Chinese journalists will soon have to prove their knowledge of President Xi Jinping and Marxism before they can continue reporting.
In order to receive updated press passes, more than 10,000 reporters and editors will have to pass a test.
Starting next month, The South China Morning Post reports, journalists will began taking “pilot tests” through a state-run app called Xuexi Qiangguo.
The app aggregates favourable articles, video clips, and documentaries that illustrate Xi’s political philosophy.
A notice issued in August from the Communist Party of China’s media oversight office in the propaganda department says the pilot tests will occur before a nationwide exam.
Of the five knowledge sections that will be on the test, at least two will be related to Xi’s political philosophy, and one will be on Marxism.
It is currently unknown when the nationwide tests will occur. Journalists from 14 state-run media organisations will have to take them before updated press passes are issued to those who pass.
With the app, launched in January, the Morning Post says Xuexi Qiangguo is another way the Chinese government is using technology “to strengthen its ideological control in China.”
The notice from the media oversight office says journalists who fail the test will have one chance to take it again, but without passing, there is no other way to get a state press pass. When the app first launched, journalists were required to download it and register accounts with their real names.
After complaints, using the app – which roughly translates to “Study Xi, Strong Nation” – no longer became mandatory, but it is encouraged. The app keeps track of user data, including points that can be won by using the app, which is accessible by the Chinese propaganda department. It has been compared to Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” in digital form.
An editor who did not wish to be identified told the Morning Post that he was confident he’d be able to pass the test.
“I’m very good at this kind of stuff – I cover it every day pretty much,” he said. “I’m confident that I won’t fail.”