Communiques from the Communist Party's Central Committee, which held an annual meeting that ended last week, set the broad direction for policy.
This one made clear that leaders are looking for ways to better control, but not snuff out, the microblog services that have become popular channels for spreading news and opinion that can unsettle the government.
"Strengthen guidance and administration of social Internet services and instant communications tools, and regulate the orderly dissemination of information," said the communique, which made no reference to microblogs as such.
"Apply the law to sternly punish the dissemination of harmful information," added the document. It did not give details of what form firmer regulation may take.
The New York Times offers a much more blunt assessment of what the government is doing.
The announcement from the Party meeting builds on a stream of warnings in state media that has shown Beijing is nervous about the booming microblogs, called "weibo" in Chinese, and their potential to tear the seams of censorship and controls.
Political censorship in this authoritarian state has long been heavy-handed. But for years, the Communist Party has tolerated a creeping liberalization in popular culture, tacitly allowing everything from popular knockoffs of “American Idol”-style talent shows to freewheeling microblogs that let media groups prosper and let people blow off steam.
Now, the party appears to be saying “enough.”
Whether spooked by popular uprisings worldwide, a coming leadership transition at home or their own citizens’ increasingly provocative tastes, Communist leaders are proposing new limits on media and Internet freedoms that include some of the most restrictive measures in years.One can see the booming voice narrating a trailer for a (not-yet-made) movie: "The heavy-handed government is spooked! Now it fights back with everything it has! Can humanity survive!"
Offering a blander but more professional assessment of what else is taking place in China is the Wall Street Journal.
Beijing’s top television regulator said on Tuesday that it would cap the number of entertainment programs that the nation’s 34 satellite channels can air during prime time at two each week beginning next year. In its statement, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television – known as Sarft – cited a desire to limit “excessive entertainment” and “low taste.”
The new limits could mean curtains for a number of popular shows. Like their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe, Chinese broadcasters lean on talent shows, matchmaking shows and other reality programming to draw eyeballs. But because Beijing’s limits are already strict, China lacks gritty dramas such as “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” or edgy comedies like “The Simpsons,” so its commercial broadcasters rely even more on reality programming.Darn, and just when I was imagining Bart Simpson butting in as that aforementioned narrator boomed!