Who Owns the “Units of the Cause”?

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Chang'anjie Media Notebook, China, Media | No Comments

11:56 (UTC+08:00), 06 MAY 2014 | CHN BEIJING

If you’ve been around China for any time, you’ll note two things about the media:

  • Outside of the Internet, there is no real private local media to speak of;
  • You’ll also run into what are termed “units of the cause” (事业单位).

The latter threw me off a lot. I know the “cause” here might very well be the cause of socialism, and eventually communism, as Zhongnanhai is adamant it will (eventually) achieve (not too easy to find much Marxism in McDonald’s, though). But what are the “units” (as in companies and other kinds of organisations) of the cause?

Like everything else, Chinese officialspeak leaves many an expat worried; any “official” translation is like the Chinese driving test in English: locals find it makes sense, but it makes no sense to foreigners. (Too often I hear expats fail the driving test — simply because they opted to take it in English Chinglish.)

Taking a good look at the predictably official (and completely in Mandarin Chinese) March 1999 Knowledge Handbook of Government Organ Reform and Personnel Transfer Policies, I eventually stumbled upon what I hope to be an authoritative answer. Turns out these “career units” (事业单位) are best translated as nationally-funded entities. On the one hand, these aren’t private companies; on the other hand, they’re not government ministries either. In a country where “public” (公立) entities are rare in nomenclature, these take their place in contemporary China. Officially speaking:—

Nationally-funded entities are established where the state, in public interests, organise or use national / public funds to organise social service organisations in the fields of education, technology, culture, health, and other activities.

There are eight of these, which include agriculture, surveying, construction, transport, real estate / public consulting, health / social benefits, education / media and scientific research / general services.

Organisations such as China Central Television fall under the seventh category — education, culture arts, and broadcast / film / TV (教育、文化艺术和广播电影电视事业). Therefore, whereas Chinese Central TV is no longer run as a government ministry, it’s very clear that the authorities are not going to hand the camera and mic over to private investors any time soon.