BEIJING — China on Wednesday issued a blueprint for shaking up its bureaucracy that will sharpen the Communist Party’s power over films, books and newspapers, while raising the profile of hitherto secretive party groups that steer policy on the economy, the internet and foreign affairs.
The plan, released by the state-run news agency Xinhua, complements narrower changes the national legislature approved on Saturday, which focused on merging government ministries, not the party’s powers. The latest, broader plan highlights just how far the party’s leader, President Xi Jinping, is committed to expanding its role. Here are the main changes:
The Party Takes Control as the ‘Voice of China’
Chinese films, television shows and newspapers are already heavily controlled and censored by the Communist Party, but control of entertainment and news is likely to deepen.
Under the new plan, the party’s Department of Propaganda will take direct control of film, the news media and publications from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, a government agency. In effect, the thin partition that had separated the Communist Party from direct oversight of film production and imports of foreign films has been stripped away.
The plan said the change reflected the “especially important role of cinema in propagating ideas and in cultural entertainment.” Newspapers, books and magazines will also fall under the propaganda department’s direct supervision.
China’s main state-run radio and television broadcasters, domestic and international, will be merged into a single conglomerate called the “Voice of China,” which will be a state entity under the leadership of the party’s propaganda department. The reorganization will “enhance international broadcasting capacity,” according to the plan.
A Higher Profile in Economic and Foreign Policy
The party has long guided policy on the economy, foreign affairs and many other areas through “leading small groups” that bring together officials from various areas and agencies. Under Mr. Xi, these groups have multiplied and become more public and powerful. Most make their decisions in secrecy, with the exception of Mr. Xi’s leading small group on deepening reform, which publishes its decisions.
Now several leading groups will enjoy a boost in prominence, and probably in power. The new plan says the groups for reform, cybersecurity, economics and finance, and external affairs will be upgraded to committees or commissions (the word for both in Chinese, weiyuanhui, is the same).
How this upgrade will influence policymaking and government agencies in these areas remains unclear. But the plan says it will “strengthen decision-making and overall coordination,” suggesting that government ministries may have less independent say.
The party will also establish a leading small group on education policy, including the political indoctrination of students. That step reflects Mr. Xi’s determination to make sure students absorb patriotic, pro-party values.
Direct Responsibility for Ties With Overseas Chinese
In Australia, Canada, the United States and other nations, the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to influence ethnic Chinese — whether citizens of those countries or of China — have become a point of deepening contention. Critics say the party is meddling abroad, through cash and cajolery, to control Chinese students and to ensure that ethnic Chinese are loyal to Beijing on territorial disputes and other controversies.
The Chinese government has rejected such claims as racist scaremongering, and the new blueprint suggests that Beijing is not reconsidering the Communist Party’s role in policy toward the diaspora. On the contrary, that responsibility will fall even more squarely with the party.
The government’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office will be swallowed up by the United Front Work Department, the party’s arm for dealing with overseas Chinese as well as an array of groups inside China.
That step will “enhance the party’s centralized and unified leadership over united front work abroad,” according to the plan. “United front work” is the party’s traditional term for developing alliances with non-Communist groups, such as religious communities and ethnic minorities, as well as ethnic Chinese.
Firmer Control Over Policy Toward Ethnic and Religious Groups
Full control over policy toward overseas Chinese will be just one part of the United Front Work Department’s expanded role. Under the new plan, that department of the party will gain more power over policy toward ethnic minorities in China, such as Tibetans and Uighurs, as well as religions like Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs, a government agency, will be absorbed into the party department.