June 11th, 2015

Propaganda converges

By: David Bandurski      Source: China Media Project     8/6/2015

In a ceremony today attended by senior officials dealing with media and propaganda, China’s official Xinhua News Service launched the second edition of its news app for iPhone and Android. Cai Mingzhao (蔡名照), the Xinhua News Agency director who served previously as director of the State Council Information Office and editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily, told the gathering at Xinhua headquarters that the launch of the mobile app “provided the basis for Xinhua Online to become the main force in the national transmission of news and information through the internet.”

The app’s launch comes amid a renewed focus in China’s top leadership on innovation combined with a more robust mobile internet-based economy, under a formula Premier Li Keqiang recently called “Internet Plus.” Responding enthusiastically to Premier Li’s overtures on innovation back in March, an English-language article on the website of the state-run Global Times newspaper said Internet Plus “will bring about the fourth industrial revolution for manufacturing.”xinhua-new-mobile_new-mainstream-new-experience-500x383

The mobile internet, which we are told is set to revolutionize the Chinese economy, is already transforming the project of information control in China. Against the backdrop of rapid technological change, the Party continues to regard information control, or “guidance of public opinion,” as a crucial foundation of social and political stability.

There is no question that the mobile internet is now the key focus and priority in the overall project of information control. In that sense, Xinhua’s new — and, we are told, improved — app for news and information is a strategic project in the Party’s efforts to dominate and drive coverage of important news stories at home. This is what Cai Mingzhao means when he talks about the enhanced mobile version of Xinhua Online becoming “the main force.”

In a nation where the very word “mainstream” refers to the political culture and agenda of the Chinese Communist Party, the motto of the new Xinhua News Agency app, “New Mainstream, New Experience,” is perhaps the clearest articulation of its motivation and purpose — creating new platforms and tools by which to drive and control public opinion.

It remains to be seen how enthusiastically Chinese web users will take up the Xinhua News Agency mobile app over sexier competitors like, say, Today’s Headlines (今日头条). But if history is anything to judge by, Xinhua has a steep uphill climb if it hopes apps like this one will make its news and information more competitive outside China.

Since its launch on March 14, 2012, the English-language Android app for Xinhua News Agency has received just 21 recommendations and 46 reviews on Google Play. Compare that to the Associated Press mobile app, which in the week since its launch on May 27 has received 3,134 recommendations and more than 32,000 reviews.

The distinction of being the world’s loneliest news app may go to the French edition of the Xinhua News Agency app, which has garnered just two reviews and four recommendations over a period of more than two and a half years.

Perhaps CMP can give Xinhua a little bump. Those China watchers wishing to download the Xinhua News app can do so simply by scanning its QR code.

app xinhua

A partial translation of the launch ceremony at Xinhua News Agency headquarters this morning follows.

[Xinhua News Agency]
On June 8 at 10AM, the latest version of the “Xinhua News Agency” app for iPhone and Android will be formally released in the Multi-Function Room of Xinhua News Agency Headquarters. Xinhua Online will broadcast the event live, and we ask you to tune in! [2015-06-08 06:52]

[Moderator, Xinhua News Agency Deputy Director Shen Haixiong (慎海雄)]
Respected leaders, VIP guests, comrades and friends: Good morning! [2015-06-08 10:02]

[Shen Haixiong]
Today, we solemnly announce the release of the new version of the “Xinhua News Agency” mobile app for iPhone and Android. The presence of you all brings light to these proceedings! First of all, I would like to introduce to you the leaders and VIPs who are presiding today over this release. We have comrade Jiang Jianguo (蒋建国), deputy propaganda chief and director of the State Council Information Office; comrade Ming Lizhi (明立志), chief of the news section of the Central Propaganda Department; comrade Jiang Jun (姜军), News and Information Broadcast Office of the Cyberspace Administration of China; comrade Wang Yibiao (王一彪), secretary of the People’s Daily; comrade Fang Zhenghui (方正辉), deputy director of the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration; comrade Yuan Zhengmin (袁正明), deputy director of China Central Television; comrade Wang Xiaohui (王晓晖), editor-in-chief of China News Service; comrade Jiang Haiqing (姜海清), deputy editor-in-chief of China National Radio; comrade Ding Shi (丁士), deputy editor-in-chief of the Economic Daily; comrade Yang Xiaowei (杨小伟), deputy general manager of China Telecom; comrade Jiang Zhengxin (姜正新), deputy general manager of China Unicom; comrade Zhang Xuan (张轩), general manager of China Mobile; and comrade Fan Cheng (樊澄), Party secretary of Air China. [2015-06-08 10:04]

