Learning to read Chinese media more often than not means learning to understand the significance of the information to those playing behind the walls of Zhongnanhai.
Today, for example, it is possible to get on Baidu (百度) and successfully search for Falungong (法轮功). We all know that 1999, Jiang Zemin ordered the violent suppression of Falungong. This led to over a decade of sustained persecution against practitioners. Observers speculated that he did so because he (and others in the Party) saw Falungong as not being a religious organization, but rather a potential political player in Mainland society. In English, Michael J. Greenlee provides a useful overview of the organization’s history and Jiang Zemin’s response. However, for many of us the most interesting part of ending censorship of information on Falungong is not that we can now jump to Li Hongzhi’s tomes 大圆满法 and 转法轮, but rather that it signals the end of the Jiang era. The Two Meetings are churning relentlessly forward and it seems that power has been wrested from Jiang’s hands.
Jiang Zemin came to power precisely because he was willing to implement Deng Xiaoping’s decision to suppress anti-corruption protests in June 1989. Moreover, it’s been a while since we could baidu ourselves to information about Zhao Ziyang, the former Party Secretary who apparently did not support the use of violence against protestors. So the question du jour is: will the firewall on news about Tian’anmen also fall? Or will Tian’anmen remain off limits as long as Reform and Opening remains the main Party line and Deng Xiaoping is identified as its architect?