In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last weekend (video here), Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao spoke extensively of his devotion to political reform, democracy, and freedom of speech. The interview has subsequently been subjected to an official news blackout in China. How are Chinese netizens reacting to such blatant party-on-party censorship? WSJ reports:
There has been skepticism about whether Wen’s comments in recent months really herald a new reform era. But on China’s Internet, an outpouring of support for Wen followed quickly after bilingual Chinese-English transcripts of the interview began appearing.
“If this is real, and if it’s needed, I’ll give my life, too,” wrote “Andrianme” on Sina Weibo.
“The three great men of the last century: Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping,” read a post that had earned more than 11,000 ‘recommend’ clicks on the Phoenix TV site as of this writing. “If Premier Wen can really push through political reform, he’ll be the first great man of the new century.”
Information about the interview on the Chinese Internet appears to come almost exclusively from Phoenix TV, blogs and micro-blogging services like Sina Weibo. News portals in China are running a commentary on the interview from the official Liberation Daily newspaper that manages not to quote Wen at all, focusing instead on the differences in Zakaria’s questions from 2008 and 2010.
The irony of Wen’s statements on freedom and censorship being censored in official media was not lost on Chinese observers.
“A lot of Chinese people don’t know their premier has been harmonized,” prominent Beijing University Internet researcher Hu Yong wrote on Twitter, using the Chinese euphemism for censorship. “Wen Jiabao’s comments about political reform being censored at least tells us one thing: In front of the big wall, everyone is equal.”
“Wen’s comments in recent months” refers to his growing tendency to talk about political reform on almost any available occasion. Such comments have led many to speculate that a rift may be forming among party leadership, especially with the buildup to the 18th CCP Congress, where leadership is scheduled to change hands. Conservatives (Hu’s homeboys) avoid talk of political liberalization and oppose support for concepts such as “universal values,” a term they claim just means “Western values.” Wen, on the other hand, says things like this to the American media: “In spite of some resistance, I will act in accordance with these ideals unswervingly and advance, within the realm of my capabilities, political restructuring.”
The opposing argument, of course, is that this is all simply a ruse to keep the people happy and the path to world domination smooth.