[Shen Haixiong]
Leaders of Xinhua News Agency present at the event include: comrade Cai Mingzhao (蔡名照), director and Party secretary of Xinhua News Agency; comrade He Ping (何平), editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency; comrade Long Xinnan (龙新南), deputy director of Xinhua News Agency; comrade Li Xi (李熙), director of the Xinhua News Agency office of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection; comrade Zhou Shuchun (周树春), deputy director of Xinhua News Agency; comrade Peng Shujie (彭树杰), deputy editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency; and comrade Liu Zhengrong (刘正荣), secretary of Xinhua News Agency. [2015-06-08 10:04]

[Shen Haixiong]
[More guests are introduced here.]
[2015-06-08 10:05]

. . . .

[Shen Haixiong]
So, where is this new version of the “Xinhua News Agency” mobile app? Everyone please watch this short video. [2015-06-08 10:06]

[Xinhua Online]
A video [advertisement] is played for the “Xinhua News Agency” mobile app Version 2.0. [2015-06-08 10:06]

[Shen Haixiong]
Next, let us put our hands together and welcome comrade Cai Mingzhao, the director of Xinhua News Agency. [2015-06-08 10:09]

[Cai Mingzhao, director and Party secretary of Xinhua News Agency]
Respected ministers, VIP guests, comrades and friends: Good morning! Allow me first to welcome everyone to Xinhua News Agency to share this important occasion. In this multi-functional meeting room, I’ve attend two events that had great significance for the development of Xinhua’s internet business. The first was on November 7, 1997, when we held a ceremony for the comprehensive shift of news and information at Xinhua News Agency to the internet. From that time on, Xinhua News Agency shared its news and information with web users through Xinhua Online, and that provided the basis for Xinhua Online to become the main force in the national transmission of news and information through the internet. [2015-06-08 10:11]

The second occasion is today, for the release of the new version of the “Xinhua News Agency” mobile app for iPhone and Android. From this day forward, important news from Xinhua News Agency will be delivered directly to web users through this client. This means that Xinhua News Agency has taken a crucial step toward the mobile internet. [2015-06-08 10:12]

In order to release the new app today, our comrades in Xinhua News Agency’s New Media Center (新媒体中心) have labored night and day for more than two months. The average age on this team is 33 years old, and the youngest member is just 23. They have grown up in stride with the process of media convergence. They are brimming with energy and vitality, and they have rich knowledge and experience. [2015-06-08 10:13]

Our comrades at the New Media Center told me that the new version has in total 118 improvements and innovations over the previous version. I think that, in fact, all of these 118 improvements and advancements are based on a more important innovation, and that is an innovation in ways of thinking and consciousness. It is thanks to the hard work and exploratory spirit of this young team that we have these results we can celebrate today. [2015-06-08 10:13]

This is an app characterized by its authoritativeness (权威性为特色). It organically combines the aspects of authoritativeness and newsworthiness (资讯性). As the most authoritative news dissemination platform in China’s mobile internet sphere, the “Xinhua News Agency” app releases more than 1,000 original pieces of news on a daily basis, on every important news event in China and overseas — current affairs, the economy, military affairs, sports, there is nothing left out. And it also includes interviews, analysis, commentaries and the rest of it, everything you possibly need. [2015-06-08 10:14]