The Grand Inquisitor

In a recent post I juxtaposed China against the rest of the world; however, a great article in the Sydney Morning Herald highlights just how much more sophisticated the regime is in not overtly dichotomizing its agenda – some excerpts:

There has been intense speculation for years that the Olympic Games would hold the Chinese Communist Party to ransom, and force open the system to competitive viewpoints and help entrench human rights. But that’s not what’s happening….analysts are now coining new definitions for the Chinese state model: “popular authoritarianism”, “hybrid” or simultaneously “repressive and responsive”….Chinese leaders prefer to stick to Deng Xiaoping’s old formula of “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”. It’s essentially pragmatism.

As a communicator, I can’t fail to notice how critical PR is in this ingenious approach:

Most importantly, and least understood in or outside China, Communist Party leaders learnt there was no point in a vast propaganda apparatus that served up only Marxist-Leninist dogma and scared people into submission. So they reprogrammed China’s propaganda apparatus into the world’s most successful public relations machine.

Rather than fearing new communication technologies, the state co-opted them. These days propaganda and security organs monitor text messages and send messages of their own. Tens of thousands of internet police block sensitive sites and seed “favourable” discussions on chat rooms and blog sites. They allow Chinese citizens to access many foreign media sites, while emphasising some reports and filtering out others.

In short, China is mastering the art of adhering to no ideology whatsoever beyond securing the ultimate power of the state — all while making its subjects feel like they have a voice …and, of course, giving them some bread. What would Marx think of this kind of opiate?