Against the advice of everyone with the credentials to know, this afternoon saw a trip to the giant building on XinWen Lu (News Road) that houses the brain, the main production and administrative center for almost every newspaper in China’s Yunnan Province. The nature of information in China is hardly a secret in China, and Chinese friends, classmates and teachers all told me that there was very little chance that there were going to let a foreigner, especially one claiming to be an aspiring journalist, to dig into something as vital to national security as the production of mass media content, the engineering of what people in and outside China know and think about the country. One friend, a fellow journalism student from Northern China, said the government “pa linglingqi,” was afraid of 007. Playing the always handy student card, I told the guard at the front gate that, as a student of media at the local Yunnan University, my professor had told me to stop by and take a look at the production of news in China. I was pleasantly surprised when I was not turned immediately away, and even more happy when a phonecall to a boss led to a phonecall to another official, who apparently set me up to talk to a journalist up on the 15th floor.
The Yunnan Newspaper Center houses a literal army of journalists, writers, and others, over three thousand people inside a mighty, new looking skyscraper that easily dwarfes every other building in the neighborhood.
I learned many things, some expected some unexpected.
The relationship with the government is still not entirely clear, though it is obvious that they are closely connected.