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  • David Gitter and Leah Fang

The Chinese Communist Party's Use of Homophonous Pen Names: An Open-Source Open Secret

This article examines the evolving commentary system in the People’s Republic of China that utilizes homophonous pen names to transmit official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views and assesses the system’s utility as a credible information source for foreign analysts.

The CCP uses an evolving system of homophonous pen names to write authoritative commentary that accurately propagates its views. Since the mid-1990s, this system has been repurposed to circumvent growing resistance to CCP propaganda by both the Chinese public and the ranks of the CCP itself. Its commentary covers policy-relevant topics pertaining to China’s most important domestic and foreign affairs, and at times has been used to issue ominous warning statements to foreign countries over sensitive areas of dispute. The article concludes that the pen names investigated within verily represent the views of their superior regime organ. While the system’s effectiveness to achieve its intended purpose seems uncertain, these commentaries provide a readily exploitable resource for foreign analysts that can supplement the long-monitored and more authoritative premium commentary vehicles of the party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.

This article will be published in the January 2018 issue of Asia Policy. Click here for the advance release.

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