Friday, September 08, 2006

FoxConn, First Financial Daily and CCP

China studies scholars in western countries have been concerned with a question: What kind of society has been brought by open-door policy? The reconcilation between FoxConn and The First Financial Daily gives us some hints.

The world outside China has the impression that China's media is controlled by government. It is partially true. Strictly speaking, media in China is janus-faced. Sometimes they look like any media in western countries. Sometimes they seem go back to the old times. The incident of "Freezing Point" (Bingdian) is a recent example.

The professional practices and autonomy of some mainland journalists are much better than all Hong Kong reporters. The coverage of the labor condition in FoxConn is a good example. This is not the direct and necessary consequence of marketization (The highly "marketized" Hong Kong media could prove it). Many journalists ride the tide of marketization to create more space for press freedom. Over the past ten years, newspapers have been looking for money and higher sales. They certainly need to reduce official articles and investigative reports become a selling point.

The media with "Chinese characteristics" is run increasingly like any news corporate group in western countries. They compete for news stories and sales. They are working on cross-media merge and acquisition. They attempt to monopolize the market by strategic alliance. But in some critical moments, they are still subject to the supervision of different party-state organizations respectively. There is no privately owned newspaper in China. The First Financial Daily is a joint venture of Shanghai Media Group, Guangzhou Daily Group and Beijing Youth Daily. They are affiliated with the Communist Party Committees of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing Communist Youth League respectively.

Behind the conflict between the newspapers and corporation, there is the operation of the Chinese Communist Party. FoxConn's Shenzhen branch is the first Taiwanese owned enterprise with party committee in 2001. There are 1791 party members and 68 branch offices. One third of the members are management. The interest of party committee and enterprise are united. As FoxConn's party committee secretrary said, "Party's task is to serve company's production and business." Last year, the company allocated RMB 8 million to its party committee.

It is hard to believe that this gigantic party, with a membership of over 70 million, would not intervene into this affair. The joint statement follows the party line: "Harmonious soceity".

As Jurgen Habermas said, corporatization of modern media led to the decline of pampheteering-style small media. The discussion in public sphere turned into the public relations work manipulated by political and economic groups. The joint statement is a PR document. But the Chinese characteristics of this public-relation dominated society are prominent. In the new social space, the party organizations proliferate and work like a pair of invisible hands. The weak voice of workers in media is further covered up by the symphony of "harmonious voices".

Photo: El Mambo Taxi

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