Thousands of journalists from some fifteen Chinese state media will soon have to take an exam to gauge their knowledge of, and loyalty to, the ideas of President Xi Jinping, writes the South China Morning Post newspaper. If you don’t succeed, you can lose your press card. Critics fear that the exam is only a stepping stone to even more control of all journalists in the communist country.
This spring, the Communist Party launched the brand new smartphone app Xuexi Qiangguo, which can roughly be translated as ‘study to strengthen the country,’ but with the ‘Xi’ also refers to President Xi Jinping. The app collects news, videos, and documentaries about the president’s communist ideas and is seen as the 21st-century variant of the legendary Red Book by Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976), the first leader of the People’s Republic of China.
The government intends that as many Chinese people use the propaganda app as possible. It also contains, for example, an agenda, a chat function and users can solve quizzes about communism. The media regulator has now announced that there will soon be an additional function for journalists: an official exam of the communist ideology as put forward on the app.
Around 10,000 journalists and reporters from a total of 14 state press agencies will take part in a pilot project in October. Anyone who wants to see their press card renewed will have to pass the test. If you fail, you can only retake part once. Critics call it a blatant attempt to strengthen the grip on independent reporting.
For the time being, the test is only intended for reporters at the state agencies, but it is feared that the system will gradually apply to all journalists. The first sample questions will be posted on the app from Monday. The exam consists of five parts, including knowledge about Marxism in general, one part about propaganda and one part about Xi Jinping’s policy.
According to the NGO Reporters Without Borders, China is in 177th place this year in terms of press freedom in a ranking of 180 countries. Only in Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan are the freedom of information even worse.