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Routledge handbook of Chinese media
 9780415520775, 9781315758350

Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Copyright
Contents
List of figures
List of tables
Notes on contributors
Members of the Editorial Board
Editorial note
Acknowledgements
Introduction
PART I The development of the study and the structure of Chinese media
1 (Re)-Focusing on the target: reflections on a trajectory of studying the Chinese media
2 China, soft power and imperialism
3 Evaluating Chinese media policy: objectives and contradictions
PART II Journalism, press freedom and social mobilisation
4 Western missionaries and origins of the modern Chinese press
5 Setting the press boundaries: the case of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group
6 Chinese investigative journalism in the twenty-first century
7 From control to competition: a comparative study of the party press and popular press
8 Press freedom in Hong Kong: interactions between state, media and society
9 Media and social mobilisation in Hong Kong
10 Citizen journalists as an empowering community for change: a case study of a Taiwanese online platform ‘PeoPo’
PART III The Internet, public sphere and media culture
11 Politics and social media in China
12 Online Chinese nationalism and its nationalist discourses
13 A cyberconflict analysis of Chinese dissidents focusing on civil society, mass incidents and labour resistance
14 Workers and peasants as historical subjects: the formation of working-class media cultures in China
15 An emerging middle-class public sphere in China? Analysis of news media representation of ‘Self Tax Declaration’
16 Expressing myself, connecting with you: Young Taiwanese females’ photographic self-portraiture on Wretch Album
17 Against the grain: the battle for public service broadcasting in Taiwan
18 Public service television in China
PART IV Market, production and the media industries
19 The changing role of copyright in China’s emergent media economy
20 Gamers, state and online games
21 The geographical clustering of Chinese media production
22 The politics and poetics of television documentary in China
23 Contemporary Chinese historical television drama as a cultural genre: production, consumption and state power
24 Live television production of media events in China: the case of the Beijing Olympic Games
25 Negotiated discursive struggles in hyper-marketised and oligopolistic media system: the case of Hong Kong
PART V Chinese media and the world
26 Internationalisation of China’s television: history, development and new trends
27 Decoding the Chinese media in flux: American correspondents as an interpretive community
28 Chinese international broadcasting, public diplomacy and soft power
Appendix: Chinese dynasties at a glance
Chinese glossary: selected Chinese names and terms
Index

Citation preview

Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

The study of Chinese media is a field that is growing and evolving at an exponential rate. Not only are the Chinese media a fascinating subject for analysis in their own right, but they also offer scholars and students a window to observe multi-directional flows of information, culture and communications within the contexts of globalisation and regionalisation. Moreover, the study of Chinese media provides an invaluable opportunity to test and refine the variety of communications theories that researchers have used to describe, analyse, compare and contrast systems of communications. The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media is a prestigious reference work providing an overview of the study of Chinese media. Gary and Ming-yeh Rawnsley bring together an interdisciplinary perspective with contributions by an international team of renowned scholars on subjects such as television, journalism and the internet and social media. Locating Chinese media within a regional setting by focusing on ‘Greater China’ (the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities), the chapters highlight the convergence of media and platforms in the region, and emphasise the multi-directional and transnational character of media/information flows in East Asia. Contributing to the growing de-westernisation of media and communications studies, this handbook is an essential and comprehensive reference work for students of all levels and scholars in the fields of Chinese studies and media studies. Gary D. Rawnsley is a Professor of Public Diplomacy, Aberystwyth University, UK. Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley is Research Associate, Centre of Taiwan Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Associate Fellow, China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, UK.

