Journalists in Chinese state media to be tested on loyalty to President Xi

Journalists working in Chinese state media. Photo: Xinhua. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BEIJING, Sep 20, 2019, SCMP. Thousands of reporters and editors working in Chinese state media will have to sit a nationwide exam to test their loyalty to President Xi Jinping. Some will be asked to take part in “pilot tests” in early October, before the exams are held nationwide, according to a notice late last month from the media oversight office of the Communist Party’s propaganda department. It did not say when the nationwide exams would be held, reported the South China Morning Post.

About 10,000 reporters and editors from 14 state-run online media outlets in Beijing are expected to sit the “pilot tests” using the Xuexi Qiangguo mobile app, a media source who requested anonymity said on Wednesday.

Often compared to the Quotations of Chairman Mao – or the “little red book” as it was known in the West – Xuexi Qiangguo is essentially a news aggregation platform for articles, video clips and documentaries about the president’s political philosophy. Launched in January by the propaganda department, it is an example of the party using tech to strengthen its ideological control in China. The name translates as “study to strengthen the nation”, but also plays on the character “Xi” to suggest it is a way for people to learn about their head of state.

The media oversight office made clear that updated press cards, which are essential for those working in the industry, would only be issued to journalists who had passed the exam. Those who fail will have one chance to take the test again, according to the notice.

Reporters and editors will be able to prepare for the exam using sample questions that will be uploaded to the app from Monday, news website reported on Wednesday.

The exam has five sections, with at least two of them focused on Xi’s political thinking and one on Marxism, according to the report.

One editor who works at a state-run news outlet had already begun preparing for the exam, and said he was optimistic that he would pass.

“I’m very good at this kind of stuff – I cover it every day pretty much,” said the editor, who did not want to be identified. “I’m confident that I won’t fail.”

It was compulsory for all party members to download Xuexi Qiangguo and register using their real names when it was first launched, to “study” Xi’s thinking. But after complaints, it is no longer mandatory and members are instead encouraged to use it. The app can keep track of users’ progress and information collected can be accessed by propaganda department officials.

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