Yanhuang Chunqiu Wins Award

(Ming Pao Monthly)  March 2008, p. 45-47.

(in translation)

On January 19, 2008, Guangzhou's Southern Weekend held its tribute event in Beijing to the year 2007 in which the magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu (炎黃春秋) won the top prize among Chinese media.  The organizers invited Yanhuang Chunqiu's publisher Du Daozheng (杜導正) to attend and receive the award in person.

According to information, Southern Weekend contacted the Yanhuang Chunqiu editor-in-chief Wu Si first to request the presence of Du Daozheng.  Wu Si initially said that Du was "too busy and cannot make it" and that Wu Si himself would be the representative.  Southern Weekend then made multiple pleas, arguing that the honor was not personal but for Yanhuang Chunqiu as a whole so that Du Daozheng must attend.  Finally, 85-year-old Du Daozheng put aside his other engagements to attend.

At 1:30pm on January 19, the hall for the Southern Weekend award ceremony was crowded with people.  Du Daozheng and Wu Si arrived on time and entered the VIP room where they were greeted warmly by the Southern Weekend leaders.  They spoke about the situation in Zhongnanhai, and Du said that democratic governance was more open and pragmatic than ever before just as everyone expected.  During the conversation, Du Daozheng praised the Politburo member Wang Yang's recent Guangzhou speech about the liberation of thinking and grand reform.  But he suggested that the adjective "grand" should be replaced by "new" because we are looking at a "new round of liberated thinking."

Du Daozheng told these Guangzhou colleagues that he especially appreciated Wang Yang's call to overthrow all the antiquated ideas that are inhibiting the progressive forces of production and cultural development.  Wang Yang repeatedly emphasized that practice is the only true standard for testing the truth and that the satisfaction of the people is the sole criterion for determining right from wrong.

Just as everybody enjoyed exchanging ideas, a Southern Weekend leader drew Du Daozheng aside and said with great misgivings: "My esteemed elder Dao, there has been a new development.  I am really sorry.  Today's awards had been determined by many media organizations across China, with six special prizes each with six top organizations.  Your Yanhuang Chunqiu was ranked number one among media organizations.  We had arranged for you to represent Yanhuang Chunqiu to receive the award on the podium and we had prepared the overhead video show.  But today a certain member of the Central Publicity Department (whose name shall not be mentioned) just telephoned.  He asked over the telephone: 'Why did you choose Yanhuang Chunqui?  Why is there a special tribute to Yanhuang Chunqiu?  Why was a special award being given to Yanhuang Chunqiu?  We do not approve, and we disagree.'  We explained: 'This was not just our judgment.  It was voted by many media persons all over China.'  The person from the Central Publicity Department said: 'This is unacceptable.'  I said that the video show already has a long scene about Yanhuang Chunqiu receiving the award and we cannot delete it at this time.  But he said: 'The scene in the video show must also be deleted.'"

This Southern Weekend leader then said: "My esteemed elder Dao, we are really sorry!  We invited such an esteemed person as yourself in order to accord us great honor.  Now, what do you think can be done about this?  We expressed our views and we are awaiting the response from the Central Publicity Department, but they have not said anything yet.  We are stuck.  We hope that you can appreciate our situation."

Du Daozheng replied: "Yanhuang Chunqiu publicizes the route of the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Chinese Communist Party Congress, we publicize the theory of Deng Xiaoping, we publicize the Three Represents and we are firm, pragmatic and forceful.  Everybody knows it.  We are supported by all sectors of society and the Central Government has been tolerant such that we are able to publish a magazine that has some influence inside and outside of China.  But we don't expect that everybody will share the same view and we expect that some departments may demur.  Your assessment of Yanhuang Chunqiu may be controversial.  I must say that it was invaluable that Southern Weekend should rate Yanhuang Chunqiu as the top media organization, and this is an affirmation of the independent and responsible spirit towards the nation, the Party and the people.  I believe that this is sufficient already.  In the words of the people, 'You have enough guts already.'  I am very grateful to you.  As to whether I get on stage to receive an award or not, or whether Yanhuang Chunqiu will be deleted from the video show, none of that matters.  We are only interested in doing concrete things, and all this other stuff does not matter to us."

