Is truth still under the control of the Communist Party of China? Are new forms of communication eroding the old monopoly? How should Beijing respond to this unforeseen situation that millions of citizens are being informed by alternative channels? These questions have aroused vehement debate among high-ranking politicians at Zhong Nan Hai and general public via various platforms. Over the last few years, a new situation is looming large in China: the user of the news is also its maker. A flood of communication tools have swept the country as an unstoppable forces, such as blogs, Renren, Weibo, QQ, Sohu, etc. Consequently, the “official version”, the one-facet truth, has lost its lustre. The newly-born aggressive and professional investigative journalism is not intimidated by the censorship. So, is China ready for such a multi-version approach in a bid to reveal truth that might be in stark contrast with or in adverse to the official version?
Not yet, but the line in the sand has been drawn!
The Party is still structured based on rigid communication models, with the ideology being the main criterion to give green or red light to certain news or certain alternative interpretation. Truth is one and only: that is what is useful to the cause. We all know the soviet-style refrains: pluralism might lead to instability, the last thing the country needs. It is an old method, which led to tragic results. Streets, rivers, stadiums named after fallen heroes were changed abruptly. After the arrests back in 1976, the members of the so-called Gang of Four had become the culprit for every crime. Their images were a symbol of corruption, ill-behavior, social wrongdoings and political treason. Only a few days after celebrations as respected leaders of the country, they were literally erased from the official pictures, an archaic deletion of the pixels. The surgical operation worked, since today almost nobody regrets those times and that social turmoil. Even if targeted with the same harshness, Lu Shaoqi, former President of PRC, enjoyed a better destiny. After his death, he was rehabilitated to become a far-sighted comrade who now sits in the pantheon of founders of contemporary China. So, the targets of propaganda have different post-mortem outcomes, but all were hit by the organization holding power through its monopoly of truth. To spread information and to create knowledge is of utmost importance; doubts are dangerous, pluralism is unaffordable for China.
A country reveals both its strength and weakness when it is so concerned with other truths. It can perpetuate censorship but would be unable to prohibit all the emerging requests of those being informed. Recently, the tragic case of a little girl getting squashed under a car in the midst of a general indifference of the passers-by in Foshan, sheds light over a society whose behavior is constantly under scrutiny. Progress cannot justify everything; the social consciousness is no longer inward-looking. Mainly young and educated urbanities aspire to a less-official truth. Technology and possibly economic growth are on their side. Likely, the political milieu will follow; if it will be the case, then a modern, pluralistic attitude will prevail: an additional weapon for an already powerful country!