A World Without Chris Matthews

(AP Photo)
Imagine if television news coverage had to reflect "a picture of harmony and contentedness" in advance of a new Congressional session. In this world, "Hardball" probably wouldn't exist. Most other cable news programs would probably get the boot as well.

But "harmony and contentedness" is what the Chinese government has said it wants from the country's broadcasters as the Communist Party prepares for the 17th national congress in the fall. As the Washington Post explains, "Propaganda officials regularly issue orders to Chinese television, radio and newspaper executives, listing subjects to be avoided or treated with care in the heavily censored media."

Broadcast executives have been warned that television news and entertainment "should promote socialist loyalty and soothe tensions as the country enters a sensitive political season," writes the paper.

That means producers should avoid stories about flaws in the legal system, for example. "Go all out for articles that preserve social stability and avoid triggering social conflict," Li Dongshen, the deputy head of the Chinese propaganda department, told television executives.

Also, since it is the Year of the Pig in China, Li told executives that they "should take into account the sensitivities of China's 35 million Muslims, who consider pigs unclean and offensive. 'In principle, touch on the character of the pig as little as possible,' he said."