Ren Zhiqiang Incident: CCP Propaganda Ministry Fans the Flames

March 25, 2016 Updated: March 26, 2016
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Chinese tycoon and celebrity blogger Ren Zhiqiang recently got in trouble for criticising Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s words “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP.”

As the struggle between China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the propaganda system intensifies, what Xi’s comment might mean has drawn deep concern from outside.

Various mainland Chinese media have reported that, following Ren’s critical comments, all senior forces in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have got into a multi-round “melee.”

Among them, the propaganda system controlled by Liu Yunshan and the CCDI controlled by Wang Qishan have skirmished, drawing a lot of attention. Liu and Wang are both members of the Politburo Standing Committee, but Liu belongs to the faction of former CCP head Jiang Zemin, while Wang is in Xi’s camp.

The real meaning of Xi’s statement “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” is that “CCP media’s surname is not Liu”.
— a Beijing politician

On Feb 19, when Xi inspected China Central Television (CCTV), banners such as “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” were used to butter Xi up.

A source inside China considered this to be Liu creating “advanced blackening” against Xi by using public discontent towards the CCP’s propaganda. “Advanced blackening” refers to something that seems to be praise, but actually hints at discredit.

The incident was thought to be no different from setting a trap for Xi to jump into, triggering the subsequent development of events.

On the same day, Ren Zhiqiang, a very good friend of Wang Qishan, made remarks of discontent on his microblog about CCTV’s mention of “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP.” unexpectedly giving Liu’s propaganda system a chance to leverage power to attack Wang and Xi.

On Feb 22, Qianlong Net of the CCP’s Beijing Municipal Committee published two articles in a row, titled “Why netizens want to give Ren lectures on CCP” and “Who gave Ren the anti-CCP strength.” These not only put labels on Ren, but also implied that Wang supported Ren and intended to manipulate public opinion.

Since then, some media in the CCP’s propaganda system, such as Guangming Net, have carried out a relay campaign against Ren, criticizing his “anti-Xi Jinping speech.”

On Feb 28, Ren’s accounts on the microblogging websites Sina and Tencent Weibo were both closed by the CCP’s Cyberspace Administration. Ren was accused of “continuing to post illegal information” and was not allowed to re-register using another name.

The next evening, the CCP’s Beijing Xicheng District Committee issued a notice stating that Ren had “seriously damaged the Party’s image” and swearing that this would be “dealt with seriously” according to the CCP’s Disciplinary Regulations.

On the same day, the Huayuan Group Committee, to which Ren’s Party membership belonged, issued a document titled “Opinions on strengthening the work in the ideological area.” It forbid the staff of the group to fabricate and spread political rumors to smear the CCP and the country’s image. Ren is the chairman of Huayuan Group.

Before that, it became clear that Liu’s propaganda system has been leading the fire to Wang under the banner of “protecting” Xi, by “shelling” Ren.

Wang’s CCDI promptly began to make moves to fight back against Liu.

On Feb 27, the CCDI held the first campaign meeting for the inspection team to go to the Propaganda Ministry, with a big crowd of powerful attendees.

The team leader, Li Xiaohong, emphasized that the inspection would be a political one and has attracted the attention of high-ranking officials. This was considered to be Wang’s strong tactic or an iron fist.

On March 1, the CCDI published an article on its website titled “Thousands nodding is not as good as one scholar’s offending advice.” The article citing an idiom expressing that whether a proposal is accepted often determines the rise or fall of a dynasty, calling for allowing people to make mistakes in their speech.

Some analysts believe that “thousands” corresponded to “Qianlong Net,” since “Qianlong” means “thousands of dragons”; and “one scholar” corresponded to Ren.

This implied that the CCDI was warning the Beijing Municipal Commission and the propaganda system while clearly backing Ren.

On March 2, subordinate agencies of the Beijing Xicheng District Committee were told to suspend Ren’s issue and refused any interviews. Messages were transmitted abroad, and it was thought that the momentum of handling the Ren incident was temporarily interrupted.

What did Xi’s words mean?

Recently, a Beijing politician told New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD), that the real meaning of Xi’s statement “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” is that “CCP media’s surname is not Liu (Yunshan).”

Xi said those words while he inspected CCTV, Xinhua News Agency, and the People’s Daily, all of which belong to Liu’s propaganda system.

The politician said to NTD that this is the third big movement Xi has taken, after anti-corruption and tackling the army. However, Ren’s remarks exposed a loophole for Liu to take advantage of.

Commentator Haichuan wrote in an article, “Liu Yunshan is more ruthless than Xi Jinping for utilizing the Party’s name.”

Haichuan said that Liu used the propaganda system to provoke the Ren incident and objectively achieved three things. First, he directly blocked Ren, leaving Ren no place to speak and making the already depressed microblogging sites more deserted.

Second, while attacking Ren, they also targeted Xi’s partner Wang. Third, they asked Xi to pay for Ren’s incident, setting a trap for Xi again.

Haichuan believes that both Xi and Liu are very clear about the rogue nature of the CCP and its media, which are abandoned with disgust by all walks of people. Xi’s statement “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” was most likely out of frustration in the power struggle. He thinks that although Xi had to use the Party as a means to grasp power, it is also easy for the rival faction to take advantage of this, due to the evilness and absurdity of the Party and the Ren incident is a stark example for Xi to learn his lesson.

Translated by Thomas Leung. Written in English by Sally Appert.