Apparently, Xinhua – China’s equivalent to the CBC – plays two roles. It provides censored information to the general public, expressed in ways designed to bolster support for the government and reduce dissent, and its journalists provide secret reports directly to policy-makers. Xinhua has considerable resources with which to do so, including a staff of over 10,000 and 107 bureaus worldwide. Their most classified reports, called Hong Tou Cankao, may only be distributed to a dozen or so people at the very top of government.
This is a curious sort of arrangement, and perhaps an odd reflection on the current Chinese philosophy of economics and government. On the one hand, the state retains a position of extreme power and control, with little meaningful oversight. On the other, the state recognizes the usefulness of non-governmental actors: whether they are the exporting firms that have been the basis for rising Chinese prosperity or quasi-independent journalists who may have important information to share with those at the top.
It will be interesting to see how long this approach can continue to be viable, or whether China will find itself in a position where it needs to choose between opening up information and influence to a wider variety of actors or clamping down to retain government control, while also stifling some of the elements of China’s recent success. I also wonder what Xinhua’s most classified reports have been saying about climate change.