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Economy, Communications

Tiananmen Square Protest, Renmin Ribao, Flowers Campaign, China News Agency, economic topics

Communications has a centuries-old tradition in China. Nearly 3,000 years ago, Chinese built towers of fire to warn of approaching enemies. Centuries later, posters written in Chinese characters were put up by the government at city gates and other busy places to warn of the presence of dangerous animals or to make known wanted criminals. The tradition of using posters for delivering information was continued into the 20th century. In many Chinese cities, newspapers are put on walls for public reading. Posters were widely used in the mid-1950s during the Hundred Flowers Campaign, when the government encouraged people to provide constructive criticism of the policies of the CCP. The movement came to an abrupt end in 1957 when the government imposed strict controls on freedom of expression. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), students hung millions of posters with revolutionary messages on walls throughout China. In 1979 opinions expressed on what came to be known as the Democracy Wall in Beijing were also written on posters. However, the use of posters for expressing individual opinions was outlawed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protest, in which pro-democracy demonstrators were violently suppressed by the military.

While the traditional means of communication are waning, modern communication facilities are developing rapidly. By the mid-1990s more than 2,000 newspapers were being published in China. Major national newspapers include Renmin Ribao (People's Daily), the official paper of the CCP; Jiefangjun Bao (Liberation Army Daily), the paper of China's Central Military Commission; and Guangming Ribao (Guangming Daily), a paper popular among scientists and educators. Among the most influential magazines are Liaowang (Outlook) and Qiushi (Seeking Truth). Magazines that cover social, cultural, and economic topics are very popular. The Chinese government pressures those who work in the media to avoid politically sensitive subjects. Consequently, the media practices a high degree of self-censorship.

The largest radio broadcaster is the government-run Central People's Broadcasting Station in Beijing. There are also government-run radio stations at the provincial and local levels. Radio broadcasts reach more than 75 percent of the Chinese population. China's first television station was established in Beijing in 1958. Known as China’s Central Television Station (CCTV), it offers five channels of broadcasting in Chinese, one of which is mainly for overseas listeners reached via satellite. In addition to the national broadcasts, many provinces and cities have local stations. In the mid-1990s China had more than 700 television stations. In 1997 there were 321 television sets for every 1,000 people.

China's newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations receive their news from the official Xinhua News Agency, and supplement Xinhua news with their own reports. Xinhua has its head office in Beijing, with branches in provincial capitals throughout the country and more than 100 offices overseas. It publishes news in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. The other news agency in China is Zhongguo Xinwen She (China News Agency), also a state agency, which provides news to Chinese-language newspapers around the world.

Although most Chinese have somewhat limited access to telecommunications services, the quality of communications equipment is generally good. As a result of reform policies, telecommunications in China developed very rapidly in the 1990s. Telephone service extends to virtually all Chinese localities, but few households have their own telephones (there were 112 telephones for every 1,000 people in 2000). The use of pagers and mobile phones is increasing, but as of yet very few people can afford them.

Computers are very popular in Chinese universities and offices, and primary and secondary schools are increasingly obtaining them. More and more families have their own computers. Internet access is available, although users must register for it with the government.

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