Telling China’s story to the world

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Edi­tor’s note: The China Spokesper­sons Fo­rum was held in Shang­hai on Satur­day by the State Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Of­fice and China Ex­ec­u­tive Lead­er­ship Academy Pudong. The theme of the fo­rum is how to tell China’s story in a good way, and how to be a good spokesper­son. The fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts of some of the speeches: Jiang Jian­guo, min­is­ter of the State Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Of­fice

In his im­por­tant talk on the Com­mu­nist Party of China’s pub­lic­ity work, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping ex­pounded on the role, re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, guide­lines and prin­ci­ples of public in­for­ma­tion work as well as the tasks and re­quire­ments, and the fun­da­men­tal guar­an­tees for it.

In the early 1980s, China of­fi­cially launched its spokesper­sons sys­tem. Over the past three decades, spokesper­sons have worked in the front line of pub­lic­ity work, as wit­nesses, par­tic­i­pants, fa­cil­i­ta­tors and con­trib­u­tors to China’s re­form, open­ing-up and mod­ern­iza­tion. The devel­op­ment of the Party’s pub­lic­ity work has ac­com­pa­nied China’s open­ing-up and mod­ern­iza­tion, and it con­tin­ues to dis­play the dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics of China and the times. of China

IZhao Qizheng, for­mer min­is­ter of China’s State Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Of­fice, and dean of the School of Jour­nal­ism of Ren­min Univer­sity nfor­ma­tion re­leased by the govern­ment is pow­er­ful in guid­ing the public opin­ion home and abroad. There­fore a spokesper­son has the re­spon­si­bil­ity of telling China’s story to the world.

Govern­ment spokesper­sons should have ma­tu­rity, au­thor­ity and a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity. They should have a good knowl­edge of both the do­mes­tic and world sit­u­a­tions, be cul­tur­ally lit­er­ate, log­i­cal and po­lite.

These are ex­tremely high re­quire­ments. But it is vi­tal for the na­tion’s spokesper­sons to have a broad range of knowl­edge and be well ac­quainted with China’s poli­cies at home and abroad, and to be able to ex­press them­selves so that au­di­ences will ac­cept what they are say­ing.

In or­der to meet these high re­quire­ments, spokesper­sons need spe­cial­ized train­ing, and the im­por­tance of their role should be re­spected. Poorly trained and part-time spokesper­sons will not be able to do the job well.

And be­hind the vis­i­ble fo­cus of the spokesper­son there should be an in­vis­i­ble spe­cial­ized team pro­vid­ing sup­port. To do a good job a spokesper­son needs the op­por­tu­nity to take part in the high­est level meet­ings of the govern­ment depart­ment or in­sti­tu­tion he or she serves.

First, it em­bod­ies the peo­ple­ori­ented stance of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the govern­ment. Peo­ple are the masters of the na­tion, and they have the right of be­ing in­formed, par­tic­i­pate in, and su­per­vise the na­tion’s un­der­tak­ings. The pur­pose of re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion is to let peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand the thoughts and deeds of the Party and the govern­ment; to make of­fi­cial de­ci­sions seen, heard, par­tic­i­pated in and su­per­vised, so as to win sup­port from the peo­ple.

A spokesper­son must be es­pe­cially well-pre­pared when in­tro­duc­ing a ma­jor pol­icy ini­tia­tive.

Yang Yu­jun, spokesper­son for the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense

In or­der to re­spond to ques­tions about na­tional de­fense and the devel­op­ment of the mil­i­tary, theMin­istry of Na­tional De­fense set up spokesper­son and rou­tine pub­li­ca­tion sys­tems, be­low are our ex­pe­ri­ence.

In­for­ma­tion re­leased by the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense fre­quently in­volves sen­si­tive is­sues. The best way to tackle these is­sues is to re­spond to them in a timely man­ner. A sen­si­tive is­sue is like a tick­ing bomb, if you don’t defuse it the bomb will go off. As long as the spokesper­son is well­pre­pared and deals with any dif­fi­cult ques­tions skill­fully, these sen­si­tive is­sues can help en­hance our cred­i­bil­ity.

