The latest from the Ministry of Truth (propaganda directives from the Chinese Central Propaganda Bureau) has officially ban-hammered the Chinese phrase gongmin shehui (公民社会), or ‘civil society’, from use in Chinese media. Apparently the ban has been in the works since October, and is most likely a reaction to growing citizen participation in politics vis-a-vis the internet.
What’s encouraging about this particular directive is that it’s actually being discussed in the domestic media, or at least online. Various journalists and bloggers have publicly commented on the ban, via QQ and other microblogging sites, mostly saying it’s pointless or even impossible.
Says Changjiang Commercial Daily columnist Liao Baoping (via China Media Project):
“Since ‘civil society’ is disallowed, some media have been using the term ‘public society’ instead. I think this is even stronger. The method of keyword banning cannot possibly eliminate ideas.”
It’s a easy switch from ‘civil society’ to ‘public society’ in Chinese, or from 公民社会 to 公共社会 (gonggong shehui). This circumvention tactic has apparently already been used in 21st Century Business Herald, and we’ll no doubt being seeing more of it in the future.
When looking at newspaper articles from the past month, CMP found that civil society is something talked about quite a bit in the Chinese media:
A search of the WiseNews database, which includes hundreds of mainland Chinese newspapers, returned 271 results for articles including the term “civil society” over the past month (since December 1, 2010). Since January 1, the term has been used in 50 articles in the mainstream print media. Of these 50 articles making reference to the term, 18 were from media in Guangdong province.
But party mouthpiece People’s Daily, in contrast to the rowdy Southern media, hasn’t used the term since April of last year.
It’s a silly and sad concept really, banning the term ‘civil society’ in an effort to repress the actual practice. Hopefully in the future they stick to banning ridiculous news items instead of entire political principles.