Jiang’s Propaganda Campaign
Spreadsheet Disinformation, Hate
The Xinhua News Agency – official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government – had a rare, if not startling, moment of candor in July of 1999, four days into the suppression of Falun Gong.
“In fact, the so-called ‘truth, kindness and tolerance’ principle preached by Li Hongzhi [Falun Gong’s founder],” Xinhua proudly declared, “has nothing in common with the socialist ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve.”
Especially the “truth” part.
Central to the suppression of Falun Gong is a propaganda campaign of enormous proportions.
“Beijing has ratcheted up the campaign to a fever pitch, bombarding citizens with an old, communist-style propaganda war,” The Wall Street Journal reports, “replete with meetings, denunciations and blanket coverage in the government-run media.”
The bombardment began on July 22 of 1999, the day Falun Gong was officially banned in China, under the direction of the aptly-named Ministry of Propaganda.
State-run television immediately launched disinformation marathons, broadcasting alleged “exposés” on the meditation group 24 hours a day. Radio stations flooded the airwaves with the government’s official rhetoric denouncing the group.
Not to be outdone, state-run newspapers condemned the Falun Gong with unchecked bravado, led by the People’s Daily – the official paper of the CCP – which ran a staggering 347 “articles” on the group. In one month.
Over time the CCP would extend the scope and reach of its propaganda, erecting billboards, issuing comic books, printing posters, and producing movies, a TV series, and even plays.
Counted among the unwitting victims are schoolchildren.
Upon returning to school from break in 2001, Beijing’s pupils got an unlikely surprise from the Propaganda Ministry. The city’s 1.6 million schoolchildren received bright, new course schedules that week – complete with a poem vilifying Falun Gong on the back. Slogans emblazoned atop the cards urged the kids to “Oppose Cults, Protect Stability, Respect Science, Promote Civilization.”
High school students in many provinces, meanwhile, have fared little better. Many of them report finding questions in their (government-produced) college entrance exams – China’s equivalent to the SAT – on Falun Gong. The “correct” answers, of course, echo the party line. Typically these questions are so abundant that “incorrect” answers almost guarantee no admission to college.
Not content with mind-control in the Middle Kingdom, then-CCP head Jiang Zemin ordered his anti-Falun Gong crusade taken overseas, including to America.
The past three years have seen a deluge of propaganda here in the U.S. and Canada. Carried out by Beijing’s overseas arms – consulates and embassies – the slander is usually given to government officials, policy makers, and prominent public figures.
One feature common to the propaganda is its caustic nature. Through a combination of name-calling, gross misrepresentations, and scare tactics, such rhetoric seeks to dehumanize those who practice Falun Gong.
A similar feature is the scapegoating of Falun Gong for China’s ills – blaming it for everything from poverty to “superstition.” A number of government-authored pieces have made appeals to nationalism while trying to link, however clumsily, Falun Gong to “foreign anti-China forces.”
While it’s impossible to quantify the propaganda’s impact, its tangible effects are immediate: it breeds hatred, distrust, and discrimination.
Leaving nothing to chance, however, Jiang has complemented the propaganda with a program of torture and brainwashing.
“Pure violence doesn’t work. Just [compulsory] ‘studying’ doesn’t work either,” one CCP advisor explained to the Washington Post. “And none of it would be working if the propaganda hadn’t started to change the way the general public thinks. You need all three.”
Banking on hope of China’s “opening up” might do little to change all of this.
Just listen to Zhang Changming, Vice President of CCTV – China’s largest TV company. (CCTV and its 12 channels are government-run).
China’s media is “open enough” Zhang boasted last year. “After all, the TV business is about ideology and propaganda.”
CCTV, known for its anti-U.S. sentiment and exaltations of China’s leadership, now broadcasts in major cities throughout the U.S.
While most indicators suggest that the vilification campaign won’t end until the persecution does, there is the possibility, very real, that with growing awareness about Falun Gong the Chinese people might just get fed up. Portents do exist.
One New York Times report has described just that, citing a growing sense of frustration among China’s literati.
“Some intellectuals here, including some Communist Party officials,” the Times piece revealed, “are complaining that the heavy-handed propaganda blitz – which recalls Maoist campaigns of the 1950’s and 60’s – may discredit the party itself and harm China’s interests abroad.”
Jiang and the Ministry, in the final analysis, might just be shooting their own feet.