Six Fragments Sketch The Dark Side Of ‘Chinese Media Workers’

The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one’s heart—hearts are made to be broken—but that it turns one’s heart to stone

Fragment 1

“Bring home the bacon first, it’s the most important thing ,” he said six times in less than 10 minutes of conversation.

A senior employee laid off from the traditional media, with the burning love of working for the welfare of his old counterparts, set up an intermediation service to recommend everyone to join in the media group. His self-introduction was vague, except for things like”get rich again and make a fortune together”, which made me a little interested in his business.

In a private conversation he told me, “We mainly write articles to serve the industry,” he said. Is that soft sell? I asked.

Not necessarily, the kind someone pays to write, and I don’t object to you calling it a soft sell. Another is industry observation and analysis, which can be said to be independent and”ensures your freedom of opinion,” he explains, and wants me to send him a look at similar articles I’ve written about. I sent him “What the hell Apple sells.”

He read it with displeasure: “You can’t criticize like that yet, it’s going to get you in trouble. You know, the giants have strong public relations, lots of money and strong backstage, they can’t be offended. Chinese companies and foreign companies coming into China can’t be offended if you want to survive.” By the way, warn me: Remember, you’re just a writer, don’t give yourself a hard time.

He told me that he wanted to help everyone “transform”. Traditional media is facing a reshuffle, as you’ve probably heard, and all that ends up is newspapers and magazines with government departments as regular subscribers. The rest will be out. While many traditional paper media are using their last moments to try to curry favor with the government, hoping to be in the subscribing circle, it’s probably useless. “The government is not going to be easily to trust, there are so many media, so why are there only a few of them who have been able to enjoy the inside channel? The idealists are just afraid to admit the reality”…” We have to start early, we can’t just waiting and starving to death,” he said.

“How to get a better second or third job is the key issue. It’s our strength to work with pens. Whether it’s Party A, B or the media, or the market, or the brand, we have a lot of demand here,” he said. “It’s what everyone does, so there’s no explanation, you can understand it. It’s useless to write well, if no one recommends it, you can’t live on your own.”

I am a bit puzzled, is not the work of the media supervising and exposure? If the result of the “transformation” is the reversal of the original function of the newsmedia, how many people can quickly adapt to this completely reverse change?

He laughed. “You think people in office are supervising the power? Stop kidding, everyone is making living, never mess with people who can break your job. It’s about survival. People have 10,000 ways to make themselves comfortable, winners,” he said, stressing in particular: “We are simply continuing the philosophy of survival that all our peers have always had, by making it more effective and rewarding for those who can master this philosophy of survival. What is justice? If there is no source of income, everything is bullshit.”

“Our side also some old media workers are more affectionate, always like to reason with others, hehe, when he was too hungry to lift his head to come, see what he has the strength to reason…”, “We are doing good deeds and serving our old counterparts,”he said. “Although the old ones are probably the worst. Every year a large number of graduates, children who haven’t been around much are very obedient and make it easy to do whatever we want, and the cost of recruiting new people is very low, but why didn’t we do that? It’s not because we care about the old ones!”

He told me that in China you can make a living and even living very well just by writing, but only you can know it is as well to know which way the wind blows, doing things in a slick way, instead of just being yourself, or you will starve to death or even go to jail for writing.

“Don’t discuss social issues online, especially politics, or you won’t be able to find a job in China,” he advised me. “Everyone can see what you’re saying. Bosses who want to hire don’t want to hire a troublemaker.”

Fragment 2

“I just want to hurry up and scrape together enough money to buy a house, get a decent wife and have a carefree second half,” he said.

Your present girlfriend is very nice, beautiful and talented, I said.

“Here’s the trouble. Because she’s so good at it, if my position doesn’t overwhelm her, I’m sure to get angry in the future. She doesn’t like my job anymore,” he said.

You are also regarded as the official media, the official media are very rich, I understand this.

“The problem is that she’s in the official press, and the leaders like her, and I can’t just pursue equality with her so she will not respect me. I need to be in a national media, not about salary, but status, and I need to see the kind of euphoria she gets when she introduces me to friends,” he said.


“Yeah, my classmate in the United States is also an acquaintance of hers, now in the national media, and a small leader, she is this kind of excited expression when she introduces my classmate to others. I have been with her for more than three years, three years, never enjoyed her expression, like when she got a new BMW to take a picture and upload to the social media, like the glory was her own. I’m going to take that honor out and it belongs to me.”

I don’t feel national media is glory, sorry I speak more bluntly.

“I don’t think so, but my girlfriend think so. Almost everyone you know in society thinks so, so it has to be. Where does your glory come from? It is from other people. Other people’s values determine what kind of person you are. We are not free to control that.”

Fragment 3

“I don’t know what I’m doing right now. It’s writing? It’s a special performance, show it to the leader? You see, I’m working, and it turns out, nothing’s coming out,” he said. “This time there were three, two were removed, and the score was almost gone.”

The censorship criteria are vague, the blurrier is the censorship, the narrower is the space left, the problem is the censorship itself. It should not exist.