Du Daozheng's reasoned reaction reassured the Southern Weekend leaders.  They decided that they would not attempt to "use the egg to smash the rock" and blow everything up.  Historically, Southern Weekend had already lost its senior leadership several times due to the actions of the Central Publicity Department after publishing sensitive articles.

So the meeting began with more than 300 persons in attendance.  The award categories included the best private enterprises, the best audiovisual companies, the best publishing companies and then the best media organizations.  Among the media organiations, the national media persons ranked Yanhuang Chunqiu as number one.

Fortunately, the name Yanhuang Chunqiu was displayed in big letters.  According to informed source, Southern Weekend took the chance in so doing.  But when the representatives from the six top media organizations went on stage to receive their awards, the hosts Zeng Zimo and Leung Mantao did not read out the name Yanhuang Chunqiu and Du Daozheng did not get on stage to receive the award and he did not address the attendees as originally scheduled. 

Mainland media and cultural organizations have this collective memory: Since the summer of 1989, when certain leaders of the Central Publicity Department went after certain units, they never issue official documents.  They only make a notice by telephone.  When you ask him who he is, he never says so.  He gives the impression of stealthiness (maybe he is afraid, but what is he afraid of?).  Usually, he only says that he is from a certain department within the Central Publicity Department.

Should Yanhuang Chunqiu have received this particular award?  When this writer called Du Daozheng, he said that he did not care because the people know the truth and he does not want to argue over this.  This particular award was based upon a popular vote with at least half of the official media persons voting for Yanhuang Chunqiu.  Should public opinion be ignored and overridden so easily?

This writer believes that the Central Publicity Department is an organization under the Communist Party Central and not a government department.  If it wants to intervene, it should have gone through the government (such as the General Administration of Press and Publication).  It was against the law for the Central Publicity Department to have done so in this case.  Southern Weekend comes under the Guangdong provincial party committee.  Based upon the existing regulations, this matter should have gone through the Guangdong provincial party committee as opposed to a direct order from the Central Publicity Department to Southern Weekend.  This action is far and away from what Wang Yang said, and one cannot help but remember the double voice that existed in the reform era of the 1980's when Hu Yaobang had one voice but Deng Lijun at the Central Publicity Department had a different voice.

Southern Weekend is a newspaper with around 1 million copies in circulation with a great deal of influence inside and outside of China.  This award meeting also praised the American newspaper New York Times and the Singapore newspaper Zaobao.  The reporters and editors from those newspapers were in attendance at this meeting.  Did the Central Publicity Department think that they could interfere with a popularly voted award show through just a telephone call?  Can they wipe out the consensus sentiments of the mainland media persons with one stroke of the hand?

This writer believes that ever since the Seventeenth Congress, the ideological apparatus under the leadership of Hu Jintao has made clear progress.  At Yanhuang Chunqiu, the recent issues have discussed Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang and his contributions towards the reforms and showed Zhao's photographs without any response from the central government.  When the leftists criticized the central government and even formally removed the Three Represents and the thoughts of Deng Xiaoping from the State Constitution and the Party Constitution, the central government did not respond with quick, rash action.  Clearly, the domain for public opinion has become more relaxed recently.  So how can this astounding and regrettable affair over Yanhuang Chunqiu occur during this period?  This is truly shocking.

Many industry insiders believe that Zhongnanhai must not be aware of this blatant intervention into Yanhuang Chungqiu receiving an award from the civilian sector.  Some people say that if the central government knew, they would have censured the Central Publicity Department.  Others say that this was a particular foul deed committed by an individual within the Central Publicity Department.  Some people even say that the Central Publicity Department had nothing to do with this, but some nefarious person did so under its name.

If such is this case, this writer recommends that the Central Publicity Department should come out in public to clarify the matter.