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Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

Edited by Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley

First published 2015 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2015 selection and editorial material, Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley to be identified as author of the editorial material, and of the individual authors as authors of their contributions, has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Routledge handbook of Chinese media / edited by Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Mass media—China—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 2. Mass media— Taiwan—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 3. Mass media—China—Hong Kong—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 4. Mass media—China—Macau— Handbooks, manuals, etc. I. Rawnsley, Gary D., editor. II. Rawnsley, Ming-Yeh T., editor. P92.C5R825 2015 302.23'0951—dc23 2014038044 ISBN: 978-0-415-52077-5 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-75835-0 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo and Stone Sans by Florence Production Ltd, Stoodleigh, Devon, UK

Contents

List of figures List of tables Notes on contributors Members of the Editorial Board Editorial note Acknowledgements Introduction Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley

viii ix x xvi xvii xviii 1

PART I

The development of the study and the structure of Chinese media 1 (Re)-Focusing on the target: reflections on a trajectory of studying the Chinese media Yuezhi Zhao

7 9

2 China, soft power and imperialism Colin Sparks

27

3 Evaluating Chinese media policy: objectives and contradictions Rogier Creemers

47

PART II

Journalism, press freedom and social mobilisation 4 Western missionaries and origins of the modern Chinese press Yuntao Zhang 5 Setting the press boundaries: the case of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group Chujie Chen 6 Chinese investigative journalism in the twenty-first century Hugo de Burgh

65 67

79 100

v

Contents

7 From control to competition: a comparative study of the party press and popular press Hsiao-wen Lee

117

8 Press freedom in Hong Kong: interactions between state, media and society Francis L.F. Lee

131

9 Media and social mobilisation in Hong Kong Joseph M. Chan and Francis L.F. Lee 10 Citizen journalists as an empowering community for change: a case study of a Taiwanese online platform ‘PeoPo’ Chen-ling Hung

145

161

PART III

The Internet, public sphere and media culture

179

11 Politics and social media in China Lars Willnat, Lu Wei and Jason A. Martin

181

12 Online Chinese nationalism and its nationalist discourses Yiben Ma

203

13 A cyberconflict analysis of Chinese dissidents focusing on civil society, mass incidents and labour resistance Athina Karatzogianni and Andrew Robinson

217

14 Workers and peasants as historical subjects: the formation of working-class media cultures in China Wanning Sun

239

15 An emerging middle-class public sphere in China? Analysis of news media representation of ‘Self Tax Declaration’ Qian (Sarah) Gong

250

16 Expressing myself, connecting with you: Young Taiwanese females’ photographic self-portraiture on Wretch Album Yin-han Wang

266

17 Against the grain: the battle for public service broadcasting in Taiwan Chun-wei Daniel Lin

281

18 Public service television in China Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley and Chien-san Feng vi

298

Contents

PART IV

Market, production and the media industries

313

19 The changing role of copyright in China’s emergent media economy Lucy Montgomery and Xiang Ren

315

20 Gamers, state and online games Anthony Y.H. Fung

330

21 The geographical clustering of Chinese media production Michael Keane

341

22 The politics and poetics of television documentary in China Qing Cao

355

23 Contemporary Chinese historical television drama as a cultural genre: production, consumption and state power George Dawei Guo

372

24 Live television production of media events in China: the case of the Beijing Olympic Games Limin Liang

389

25 Negotiated discursive struggles in hyper-marketised and oligopolistic media system: the case of Hong Kong Charles Chi-wai Cheung

403

PART V

Chinese media and the world

425

26 Internationalisation of China’s television: history, development and new trends Junhao Hong and Youling Liu

427

27 Decoding the Chinese media in flux: American correspondents as an interpretive community Yunya Song

446

28 Chinese international broadcasting, public diplomacy and soft power Gary D. Rawnsley

460

Appendix: Chinese dynasties at a glance Chinese glossary: selected Chinese names and terms Index

476 477 483

vii

Figures

10.1 10.2 10.3 13.1 13.2 13.3 17.1 24.1 26.1 26.2

viii

The image ‘When the excavators came to the rice fields’ which was posted online and broadcast on media, causing a national debate on land policy The website of PeoPo platform (www.peopo.org/) Citizen reporters participate in a face-to-face gathering sharing opinions on local affairs Screenshot (no. 1) of artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style incorporating handcuffs in his dance routine Screenshot (no. 2) of artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style incorporating handcuffs in his dance routine Twitter screenshot: debating Chinese dissidents and western values on Twitter, 30 July 2012 PTS annual average television rating and market share from 1998 to 2010 Structure of CCTV Olympic reporting system Comparison of the value of China’s imported and exported television programmes, 2004–10 Comparison of the value of China’s imported and exported television dramas, 2006–10

