The one-sidedness of official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rhetoric and propaganda should not be taken to indicate a lack of diversity of viewpoint on the part of the Chinese population or general public agreement with CCP positions, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank.
The report, titled “Public Opinion in China: A Silent Liberal Majority?”, presents extensive quantitative research and polling data amassed by Stanford University professors Jennifer Pan and Yiqing Xu that directly contravene the notion of a monolithic populace that shares or assents to official propaganda.
A wide diversity of opinion exists whether the issue is politics within China, the rules for participating in the political process and taking part in public demonstrations, the number of children that couples are permitted to have, the uses of private capital, land ownership, trade and tariffs, foreign and military policy, or the role of the press and the need to accommodate foreign journalists who seek to report on China.
The authors of the CSIS report, Ilaria Mazzocco and Scott Kennedy, do not blame outsiders for having misconstrued public opinion within China to be somewhat monolithic. In their view, this is an understandable consequence of centralized autocratic power and the lack of political freedoms familiar to people in the West.
“Increasing centralization of power in China and reduced in-person exchanges with the West have driven the perception that only one person’s views in China matter: Xi Jinping’s. In addition to not having much power, most assume that Chinese citizens’ views are largely shaped by the CCP propaganda machine,” the authors of the report write.
This is a simplistic view, out of touch with the realities of a country among whose 1.4 billion people a considerable diversity of viewpoint is only to be expected.
“Not all citizens are supportive of government policies, nor do all their views reflect state propaganda. And, despite the risks, they are willing to share their opinions,” the authors of the report state.