China. Take the story about the music student who was out driving his Cruze one night and hit a mother bicycling home from her job? Fearing that she’d gotten his license plate and would make him pay for her broken leg, he stabbed her to death in the street. Now he too is facing the death penalty. It’s an irresistible tale of wealth, entitlement and tragedy in modern China.
How did I find the story? Thanks to China’s State Council Information Office, which instructed Chinese websites to cover it only by reprinting copy from the Xinhua News Agency. “Do not conduct follow-up reports,” the censors warned, “and do not repost stories related to this case.”
But my favorite in recent weeks is the guidance issued by the Central Propaganda Bureau about Liu Zhijun, 58, the recently disgraced transportation minister who ran up nearly $300 billion in debt creating China’s bullet train bubb…er…network. The propaganda bureau has issued this frustratingly brief guidance: “All media are not to report or hype the news that Liu Zhijun had 18 mistresses.”
Really? How can you not hype that news? He’s the same age as George Tenet, for God’s sake. I want to know what he was eating.
Heck, you could fill an entire week speculating just on the logistics of the thing. Is it any wonder the guy needed to travel between cities at 200 mph?
UPDATE: Fixed broken link