“Who said it was not? The problem is that this is getting worse and worse, in the past, the red line is still relatively clear, everyone knows what we can say or not, but now, good, no one is willing to take the fucking responsibility, it has been a football gaming. The manuscripts sent up to the Weekly, and it did not dare to approve, sent to the Xinhua News Agency for censorship, Xinhua is not sure, and then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for censorship, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ignored, and to let Xinhua to decide, and then the Xinhua News Agency said that the Weekly do whatever you want… More than a week later, the hot spots have passed, until now the manuscript is still here, no one dares to make up his mind!

This… seems like an exaggeration.

“It is no exaggeration, this is our reality, our almost all life. Busy to death, you can not see the manuscript published, I asked the leader how to do? he said, then kick, then kick a round, continue to censorship.”

Terrible. I have read your work, a very pertinent point of view, more comprehensive observation, such a draft can not be sent out is a great pity.

“It’s not just me, it’s happening to everybody. We’re like puppets in a big farce, knowing it’s a farce, but we can’t run away, we can’t even laugh, we have to be led by a thread, we’re forced to perform, we’re forced to make it bigger.”

I mean, you can choose to contribute to the overseas media. In line with the principle of not demeaning your work, at least…

He laughed. “You are a foreigner, you foreigners do not understand the Chinese rules. You take the Chinese media wages, to foreign media contributions, which is called eating then smashing the pot. yes, you may be able to use anonymity or pseudonym, but what is the point? Not only does no one know that you wrote it, but in case anyone does, your side of the job is gone, and there’s no way you’ll ever find another decent job in China again. It’s not worth taking the rest of your life for a manuscript, isn’t it?”

He was silent. After a long time suddenly said, “Do you know any psychological test can judge a person’s endurance?”

Fragment 4

“Did you hear about a new crackdown? I just finished reading the story about VPN ban and my Shadowsocks couldn’t get connected. It’s like nightmares,” she asked me.

Is has always been said to crakdown, in the future will only be more strict. Aren’t you working on international news? The working unit should be equipped with VPN or other tools to get over the internet blockade, isn’t this the basic work needs?

“No, no VPN, no one dares to ask for this. They do not admit that is a need for work, although they do not care whether we are get over the internet blockade, now the topic seletion has been more and more tightly, and everything about China is not allowed to say, but the problem is that it’s the leaders to decide if it is about China, they pick a topic and don’t care if you can get over the GFW and find out about it.

Everyone help each other, there must be technical colleagues.

“Yes, there is, can only be used to fix computers, the getting over of GFW is kind of thing that everyone knows, but no one will talk about this. You can not know who is the leader’s confidant, which one is a whistle. Yes, it is not guilty to get over the GFW, it’s a need to work, but that is usually, in case one day you have offended the leaders, but can not criticize you on the matter, such a small plait of getting over the GFW will come in handy.”

This… too thrilling to live it.

“Who said not, not just our woking unit, but society as a whole. People actually know everything, but no one tells you, no one wants to talk to you about things you’re interested in, even though they’re all interested. Just gawking and pretending all day long.”

Why trust me?

“You’re a foreigner, ha, you don’t exist in any of the profit chains that affect me,” she said.

Fragment 5

“I really envy you for being able to deconstruct a subject, it’s too difficult for me” he said.

He moved from online to print media, a path contrary to that of most of his peers. I once asked him why, and his answer was surprising: “To be able to think. The online media, with its shallow tenet and as its principle, can’t tolerate any thinking at all. We are European style for deep connotation, and can’t stand all that nonsense, didn’t expect…”

Did not expect what? The print medium is relatively better, can dig the topic a little deeper?

“I used to think so. But now I understand that I am catching up with the nationalization of online media, and now superficial is the need of survival of all Chinese media, whether traditional or online, playing dumb is the basic skill. That is to say, not many people are really stupid, at least around me, we just do not say. The leadership instructions will always come first. Of course, slowly and we become really silly, like frogs at the bottom for few years will turn gray.”

What do you mean?

“That means the deeper you dig, the quicker you die. Thinking too much is a stinky disease, a deadly cancer that not only lets leaders see you as threatening, start figuring out how to make you stupid, but also arouses jealousy among colleagues around you. Being in the limelight is never a good idea in China.”

Leaders like shallow things?

“They would not say that. For example, the manuscript I sent last time, was denied. The reason is not the choice of topics, nor views, but… several reviewers said that they can not understand! They also taught me that it’s too academic, I should write what ordinary people can read, close to people! People can understand Huanzhugege, you can go for Qiongyao, why hiring me?”

Haha, the level of reviewers is too low for it.

“Yeah, they don’t think the reader can read it. It’s the usual, it’s not what happens to me or a few people. That’s why you look like the whole Chinese content market is shallow and stupid from the outside. Because the unstupid are dead.”

Forced to play dumb.

