How do China’s Top Officials Get Their News?

April 24, 2018 Updated: April 24, 2018

China’s state-run media are notorious for their false reporting and blatant propaganda to spread the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) agenda. Whereas ordinary citizens can only get their “news” from these sources and whatever information passes through the Party’s strict censorship, where do the CCP’s high-level officials turn to for real information?

When Zhu Rongji, former premier, made a speech at Tsinghua University during the centennial celebration of the university’s founding on April 22, 2011, he said that after he retired, he watched the CCP’s state-run broadcaster CCTV at seven o’clock after dinner every evening. “I simply watch to see what nonsense it says,” he said.

So where do high-level officials such as Zhu get their news? They learn true information about the outside world via a special publication called “Internal Reference.” It is a collection of news and notices from top Party leaders, domestic news, and international news that is forbidden for Chinese media to report on. “Internal Reference” is considered a confidential document and old copies are mandated to be destroyed.

Over the years, from the Party’s Central Committee—a 200-plus body of top officials—to provincial and central state media, and different central state agencies, they have all published their versions of “Internal Reference” for their eyes only.  

The versions of  “Internal Reference” are classified according to officials’ ranking: there’s one that only provincial or ministerial level officials are allowed to read, and another for the Politburo, a 25-member group of elites. The highest level is only for the very few members of the Party leadership. The highest level “Internal Reference” includes a section on domestic affairs published daily.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman reads a program prior the speech of Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, Dan Kritenbrink and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin in Beijing on December 3, 2014. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

What kinds of “Internal Reference” CCP officials can read is also closely related to their political status. For example, former Party leader Mao Zedong’s secretary, Tian Jiaying, was disqualified from reading a high-level “Internal Reference” just before he committed suicide. Deng Xiaoping, the CCP’s leader from the late 1970s to 1980s, was given permission to read high-level “Internal Reference” before he was appointed Party leader.

When the CCP’s current leader, Xi Jinping, visited the state-run Xinhua News Agency on February 19, 2016, he especially visited the department that edits the “Internal Reference.” “When I worked in local government, I began paying more attention to the ‘Internal Reference,’” he told Xinhua reporters, according to a Xinhua report. “When I worked in central government, I especially paid attention to it.”

Xinhua News Agency reporters have often boasted to their colleagues working in Chinese media that the first thing the central, provincial, and municipal leaders do when they get to their office is read the “internal reference” documents compiled by Xinhua.

High-level officials also turn to the Chinese versions of this publication and its sister media, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), which were established in the United States in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

OTHER SHORE: Sitting in a small office in Flushing, Zhang Kaichen reads one of the newspapers produced by the Chinese dissident community. He now works a menial job and barely gets by, but in China, as a propaganda director, he had his own office and regularly received bribes. (Matthew Robertson/The Epoch Times)
Sitting in a small office in Flushing, Zhang Kaichen reads one of the newspapers produced by the Chinese dissident community. (Matthew Robertson/The Epoch Times)

The Epoch Times has learned from authoritative sources within the Party leadership that top officials often turn to Epoch Times and NTD for truthful reporting on current affairs.

When the Politburo holds meetings, the Chinese Epoch Times is placed on the desk, those sources said.

Hao Fengjun, a former police officer in Tianjin City, defected to Australia in February 2005, taking many confidential documents with him. Those records revealed that police officials often read the Chinese Epoch Times and watched NTD in order to find ways to suppress or undermine their truthful reportage about China.

Those sources added that the Chinese consulate in New York City collected the Chinese Epoch Times and periodically sends the copies to Beijing.

In addition, a current member of the Politburo Standing Committee—the very top echelon of the Party—records NTD’s programs regularly to watch.

After entering the internet era, the Party’s high-level officials can directly browse blocked websites, such as the Chinese Epoch Times, NTD, and Voice of America—using special software to circumvent the firewall.

After Xi Jinping took power in 2012, officials were instructed to collect Epoch Times and NTD reports, and regularly present them to Zhongnanhai, the Beijing compound where the Party leadership convenes, according to anonymous sources.

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