162 168 170 222 222 223 288 393 439 439

Tables

5.1 6.1 7.1 7.2 9.1 9.2 17.1 18.1 22.1 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 26.6 26.7 26.8 27.1

Constituents of the Nanfang Media Group, 2012 Main vehicles of investigative journalism in China and their mottoes Ownership of Beijing newspapers selected for coverage comparison Different conditions of news coverage and their influential factors Perceived representativeness of political actors, media and social institutions Media presence of selected movement organisations Chronological overview of public service broadcasting in Taiwan, 1983–2007 The number of PSB-related papers published in Chinese journals available on Zhongguo qikan wang (www.chinaqking.com), 1994–2011 Features of television documentaries in different periods Hong Kong journalists’ views on watchdog and balanced journalism across different years Types of discourse of youth predominately represented in news reports Reports and non-report articles that predominately represented different alternative discourses of youth in Apple Daily (March 2003 to February 2004) Reports and non-report articles that predominately represented different alternative discourses of youth in Ming Pao (March 2003 to February 2004) Percentage of imported programmes among the total on selected television stations in China, 1970s–1990s Television programmes imported in China, 2006–10 Value of imported television dramas in China, 2006–10 Number of imported television drama episodes and distribution of origins, 2003–11 Chinese television programme exports, 2006–10 Chinese television drama exports, 2006–10 CCTV overseas landing, 2003–10 Overseas household audience ratings CCTV-4 and CCTV-News, 2003–10 Occurrence of newspapers and periodicals in journalistic accounts, 1979–2009

80 103 123 128 147 151 287 303 358 415 415 417 417 433 433 433 434 438 439 441 442 448

ix

Contributors

Cao, Qing is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies and currently Head of the Chinese Department in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University, UK. Dr Cao’s research centres on the transformations of the Chinese media, and mutual perceptions and representations between China and the west. He has published extensively in these areas. His recent publications include China under Western Gaze (2014) and Discourse, Politics and Media in Contemporary China (2014). Currently he is completing a British Academy supported research project that examines China’s perceptions of its place in the post-financial crisis international world. Chan, Joseph M. is Chair Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he served as a director. He is currently the Director of the Center for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research and the Universities Service Centre for China Studies. His research interest lies in the intersection of international communication, political communication and journalism studies. In addition to the books he has co-authored or co-edited, he has published numerous articles in books and international journals. He served as a Changjiang Chair Professor at Fudan University, the President of the Chinese Communication Association, and the founding chief editor of Communication & Society. Chen, Chujie is a PhD candidate in the Department of Media and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. His research lies at the intersection of structure and agency in news production, with special attention paid to the political economy of Chinese media, sociology of (online) news, organisational studies of media innovation, and to cultural meanings of journalism. Cheung, Charles Chi-wai is Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. Recent publications include Pop Hong Kong: Reading Hong Kong Popular Culture 2000–2010 (co-edited in 2012, in Chinese) and Reading Hong Kong Popular Culture: 1970–2000 (co-edited in 2002, in Chinese). Dr Cheung’s research focuses on media power, media industries and popular culture in Hong Kong. Creemers, Rogier holds graduate degrees in Sinology and International Relations and a doctorate in law. Currently, he is a Rubicon Scholar at the University of Oxford, UK, where he researches Chinese internet law and policy. He also edits a Chinese media law database, and has published broadly on topics related to Chinese media law and legal ideology. de Burgh, Hugo is Director of the China Media Centre and Professor of Journalism in the Communications and Media Research Institute of the University of Westminster, UK. He writes x

