State media

A bold front-page layout at the People's Daily

People's Daily
March 6, 2010

March 5 marked the opening of the Third Session of the 11th National People's Congress.

Opening Day varies little from year to year. The politburo makes its entrance. Wu Bangguo emcees. Wen Jiabao delivers the annual work report while everyone else follows along in their print copies. Then during the break-out sessions, Hu Jintao presents some important remarks to a provincial delegation (Jiangsu these days). Then on March 6, the People's Daily publishes a newspaper that is practically indistinguishable from years previous.

Well, not this year. Today's People's Daily features a front-page that makes some innovative layout choices.

Vertical composition is passé in 2010, so the paper features a horizontal headline over a row of photos. Hu Jintao's remarks have been shifted to the bottom left, leaving the upper right free for news bites from the NPC and CPPCC. And the lead editorial returns to the front page after a two-year absence.

For the past few years, bloggers and forum commenters have ridiculed the People's Daily's unchanging March 6 layout. Has someone been listening?

Who needs variety? Top: 2004, 2005, 2006; Bottom: 2007, 2008, 2009
There are currently 4 Comments for A bold front-page layout at the People's Daily.

Comments on A bold front-page layout at the People's Daily

Bloggers have been ridiculing the paper's "unchanging layout". What is more worthy of ridicule is anyone ridiculing such a layout. Exceptionally masturbatory trifling. I can well suspect that many of these people--puerile would be generous--are the same ones who won't lift a finger to sign Charter 08 or don't dare to complain about the treatment administered to those who have. Oh, no, if the gov't will just vary the layout they can return their snouts to the bottom of their iron rice bowls.

Nicholas, you are assuming that the main source of readers' ire is the layout alone. I would imagine that much of the controversy is a stand-in for complaints about the unchanging content. The editors are given the same pieces to work with every single year and are pressured to present them all in the same order of importance. The problem is not the "layout" but the whole way in which the NPC is presented. And readers know this very well.

As such, it is not surprising that comments would focus on the "unchanging layout". Comments that directly criticized the make-up of the NPC itself and the officious way in which that rubber stamp is presented would be swiftly "harmonized".

The new layout looks a little different, but the general content, the number of photos, and the subjects of the photos are cut from the same cloth as those of the previous years. It is pretty sad when cosmetic changes that make a magazine only slightly less unappealing are considered revolutionary.

This is in large part because 89 student leaders as well as their associated four gentleman (whom Liu Xiaobo is a member of) have more or less alienate the mass of today. Those that live overseas (especially chai ling) are viewed as at best a sellout and at worst west puppet (in some circles from the very beginning). While those remained in China are seen as indifferent liberal living in a fantasy world with impracticable solutions. This is because of two events since 1989:
China in the 2010's isn't Eastern Europe in the 1980's because they have seen Eastern Europe in the 1990's. (and how many of them still end up in the same shit they are in, in the 1980s...) Read Beijing Springs or China Springs article on Eastern Europe (which are surprising common in 90s China), many in China are glad they did go that the path proposed in those magazine.

Democratization of Taiwan defeat the fallacy that Democracy isn't compatibility Chinese culture, but it also defeat the fallacy that democracy will eliminate corruption and solve all of China problem. If you go the correct forums in China, the consensus is that democracy simply legitimize corruption and put it in a systematic fashion of interest groups and campaign contributions, perhaps it is more transparent and more easily regulated. But it isn't what people had hoped for. While South America seriously scare people there and most not willing to take the risk...
"Dissidents" in China is complex group. while Charter 08 people might get a lot sympathizers in the west, they have very few in China; and the fact they have a lot sympathizers in west, make that even fewer...

Taihan and Doc,
I would not like to undertake the task of vindicating the merits of Charter 08. There are some problems with some of its clauses--including misconceptions and distortions (at least in the translation of it which I have read.) Nevertheless, there is some discomfort among Chinese people (not just those who signed) to which that Charter gave and gives some voice. I admire those Chartists for risking their comfort if not lives for speaking up. I admire them for not doing the prudent thing, which is to convey "ire" (Taihan) by carping about the layout of the front-page. (And Taihan: to use euphemism "harmonization" and "harmonized", however sarcastically, is to play into the CCP's hands: for trust me, they would rather you use those words than "coercion" or "repression".) Like you, Taihan, I am not surprised that most people will go no farther than to complain about the monotony of the layout.
Doc, you offer a very convincing explanation of small enthusiasm for that Charter. I would add that most of those who have been "lifted out of poverty by Deng Xiaoping" and "done the glorious thing of getting rich" are not pleased to see the Chartists threaten the status quo. Now most of the nouveaux riches (gaige kaifang yihou) think it is better to be rich and a little repressed than to get more freedom but risk their wealth. Meanwhile many if not most in China have not benefited very much from the dung of Xiaoping, and they should support such movements as Charter 08, because, as those at the bottom of society, any big change provides them with a chance of rising a little. They can't get any lower in the order so why not try? As one of my friends, a guy from Lintong, near Xi'an, said to me recently (not quoting verbatim): "The gov't in Beijing seems to have a lot of money to spend on all kinds of new military equipment and teams of technicians to control the internet and very little too spend on feeding or caring for poor people who wander all around China and remind everybody that to be poor is not so glorious."

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