Provincial government spokesmen are having a week of intensive public relations training in Beijing to teach them how to deal with journalists. The training, organised by the information office of the State Council, is part of an ongoing effort to polish the performance of government representatives and make them more media friendly. 'What are journalists?' asked Zhao Qizheng, a State Council official on the first day of training. 'They are not your students, underlings, enemies or friends,' he was quoted by the Beijing Youth Daily as saying. 'They are your challengers.' His words were eagerly recorded by the 77 people gathered in the capital's Tianlong Hotel for the second PR training session delivered by Tsinghua University and China Central Television. During the week, State Council officials, university lecturers and media professionals will give lectures on how to write a news release, how to arrange a press conference and how to behave and speak while facing the media. The theory will end with each spokesman being grilled on topics by classmates posing as journalists. 'The training course is being organised in response to the government's desire to increase transparency,' a State Council official said. A similar course for central government officials was run in September. Media analysts are wary that so much time is being spent training officials to carry out what is essentially a propaganda role.