Contributors

on investigative journalism and specialises in Chinese affairs. His recent publications include China’s Media (2014), The West You Really Don’t Know (2013, in Chinese) and China’s Environment and China’s Environment Journalists (2012). Moreover, he is Professor, PRC 985 Programme, Tsinghua University and SAFEA (National Administration for International Expertise) Endowment Professor for 2014–16. Professor de Burgh holds honorary positions at China University of Politics and Law, South-Western UPL and Shandong University. Feng, Chien-san is Professor in the Department of Journalism, National Chengchi University, Taiwan. As a political economist of communication, he has published seven books in Chinese, including Media Publicness and the Market (2012). Moreover, he has (co-)translated sixteen books from English into Chinese, including John Roemer’s For a Future of Socialism, Edwin Baker’s Media Markets and Democracy, Dan Schiller’s Theorizing Communication: A History and James Curran et al.’s Misunderstanding the Internet. Fung, Anthony Y.H. is Director and Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He obtained his PhD at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, USA. He is also a Pearl River Chair Professor at Jinan University at Guangzhou, China. His research interests and teaching focus on popular culture and cultural studies, popular music, gender and youth identity, cultural industries and policy, and new media studies. He has published widely in international journals. He has also written and edited more than ten Chinese and English books. Gong, Qian (Sarah) is Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester, UK. Dr Gong has research interests in consumer culture and advertising, political communication, journalism studies and discourse analysis. Her recent research papers have appeared in journals including Political Communication, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Food, Culture and Society: An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Geopolitics. Guo, George Dawei is Lecturer in Broadcast Media in the Media Arts Department at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. He obtained a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Westminster (London) in 2012. Prior to arriving in England, he lectured at the Communication University of China (Beijing) between 2002 and 2006. His main research interest lies in the history and present of global broadcasting industries. He is currently researching the influence of the BBC on China’s early TV drama productions. Hong, Junhao is Professor in the Department of Communication at State University of New York at Buffalo, USA. He is also an Affiliate in Research of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and a Senior Research Fellow of the Center of Communication for Sustainable Social Change at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA. He received his PhD in communication from University of Texas at Austin, USA. His research interests include media and society, international communication and international politics, and impact of new media. He has published several books and numerous research articles in various international journals. Hung, Chen-ling is Associate Professor and Director at the Graduate Institute of Journalism, National Taiwan University. She worked as political reporter in the late 1990s in Taiwan’s print media and received her PhD in mass communications from Pennsylvania State University in 2004. Her research interests include citizen journalism, media policy, digital divide, indigenous xi

Contributors

communications and media globalisation. She has published over twenty journal papers and book chapters. She has also edited several volumes on indigenous communities and communications. Dr Hung is dedicated to media reform in Taiwan. Karatzogianni, Athina is Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Leicester, UK. Dr Karatzogianni is the author of The Politics of Cyberconflict (2006) and Power, Conflict and Resistance (co-author Andrew Robinson, 2010); editor of Violence and War in Culture and the Media: Five Disciplinary Perspectives (2012); Digital Cultures and the Politics of Emotion (2012) and Cyber Conflict and Global Politics (2009). She has contributed extensively to theorising digital activism and network forms of organisation for social movements, resistance and open knowledge production. Her work can be downloaded in pre-publication open access at: http://works. bepress.com/athina_karatzogianni/. Keane, Michael is Professor, School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University, Perth. He was previously Principal Research fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. Professor Keane’s single-authored publications are China’s Television Industries (2015), Creative Industries in China: Art, Design and Media (2013), China’s New Creative Clusters: Governance, Human Capital and Regional Investment (2011) and Created in China: the Great New Leap Forward (2007). Lee, Francis L.F. is Associate Professor and Head of Graduate Division at the School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author/lead author of Media, Social Mobilization and Mass Protests in Post-colonial Hong Kong (2011), Communication, Public Opinion and Globalization in Urban China (2013) and Talk Radio, the Mainstream Press and Public Opinion in Hong Kong (2014). He is also associate editor of the Chinese Journal of Communication and Mass Communication and Society. Lee, Hsiao-wen has worked as a journalist, editor and broadcaster for major stations and publications in Taiwan. Dr Lee’s research interests are the development of multi-platform media and new technologies as well as its implementations for the second and third screen markets. This is also combined with looking at aspects of social media such as citizen journalist, new methods of distribution, public relations and editorial control related to trending. She is the author of The Popular Press and Its Public in Contemporary China (2010) and the co-author of Public Service Media in the Digital Age: International Perspectives (2013) Liang, Limin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. Her research interests are with the social organisation and cultural impact of journalism and new media. Her recent research focuses on media events and media rituals in a globalised context, media and social conflicts, as well as China’s expanding international broadcasting and implications for journalism practices and public diplomacy. Her publications have appeared in Media Culture and Society, Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism and Sport in Society. Lin, Chun-wei Daniel is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan. He has a BA and MA in journalism from the National Chengchi University, Taiwan. He worked as a correspondent and presenter on the news channel of the Broadcasting Corporation of China before going to Loughborough University in the UK and completing his PhD, which examines the ways in which the expansion of public service xii

