Since the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) founding in 1921, the propaganda work system has been one of its chief instruments for influencing and controlling the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) information space. As a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, propaganda work is inherent to the functioning of the CCP. Consequently, it dedicates enormous amounts of effort and resources to the development and operation of a propaganda apparatus capable of penetrating and dominating practically every element of China’s information environment, from news and entertainment productions to education and online activity.
Today, the CCP maintains a far-reaching and highly regimented infrastructure encompassing a range of Party and state organs dedicated to carrying out propaganda work. This system is directed by the Party Central Committee, which formulates policy and guidance transmitted down to Party branch committees at lower levels. At the national level, the main body responsible for carrying out these directives is the Central Committee’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD / 中共中央宣传部, or simply 中宣部), which serves as the executive arm tasked with managing implementation of the Party’s propaganda directives. Crucially, the bulk of the CPD’s propaganda work is not performed unilaterally. Rather, it mainly serves as an overarching coordinative authority for a wide range of state and non-state institutions, trying to ensure that all entities involved in the production, dissemination, or removal of information act in accordance with guidance handed down from central leadership.
This monograph is divided into five sections which collectively demonstrate how the CCP wields its propaganda apparatus to shape the attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors of China’s population. The first section briefly reviews the history of propaganda work within the PRC, demonstrating how the lessons of the past shape the modern Party’s approach to propaganda work. The second section outlines the current structure of the propaganda system, including profiles of key actors and stakeholders ranging from the Central Committee down to the local level. The third section details the main responsibilities of those actors and stakeholders, with the goal of demonstrating how they act collectively to undertake propaganda work. The fourth section demonstrates how those missions are put into practice in the real world, using three recent instances as illustrative examples. Finally, the last section provides an assessment of trends in the Party’s approach to propaganda, analyzing their impact on the future form, function, and efficacy of the propaganda work system.