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 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!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

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

24 mins ago - Technology

Facebook Oversight Board overturns 4 of its 5 first cases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook's independent Oversight Board published its first set of decisions Thursday, overturning 4 of the 5 cases it chose to review out of 20,000 cases submitted.

Why it matters: The decision to go against Facebook's conclusions in 4 out of 5 instances gives legitimacy to the Board, which is funded via a $130 million grant from Facebook.

New York AG: State severely undercounted COVID nursing home deaths

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Data from New York's public health department undercounted COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%, according to a report released Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James.

The big picture: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration did not include nursing home patients who died after being transferred to the hospital in its tally of over 8,500 nursing home deaths, according to the report. Data provided to the attorney general's office from 62 nursing homes "shows a significantly higher number of resident COVID-19 deaths can be identified than is reflected" in the official count.

Trading platforms curb trading on high-flying Reddit stocks

Major trading platforms including Robinhood, TDAmeritrade and Interactive Brokers are restricting — or cutting off entirely — trading on high-flying stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment.

Why it matters: It limits access to the traders that have contributed to the wild Reddit-driven activity of the past few days — a phenomenon that has gripped Wall Street and the country.