Amid reports of the growing rift between the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, the recent changes in appointments of editors in Chinese-state-run news agency – Xinhua highlights Xi’s continued efforts to strengthen his control over the propaganda machinery.

On Tuesday, Fu Hua was appointed president of Xinhua News Agency and Lu Yansong as the editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency, reported local media.

This personnel change must be seen together with another high-level personnel shift in which Li Shulei, an important confidant of Xi Jinping, was transferred to the deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department in charge of daily work on Monday

This is an important move by Xi to continue and strengthen the control over the propaganda machinery, reported the local media.

The appointments come amid reports of the growing rift between Xi and Premier Li Keqiang. Li has been brought back to the forefront in order to revive the economy.

It is well known that Chinese president Xi exerts significant control on the governance and political frameworks. However, in the recent past, reports in the international media suggest that the Chinese official media are giving more space to the premier, and there is growing speculation that Li is taking control of economic policy.

The official Xinhua News Agency recently reported that as of April 30, a total of 3,676 news organizations and 180,075 journalists had passed the annual inspection; while 24 news organizations and 353 journalists had been suspended.

However, on May 16, the National Association of Journalists released another report – “Report on the Development of Journalism in China”.

As of December 2021, China had 194,263 journalists with valid press cards, the report said. The press card is the only legal document for engaging in news gathering and editing in China.

According to the regulations of the State Press and Publication Administration, press cards are renewed every five years and must be verified every year. Those who fail to pass the verification will have their press cards cancelled.

A comparison of the two shows that there are 14,188 journalists in China who have not passed the annual verification, accounting for 7.3 per cent of the earlier number.

This also suggests a tightening grip on the media and propaganda. Moreover, the number of journalists have declined in China. In November 2012, China had 248,101 licensed journalists; in November 2017, it declined to 228,327.

Today there are only 180,075 people. In ten years, the number of people decreased by 68,026, accounting for 27.4 per cent decrease from the base year of 2012, reported local media.