A timely re­sponse is the best way to take the heat out of a hot topic, as it will guide public opin­ion both at home and abroad.

Be­ing frank and trans­par­ent about neg­a­tive is­sues can also cre­ate a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion and win over public opin­ion.

There­fore, the best re­sponse to a sen­si­tive is­sue is to han­dle it swiftly and openly with flex­i­ble strate­gies, so the in­for­ma­tion process is un­der con­trol.

In any ar­gu­ment, the power of a spokesper­son does not de­pend on the height from which the in­for­ma­tion is be­ing re­leased, nor strong words, but the le­gal and

Sec­ond, it em­bod­ies the devel­op­ment of the na­tion’s gov­er­nance sys­tem and gov­er­nance ca­pa­bil­ity. In­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of the govern­ment’s re­leas­ing of in­for­ma­tion is part of modern gov­er­nance and the ca­pa­bil­ity of gov­er­nance. The mod­ern­iza­tion of a na­tion’s gov­er­nance is a sys­tem­atic project and a com­pli­cated pro­ce­dure. A govern­ment’s in­for­ma­tion work lays a foun­da­tion for gov­er­nance and is a pre­con­di­tion for it.

Third, it em­bod­ies the con­fi­dence moral weight be­hind the words and how much truth they con­vey. These will en­sure the spokesper­son’s mes­sage is de­liv­ered in an hon­est and ad­van­ta­geous way, which is the most ef­fec­tive way of guid­ing public opin­ion.

TLi Zhong, spokesper­son for the Min­istry ofHu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity he grow­ing im­por­tance of the govern­ment’s public re­la­tions work for the na­tion’s devel­op­ment has also in­creased the public’s ex­pec­ta­tions for and of in­for­ma­tion, which re­quires spokesper­sons to have con­fi­dence in the mes­sage they de­liver.

The type of in­for­ma­tion re­leased can vary, for in­stance news re­lease, in­ci­dent re­sponse, or pol­icy in­ter­pre­ta­tion. As a re­sult, a spokesper­son needs to find the right tone.

TheMin­istry ofHu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity is a depart­ment closely re­lated to peo­ple’s liveli­hoods, and so at­tracts lots of public at­ten­tion. I be­lieve a spokesper­son’s con­fi­dence comes from the fol­low­ing:

In or­der to be a good spokesper­son on is­sues con­cern­ing peo­ple’s well-be­ing, we must do the job well, know­ing that if a pol­icy solves a prac­ti­cal prob­lem the public will re­spond fa­vor­ably.

So to be a good spokesper­son in this field, we must have a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of the prob­lems peo­ple face and how a pol­icy will af­fect them. Es­pe­cially sen­si­tive poli­cies, any slight omis­sion or and open­ness of so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics. Nowa­days the world is a com­mu­nity of shared des­tiny and in­ter­ests. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is pay­ing more at­ten­tion than ever to China, so we need to tell the world with facts and au­thor­ity how China is con­tribut­ing to the world and help the world un­der­stand China.

I would like to take this fo­rum as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­press my views on how to tell China’s story in a good way, and how to be a good spokesper­son, which is also the theme of this fo­rum. I be­lieve that a good spokesper­son should be con­fi­dent and ca­pa­ble of us­ing all me­dia to con­vey China’s mes­sage in a timely and ef­fec­tive way.

First, China’s open­ing-up and devel­op­ment, grow­ing na­tional power and ris­ing in­ter­na­tional sta­tus mean its spokesper­sons should have con­fi­dence when mis­take will un­doubt­edly lead to spec­u­la­tion. In or­der to keep con­trol of a news con­fer­ence, the spokesper­son should be fa­mil­iar with the rea­son a pol­icy is be­ing in­tro­duced and what its fore­see­able ef­fects will be.

To be a good spokesper­son about is­sues con­cern­ing peo­ple’s liveli­hoods, we must have a pre­cise judg­ment of public’s needs and opin­ions. Be­fore a news con­fer­ence, a spokesper­son must be well-pre­pared. The spokesper­son needs to know the fo­cus of public opin­ion, the ques­tions that can be ex­pected from re­porters, what will be­come the public fo­cus after the news is re­ported. The spokesper­son should be aware of the im­por­tance of the me­dia. An an­nounce­ment of public pol­icy should be open and frank, and should ap­pre­ci­ate the role of new­me­dia as a chan­nel for pro­mot­ing poli­cies.

