'Xi Jinping as CCP CC General Secretary and President of China presided over his first meeting of the National Conference of Chiefs of Propaganda Departments in January 2013, which endorsed the assessment that efforts were being made to undermine and overthrow the CCP. The conference directed Propaganda officials at all levels to tighten media control and ensure proper enforcement of the ‘Seven No’s’. On May 13, 2013, the CCP CC’s Propaganda Department issued a document summarising the main conclusions of the meeting of Propaganda Chiefs and entitled ‘Report on the Current Situation of the Ideological Front’. The May 13 document identified seven "dangerous" topics namely, universal values, press freedom, civil society, civil rights, errors of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), crony capitalism and judicial independence.
'Simultaneously, in May 2013, the CCP issued an internal circular to all Party Committees entitled ‘On the Current Situation in the Ideological Domain’ (Guanyu dangqian yishixingtai qingkuangde tongbao) , which listed ‘Seven Things That Should Not Be Discussed’. Zhang Xuezhong, a Professor of Political Science at Shanghai’s East China University divulged the contents of this document on his Sina Weibo microblog. Zhang Xuezhong’s post was soon deleted from Weibo before the topic was censored. His posting listed the seven topics on which universities and the media were to discourage discussion.
'The seven things are:
i) universal values (pushi jiazhi buyao jiang);
ii) freedom of the press (xinwen ziyou buyao jiang);
iii) civil society (gongmin shehui buyao jiang);
iv) civil rights (gongmin quanli buyao jiang);
v) historical mistakes by the Party (Zhongguo Gongchandangde lishi cuowu buyao jiang);
vi) Party-elite capitalism (quangui zichanjieji buyao jiang); and
vii) judicial independence (sifa duli buyao jiang).
'Implementation of measures to exercise tighter and more effective control over media outlets began after this conference from around May 2013. A Report to the Center for International Media Assistance (Oct 22, 2013) quoted from the annual report of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA)’s issued in July 2013, and pointed out that a series of personnel and structural changes were underway in many media outlets in Hong Kong to ensure increased compliance with the Party ‘line’. Examples mentioned include the Sing Pao Daily News, where a veteran Xinhua News Agency journalist was appointed as publisher. Special internal groups were established at three Beijing-owned, or pro-Beijing, newspapers namely the Ta Kung Pao, Wen Wei Po, and the Hong Kong Commercial Daily. Their members are mostly from the mainland and they are tasked with vetting and approving the articles that these media outlets are considering publishing.
Around the same time, following Xi Jinping’s comments of January 2013, efforts commenced to intensify the “ideological and political” training of young university teachers. An ‘Opinion’ jointly authored by the CCP CC’s Organisation Department, Propaganda Department and Ministry of Education was published by the official Party newspaper ‘People’s Daily on May 28, 2013. It asserted that “a few young teachers are lost in their political beliefs. They have fuzzy ideals and beliefs, their occupational and professional ethics are fading…They cannot serve as role models for others". It listed 16 areas where emphasis was necessary for enhancing “ideological and political” training. A key feature was deepening of education in “the theoretical systems of Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and socialism with Chinese characteristics”. These areas of concern are reflected in the Document No: 9.
'The Document No: 9 issued in August 2013, is a detailed prescriptive guideline for regulating China’s propaganda and cultural organisations. Describing the current ideological situation as “complicated” and the struggle as “fierce”, it lists seven “incorrect ways of thinking”. These include: advocating Western constitutional democracy thereby negating the current leadership and government system led by the CCP; advocating “universal values” in a bid to substitute the core value system of socialism with Western values; advocating “new liberalism” with the aim of dismantling State-owned Enterprises (SoE)s and changing China's basic economic system; challenging the Party's control of the media and the system for managing the press and publications; and, trying to deny the CCP's history and the history of the People’s Republic of China including the “scientific value and guiding role of Mao Zedong Thought”.
'It said these “incorrect thoughts and views” had seeped into China via the internet and underground channels. Internal internet fora, blogs, weibo, conferences, seminars and university classes were listed among the platforms used for such “infiltration”. It was adamant that “anti-China forces in Western countries and domestic dissidents” are continuously “infiltrating China's ideological domain and challenging mainstream ideology”.
'The Document accused some Western embassies and consulates in China, media organisations and NGOs of spreading Western values and views and “cultivating so-called anti-government forces”. In an implicit reference to the Bloomberg and New York Times reports, which revealed the extent of wealth amassed by the families of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Xi Jinping respectively, it accused them of “spreading political rumours and smearing Party and national leaders”. The Document warned that “Western anti-China forces” will persist in encouraging change and continue to point the “spearhead of Westernisation, separatism and 'colour revolution' at China”. In conclusion, it was unequivocal in demanding “that the power of leading the press and media is always controlled by the hands of those who are at one with the Central Committee of the Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary”.
'Coinciding with the issue of Document No: 9, media organisations were informed that all journalists in China will be vetted and issued fresh press accreditation cards after they pass an examination to ascertain their political reliability. Directions were issued summoning the first batch of 250,000 journalists to report for a 3-month training programme where subjects include "theories on socialism with Chinese characteristics," and the “Marxist view on journalism”. The journalists have been directed to reject ideas of democracy and human rights, which are described as values propagated by the West and targeting China's Communist Party. They are taught that the United States is "trying to undermine” China. They have also been told not to write articles favourable to Japan while discussing territorial and historical issues between the two countries. Similar instructions have been given with regard to the Philippines and Vietnam.'