Contributors

broadcasting in Taiwan was socially defined and the cultural and social consequences of it. His areas of research include journalism, media–democracy relationships, and political economy of communication. Liu, Youling is Assistant Professor in the College of Communication and Art at Tongji University of China. Her major research interests focus on international communication and intercultural studies. She also extends her research interests to the fields of new media and new communication technology. Dr Liu received her PhD in communication from State University of New York at Buffalo, USA. Besides the research background, Dr Liu also has rich professional experience as a reporter and TV host for the mass media of both in the USA and China. Ma, Yiben is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds, UK. His thesis investigates the rise of online Chinese nationalism, its modality, discourses and dynamism, and the way it shapes the politics of contemporary Chinese nationalism. His research interests include Chinese internet, Chinese nationalism, political communications in China and critical discourse analysis. Martin, Jason A. is Assistant Professor of journalism at DePaul University, Chicago, USA. Dr Martin’s research focuses on the intersection of news, civic life, and information and communication technologies with specific attention to the use of technology for political participation and its implications for free speech law and policy. His manuscripts have been published in leading peer-reviewed journals including International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Mass Communication & Society, Journalism Studies, Mobile Media & Communication and Communication Law & Policy. Montgomery, Lucy is Principal Research Fellow at the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University, Australia. Dr Montgomery was trained as a China specialist at the University of Adelaide, before going to complete a PhD in media and cultural studies at Queensland University of Technology. She has a decade of experience as both a researcher and as project manager, working on major international research projects. She is particularly interested in understanding the impact of transformative technological change on intellectual property and the growth of the creative economy. She is the author of China’s Creative Industries: Copyright, Social Network Markets and the Business of Culture in a Digital Age (2010). Rawnsley, Gary D. is Professor of Public Diplomacy in the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, UK. He is also the University’s Director of International Strategy. The author or editor of over a dozen books, his research interests lie at the intersection of international relations, diplomacy and communications, and he has published extensively on propaganda, public diplomacy, psychological warfare, soft power and political communication. Moreover, he is interested in the relationship between the media and democratisation, especially in East Asia. Before joining Aberystwyth University, Gary Rawnsley taught at the universities of Nottingham and Leeds, and was the founding Dean of the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China. Rawnsley, Ming-yeh T. is Research Associate, Centre of Taiwan Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Associate Fellow, China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham. Dr Rawnsley is also Secretary-General, European Association of Taiwan Studies. She publishes widely both in Chinese and in English on media and democratisation in Taiwan, Chinese-language cinema, literature and culture. Her most recent xiii

