Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

China’s powerful and well-funded Department of Propaganda has been tasked with building the same kind of personality cult around Xi Jinping that existed around Mao Zedong — efforts that infiltrate Chinese classrooms and extend beyond the country's borders.

The impact: The department aims to control all the information that Chinese people see and hear — which is why newspaper readers across China this week were instructed to “carve Xi Jinping's speech into our bones and dissolve his spirit into our blood.”

The Xi effect

Under Xi, the Propaganda Department has grown stronger and more zealous.

  • The Chinese Communist Party added a disciplinary role to the Propaganda Department's powers, according to Yun Sun, China director at the Stimson Center, a foreign policy think tank. Any member who makes public comments that are not in line with the Communist Party's policies can be punished.
  • The statement about carving Xi's speech "into our bones" showed the intensity of the messaging efforts. "In the Xi era these practices have taken on more exuberance than we have seen in decades," says Axios contributor Bill Bishop.
  • "Xi Jinping Thought"Xi's 14-point political theory that includes emphasis on core socialist values and party discipline — was immortalized in the Communist Party's constitution last November. By March, it was enshrined in the state's constitution as the guiding principles for both party and country.
"Xi has led a very successful effort to put together a police state apparatus that includes the control of information and, in a sense, the control of people's minds."
— Willy Lam, political scientist and expert on propaganda at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
The campaigns

The Department of Propaganda controls news and information.

  • China has state-run and commercial media outlets, but on controversial issues — especially matters of foreign policy — all media outlets are fed standard messaging by the official news agency, Xinhua, which gets its information straight from the Communist Party.
  • For example, during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, the government reportedly said “all media nationwide must use Xinhua’s reporting on the Egyptian riots. It is strictly forbidden to translate foreign media coverage," Sun notes in a Brookings article.

Propaganda is omnipresent in public life, from internet forums to city streets.

  • U.S. researchers uncovered a massive online propaganda campaign: They estimate there are nearly 500 million posts on Chinese social media that appear to express the authentic views of ordinary people, but are in fact planted by government employees at the party's direction.
    • There's virtually nothing politically substantive in the posts, Jennifer Pan, one of the researchers and a Stanford professor, tells Axios. It's just happy, inspirational content intended to distract from controversial issues.
  • The party released a blueprint for a new bureaucratic structure in March that gives the department full oversight of film, television, newspapers and magazines, including the authority to dictate which foreign films can be imported, according to the New York Times.

The department also influences school curriculums and academic research — and not just in China.

  • "Xi Jinping Thought" has become a core component of high school and university syllabuses, with entire courses being taught on the philosophy.
  • And the efforts have reached U.S. shores, with Beijing-backed Confucius Institutes that promote Chinese language and cultural education popping up at over 100 American universities. It's not yet clear whether these institutes actively engage in foreign influence campaigns, but three lawmakers — Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Joe Wilson — have introduced legislation to require the institutes to register as foreign agents.

Go deeper

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight, hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts on Wednesday.

The big picture: Officials in the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley issued air quality alerts as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

Federal judge: Florida ban on sanctuary cities racially motivated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down parts of a Florida law aimed at banning local governments from establishing sanctuary city policies, arguing in part that the law is racially motivated and that it has the support of hate groups.

Why it matters: In a 110-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the law — signed and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.