“Every time you have a selection meeting, you either don’t do depth, or you feel like you’re going to get denied, or you just have to ask an expert to write. But if you just don’t write personally, performance score doesn’t go up. It’s embarrassing. So then I said to another great colleague,”Why don’t we just get out of politics and write something about technology to get rid of the boredom?”

The experts wrote that they don’t deny?

“Basically don’t, the author’s name, big-name is an indicator of correctness, but the article must not have bogey things, of course, now those experts can not write anything bogey, they have been obedient very much. there were a number of quite intelligent here, now completely stupid, or pretending to be a pure degeneration.”

Market ecology is also a problem. As Director Feng Xiaogang once said “the junk viewers”, junk works get market acclaim and click volume is impressive, and you can hardly argue that depth is valuable.

“To tell you the truth, what I’ve written all these years back home is not as valuable as what we had in our dorm when we were studying in the UK. It’s really a place to think. The only place I’ve ever been able to think. So I envy you. At least you don’t care about the market, you don’t have stupid censors staring and you can write what you want based on your knowledge.”

We can only write. Well, you know, we don’t have the funds, we don’t have the competitive remuneration like your magazine.

“Haha, I got a litte bit balanced. Just a little,” he said.

Innovation of paper media must not become an imitator of online media. Although the Internet age has an era of iconic ways of thinking, the preservation of standards and depth is still the responsibility of print media. Newspaper in the near future will become a luxury, collectables, will be the enjoyment of high class people, you should have this awareness.

“Yeah, I can only practice writing in private now, like a thief.”

Do you think what the examiners call “pro-people”comes from Xi Jinping’s propositions, the so-called “take-change-change (take the grass roots, change the style of work and change the style of writing)”? Is it related to that?

“I cannot, dude, let’s get off the topic.”

Fragment 6

“Today we got a hand-written list of more than 200 people to clear as the pernicious vestiges”… from Bo to Sun, from the state to the local level, from the big guy to the small secretary, all in the list.

When the head of the Soviet secret police, Interior Minister Beria, was dismissed and executed, all information about him, the entries that positively described him, were removed from the encyclopedia by the authorities, as if the man did not exist in the history of the Soviet Union.

“There’s more and more weird going on, and each of you sent out a printed document the other day. You can’t guess what it was. It was Steve Bannon’s speech! It was bilingual, both Chinese and English, and we were told to dig deep into Comrade Bannon’s thoughts. And you were told that don’t to read foreign media’s nonsense…”

This one, it seems illogical.

“Everywhere is illogical. Formerly meetings were only attended by party members, but now they are basically expanded, bringing in all non-party members and learning together… it is very strange, you can only feel strange, dare not say why.”

“Recently, the loyal guys in our working unit has become more and more interesting, the Facebook scandal, the data totalitarianism finally appears on the party media, it is really funny, let a bunch of guys who praising the totalitarianism to report about totalitarianism. How absurd.”

Presumably they probably don’t understand digital totalitarianism.

“Sure. Most of the topics we have here are content-oriented, their taste is from the Stone Age, not to exaggerate at all. Something happened, then talk about it, repeat this process over and over again, cliches only. No one wants to read this, you can got our magazine to put the table up for free while you eat. But we have to do this or we don’t have a job. We’re taxpayers’ pets. Taxpayers are forced to keep us.

Sounds pretty slack.

“Bored to death yet. Now I spend 60% of my working time reading foreign media columns, waiting for off . Then listen to what the leader preach, what main theme should be promoted, to focus on the mainstream group of the West to promote our values… Our values are closing your eyes and listen to leaders’ instructions, do you mean to promote that?”

Haha, the CCP’s anti-American ideology.

“Do you know how excited the party members here were during the hottest days of the trade war? They, like their leaders, were eager to fight, which was better for manipulating nationalism. Their headline was barely distinguishable from Maoist leftist website and covered their face in chicken blood…. Sadly that group of non-party members followed, what are the benefits of a trade war for Chinese human rights? How much impact will it have? Nothing, except to let the adrenaline of those nationalists go off the scale.

I thought you weren’t going to say that.

“I don’t know. You’re not so scared when the traps are everywhere. Sooner or later you’re going to fall in, no-mater who, that’s what I am. The self-criticism we used to have at work was just verbal, and now it’s going to be written down, and everyone has to hand it in regularly to review their disloyalty to the party today… In case of movement in the future, these things are irrefutable proof, to prove your guilt!.. very stressful, if one person does not write, others have written, then the pressure on this person, you know. Very terrible. I already want to change a job.”

Foreign media may be considered.

“No. Do you think foreign media will be free? Today we are organizing listening to the speech of Xi, I’m watching twitter, and found that the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other major media in China are also listening the speech! Haha, they are going to learn about China through the CCTV speech? How stupid is this! They are useless for the Chinese people, they just select China as a topic, just like we select the USA as a topic, nothing different. These foreign media can’t solve anything, and I’m afraid they have little interest in solving the problem. Beijing is enjoying the dividends of self-enclosed, while the common people are viewing the foreign media as gods and viewing us as fools. In the future, if it were democracy, we might be….. would it be?

I don’t know.