The need for a publicly run newspaper was great due to many factors which were absent in the official Party papers. Most importantly, publicly run papers can provide alternative views on governmental practice and provide a realistic view if those in positions of power begin to deviate from a truthful path. These publicly run papers can also reflect a wide range of views as opposed to the “official” view presented by Party papers which consisted of the ideas of the Communist Party and the Party alone. In these ways, public papers not only service the people by giving them a voice concerning governmental activities but it also allows to government to form policies that are publicly accepted, thus avoiding dissidence among the general public.
While Article 35 of China’s Constitution specifies that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration,” there are still a large number of restrictions placed on how newspaper are allowed to function. “The Newspaper Regulations” require that newspapers in China must primarily “propagate the policies of the Communist Party and the government” and “propagate Marxism, Leninism, and the thought of Mao Zedong,” while the last two regulations are “reflect people’s opinions and suggestions” and “shoulder the responsibility of supervision” (Xupei 87). This shows that the true priorities of the Party are effective propaganda and not the people’s well-being.Despite these seeming advances in press freedom, the fascist nature of the Chinese government was made completely apparent during the coverage of the Tiananmen Square incident of 1976, when what was merely a spontaneous outpouring of emotion over the death of a highly respected public official, was branded as “a premeditated, planned, and organized counterrevolutionary, political incident” by newspapers across the country.Also, following the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989, the Communist Party newspaper “People’s Daily” published an editorial accusing a “small handful of plotters” of stirring up student unrest and creating turmoil in order to overthrow the Communist Party and the socialist system.
It was obvious that the alternative views of the public press were notably absent during these events. At this time, journalist were restricted to only 20% coverage of current events while 80% had to be dedicated to propagating party achievements, yet even that small amount of space dedicated to “real news” was strictly controlled according to party guidelines (Lee 8).These regulations, though defying the policies set forth in the constitution, are still being implemented today. In a news report on “Press Freedom in China,” China scholar Orville Schell said, “There are more areas that can be written about more freely than before. At the same time, there is a certain set of core ideas that it is more difficult to write about in a free and open fashion.” While this method of selective censorship is beneficial for short times periods, if it is implemented for a long time then the media will begin to lack diversity and new ideas will cease to be produced. As a particular area is controlled, it will begin to stagnate and there will be no motivation to progress or reform in that area because there is no new information being provided about it. The people will not have a way to voice unrest and the government will have no motivation to appease this unrest.
The Communist government has many excuses for why it has prevented its citizens from criticizing their own government. It seems as though their main reason is that if any doubt is expressed concerning the Party, then respect will dwindle for Party policy and the entire system will fall apart. This is only an excuse made by officials to protect their own power. If a society is meant to be “for the people,” then the people should have a significant role in how the society is administrated, yet in China the people have little to no voice.
As long as the press is repressed under antiquated laws that blatantly disagree with the country’s own Constitution, there will be no development. Only when the Chinese public can thoroughly supervise the upper echelons of those in power through the Communist Party, will the government begin to change its policies to reflect public opinion. The most viable option for the general public is through proper utilization of the public press outlets available to them, thus reform will only occur when the untapped power of the press is utilized to fully empower the people.