Contributors

research projects include science communications in Taiwan and the UK and Chinese film festivals. She has written, edited and translated more than ten Chinese and English books. Ren, Xiang is Research Fellow at Australian Digital Future Institute at the University of Southern Queensland. He completed his PhD with an outstanding doctoral thesis award at Queensland University of Technology. His doctoral research looked at open and networked initiatives and the digital transformation of academic publishing in China. This followed from his over twelve years’ experience in the Chinese publishing industry as senior editor and sales director. His current research interests include digital publishing, open access scholarship, eLearning, and new media business models. He has published many research papers and articles on relevant topics. Robinson, Andrew is a freelance researcher based in the UK. A former Leverhulme Trust fellow at the University of Nottingham, he specialises in critical theory and radical politics, and is author of over twenty papers and chapters on authors such as Deleuze, Negri, Žižek, Laclau, Spivak and Virilio, and on social movements worldwide. He is co-author of Power, Conflict and Resistance in the Contemporary World (with Athina Karatzogianni, 2010). His column ‘In Theory’ appears regularly in Ceasefire web-magazine. Song, Yunya is Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University. She works in the areas of international journalism, global communication, and media sociology. Her scholarship straddles English, French and Chinese cultures and media. Her research on journalism and media politics has appeared in, among other journals, International Journal of Press/Politics, International Communication Gazette, Public Relations Review and Journalism Studies. Sparks, Colin is Chair Professor of Media Studies in the School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University. Prior to taking up that post, he was for many years Director of the Communication and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster, UK, where he helped found the China Media Centre. He was a founder of the journal Media, Culture and Society. He has published extensively on several areas of media studies, including on international communication issues. He is particularly interested in media in societies which, like China, are experiencing rapid social and economic change. Sun, Wanning is Professor of Chinese Media and Cultural Studies at China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney. She researches in a number of areas, including soft power, public diplomacy and media; and internal migration and social change in contemporary China. Her research monographs include Leaving China: Media, Migration, and Transnational Imagination (2002), Maid in China: Media, Morality and the Cultural Politics of Boundaries (2009) and Subaltern China: Rural Migrants, Media and Cultural Practices (2014). She is a member of the editorial board for Communication, Culture & Critique, Media International Australia, Asian Journal of Communication and Continuum. Wang, Yin-han holds a PhD in media and communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. Prior to joining LSE, she studied MSc Advertising at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Her research interests are identity and media consumption, gender and issues of representation, media literacy and young people’s social and civic uses of the internet. She is currently a visiting Assistant Professor at the Institute of Communications Research at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. xiv

Contributors

Wei, Lu is Professor in the College of Media and International Culture at Zhejiang University. Prior to 2008, Professor Wei taught at Huazhong University of Science and Technology and at the University of Rhode Island, USA. His research interests include the adoption and social consequences of new media technologies. He has published articles in journals such as Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Mass Communication and Society, Information Research, Telematics and Informatics, Newspaper Research Journal and Chinese Journal of Communication and Society. Professor Wei earned his PhD in Communication from Washington State University, USA, in 2007. Willnat, Lars is Professor of Journalism at Indiana University-Bloomington, USA. Before joining Indiana University in 2009, he taught at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His teaching and research interests include media effects on political attitudes, theoretical aspects of public opinion formation, and international communication. He is author of more than fifty journal articles and book chapters and coeditor of Social Media, Culture and Politics (2014), The Global Journalist in the 21st Century (2012), Political Communication in Asia (2009) and Empirical Political Analysis: Research Methods in Political Science (2008). Zhang, Yuntao is Lecturer in International Media and Communications in the School of Arts and Humanities, Nottingham Trent University, UK. Dr Zhang formerly worked as a journalist in China. She is the author of The Origins of the Modern Chinese Press (2007) and of several other articles on Chinese media and culture. She is currently researching into the cultural dimensions of new media technologies and practices in contemporary China. Zhao, Yuezhi is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Political Economy of Global Communication at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. She is also a Changjiang Chair Professor and the Founding Director of the Institute for Political Economy of Communication at the Communication University of China, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. She has published extensively both in English and in Chinese. Her work concerns both domestic Chinese communication politics and the role of media and information technologies in the global transformations linking to China’s real and imagined rise as a major political economic power.