To be a good spokesper­son about peo­ple’s liveli­hoods, we must also have a sys­tem that al­lows mis­takes. A spokesper­son should be re­spon­si­ble and dare to have a voice. The con­fi­dence of a spokesper­son comes from the sup­port and courage he or she re­ceives from the depart­ment he or she serves.

ALyu Dapeng, spokesper­son with China Petro­chem­i­cal Cor­po­ra­tion (Sinopec) fter a decade’s op­er­a­tion, the spokesper­son sys­tem in China has gained in­flu­ence and changed so­ci­ety in var­i­ous ways.

And thanks to the spokesper­son de­liv­er­ing their mes­sage.

Sec­ond, China’s spokesper­sons should have good all-round knowl­edge and re­spect the prin­ci­ples of good public re­la­tions: re­spect­ing the public and re­spond­ing to ques­tions in a timely and cred­i­ble man­ner.

Third, they should re­lease in­for­ma­tion in a timely man­ner so as to ac­cu­rately guide public opin­ion with­out ex­ag­ger­a­tion or shrink­ing from the truth. In short, they should be the right voice at the right time, de­liv­er­ing the right in­for­ma­tion in the right way.

Fourth, although the var­i­ous me­dia chan­nels are a chal­lenge, they are also an op­por­tu­nity. The chal­lenge is the di­ver­sity of me­dia makes greater de­mands on spokesper­sons, while the op­por­tu­nity lies in ef­fec­tively us­ing the dif­fer­ent me­dia to con­vey in­for­ma­tion to dif­fer­ent au­di­ences— to tell pro­found truths in pop­u­lar ways.

The pur­pose of re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion is to let peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand the thoughts and deeds of the Party and the govern­ment; to make of­fi­cial de­ci­sions seen, heard, par­tic­i­pated in and su­per­vised ...’’

sys­tem, the public’s opin­ion of Sinopec has be­come more pos­i­tive over the past five years.

I still re­mem­ber the worst of times, which was in 2012, when 42.6 per­cent of the an­nual 5.5 mil­lion in­for­ma­tion re­leases re­lated to Sinopec was neg­a­tive, which means 639 news items a day.

After tak­ing a proac­tive stance to our state­ments re­leased to the public, the neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion was down to 25.7 per­cent in 2013, 9.1 per­cent in 2014, and 8.7 per­cent in 2015. What we did was three­fold. First, we im­proved our sys­tem to guar­an­tee the qual­ity of the spokesper­son’s mes­sage.

Sec­ond, we in­no­vated the way we re­lease in­for­ma­tion. In the past five years, apart from or­ga­niz­ing more than 30 for­mal news con­fer­ences, we’ve also in­vited in­dus­trial ex­perts to give lec­tures to re­porters on a monthly ba­sis, help­ing them gain more knowl­edge of what we do. Fur­ther­more, we use so­cial me­dia to get our mes­sage across.

The third thing is we re­lease in­for­ma­tion proac­tively. Over the past few years, the nearly 40 news con­fer­ences we have or­ga­nized have been well re­ceived. In ad­di­tion, we have also or­ga­nized brand­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, as we re­al­ized that corporate cul­ture is part of a com­pany’s core com­pet­i­tive­ness.

As one-third of Sinopec’s busi­ness and as­sets are over­seas, we are also ac­tively pro­mot­ing the spokesper­son sys­tem abroad.

In 2015, we es­tab­lished a 50-mem­ber over­seas spokesper­sons’ team and re­cruited 82 part­time for­eign in­for­ma­tion staff. The twit­ter ac­count of Sinopec was launched in Au­gust, 2015, and we opened a Face­book ac­count in July.

ZHANG HENGWEI / CHINA NEWS SER­VICE

Jiang Jian­guo, min­is­ter of the State Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Of­fice, de­liv­ers a speech at the China Spokesper­sons Fo­rum in Shang­hai on Satur­day.

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