xv

Members of the Editorial Board

Blumler, Jay (University of Leeds, UK) Brady, Anne-Marie (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) Chang, Chin-Hwa (National Taiwan University, Taiwan) Flew, Terry (Queensland University of Technology, Australia) Gold, Thomas B. (University of California, Berkeley, USA) Guo, Zhenzhi (Tsinghua University, People’s Republic of China) Hadland, Adrian (University of Stirling, UK) Han, Dong (Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA) Heylen, Ann (National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan) Ip, Iam-Chong (Hong Kong Lingnan University, Hong Kong) Klöter, Henning (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany) Lee, Chin-Chuan (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong) Negrine, Ralph (University of Sheffield, UK) Thomas, Kristie (University of Nottingham, UK) Tomlinson, John (Nottingham Trent University, UK)

xvi

Editorial note

This book follows the Chinese convention for Chinese names, that is, family names precede personal names (for example, Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong). However there are two exceptions: first, the names of the contemporary Chinese authors of both English-language and Chineselanguage sources follow the English convention of the personal name preceding the family name (for example, Hui Wang, Jinhua Dai). Second, if a Chinese individual has adopted a particular English name that is well known in the field, the book will use the English formation (for example, Jimmy Lai, Jackie Chan). The Chinese pinyin system is adopted for the Romanisation of Chinese names (e.g. Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao) unless the individual has already obtained a particular English spelling of the name that is well known in the field (for example, Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen). Similarly we opt for ‘Kuomintang’ (instead of ‘Guomindang’ in pinyin) because it is widely used in English literature. The Chinese pronunciation of important Chinese phrases and terms that are directly relevant to the discussion of the book are given in pinyin after the English translation. For example, southern tour (nanxun), Democracy Wall (minzhu qiang). The editors also provide a Chinese glossary at the end of the book that gives conventional English spelling, pinyin, Simplified Chinese characters (used in the PRC) and Complex Chinese characters (used in Taiwan) to minimise confusion. Finally, as many chapters refer to different ancient Chinese dynasties, the appendix ‘Chinese dynasties at a glance’ is designed to help readers easily see the timeline of China’s often complicated history.

xvii

Acknowledgements

Any edited volume incurs a series of debts, and this one is no exception. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the contributors to this volume who wrote and revised their papers to a strict deadline. We are delighted that we were able to attract to this project such a stunning assembly of academic talent from across the world, bringing to our attention the latest research on media in China. We are especially pleased that the authors embraced the idea of expanding our understanding of media beyond traditional platforms and have analysed a range of subjects that would not normally be found in a volume of this kind. We also wish to thank the members of the Editorial Board who read and commented on each chapter and provided extremely constructive feedback to the authors, often with a very quick turn-around: Jay Blumler, Anne-Marie Brady, Chin-Hwa Chang, Terry Flew, Thomas B. Gold, Zhenzhi Guo, Adrian Hadland, Dong Han, Ann Heylan, Iam-Chong Ip, Henning Klöter, Chin-Chuan Lee, Ralph Negrine, Kristie Thomas and John Tomlinson. Finally, we acknowledge the continued assistance and encouragement of the editorial team at Routledge, especially Leanne Hinves who first approached us with the invitation to edit this volume, and Helena Hurd, the editorial assistant for Asian Studies who helped us find the book’s magnificent cover photo. This is our third edited book with Routledge and we are always impressed by the enthusiasm, professionalism and, when required, the flexibility of colleagues there. The editors dedicate this volume to all media workers and journalists who risk their lives across the world to bring us the news and tell the stories that otherwise would never be heard. Journalists are increasingly the targets of violence by states and non-state actors, and too many are being kidnapped, injured or even killed in the line of duty. ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations’ – George Orwell.

xviii

Introduction Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley

Shooting ‘at a target that appears easy to focus on at first sight, but is in actuality rather elusive.’ —Yuezhi Zhao (Chapter 1 this volume, describing her experience of studying the Chinese media)

In the final stages of preparing this manuscript, the publishing team at Routledge asked us to choose the image we would like to use as a cover for the book. We considered a dozen possibilities, most of which depicted satellite dishes, flickering television screens, the new CCTV building in Beijing or the giant screens in Hong Kong’s Time Square – all rather pedestrian and uninspiring choices, we thought. However, we did find one photograph that spoke to both the vision and shape of the book you are now holding in your hand, and both editors immediately concurred that this should be the front cover. Take a look at it. We see two young people – they could be Chinese – sitting in what appears to be an underground train . . . where? Hong Kong? Singapore? Shanghai? Taipei? London, perhaps? The girl is absorbed in her mobile telephone, the boy sitting beside her is focused on his tablet. They may be reading the news, updating their Facebook status, downloading music, finding a restaurant for dinner, chatting on weibo or playing games. For the editors, this image captured instantly the transforming landscape of Chinese media and communications: a 24/7 information environment defined by the convergence of platforms, multiple methods of vertical and horizontal communication, and the overwhelming sense that one can never be out of contact with friends or out of touch with the world. Technology has shattered the boundaries between personal and mass communications, private and public space, news and entertainment, culture and information, producer and consumer. It has destroyed the temporal and spatial constraints that in the past defined the structure and meaning of our day. Our lives – our friends, our diaries, our memories in photographs, our means of amusement and distraction – are now available in one handy package and accompany us everywhere. Where once we could only ‘download’, we are all now encouraged to ‘upload’; just as soon as we got used to talking about ‘blogs’, along come ‘tweets’; Youtube users are now able to integrate their films with their Facebook accounts; we are coming to terms with the fact that clouds are no longer just those white fluffy things that float above us in the sky; and we are learning a brand new jargon of 4G, ‘apps’ and ‘android technology’.

Gary D. Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley

Having surrendered to this new landscape, the editors – one obsessive Tweeter and one hardened player of Candy Crush – realised that the traditional approach to collecting and organising essays on the media had been rendered redundant. We could not include separate sections for print, television and film, for the convergence of platforms has made such distinctions obsolete. We refused to concede to fashion and label one section ‘New Media’: when do new media stop being new? For the generation who grew to adolescence after the 1990s, there is nothing new about the internet and social media. ‘New media’ is a tired classification used among the generations, including the editors, who can recall the dark times before the internet and email. Moreover, studies of journalism, culture, information and entertainment can no longer treat the ‘new media’ as separate categories, a sideshow, when journalists now blog, tweet and broadcast through the internet (how can media studies departments still justify delivering separate journalism and new media degrees?); and when new networks are choosing to upload major drama series made exclusively for the internet, turning their backs on more conventional methods of broadcasting (of course we’re thinking here of Netflix and the massive global hit drama series, House of Cards). Neither could we group the chapters according to geographical focus, for space and time have far less meaning now than they did a generation ago. The rapid development of new communications technologies and their almost immediate adoption by users (as recently as 2013 a Chinese student said to one of the editors, ‘You still use Whatsapp? That is so old!’) shapes and is shaped by equally transformative processes in politics, economics and culture. Globalisation and communication can no longer be analysed as distinct creatures; and this dense interconnected and relational environment generates its own logic and new challenges – for users, producers and governments – that were unthinkable only a decade before this book appeared. Globalisation and the new communications landscape also help us to understand the necessity of analysing multiple definitions of ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’. In this book we recognise China as a distinct nation-state that is officially called the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Our use of the term ‘Chinese’ in the title of the book refers to a culture and civilisation that is not tied to any particular territorial or political unit. It broadens the focus, allows for a more inclusive approach and permits our fellow contributors to discuss not only the PRC, but also Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the regional and global flows of communications and cultures. Thus we are concerned with three societies which adopt very different perspectives on what the media can and should do, and how they can and should operate. Rogier Creemers in Chapter 3 notes that this debate is particularly pronounced in the PRC where the policy environment and the governance of the media are designed to help the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintain its own position, namely ‘monopolising the public debate within the Chinese territory’. This extends to the production of documentaries and historical dramas (Cao and Guo in chapters 22 and 23, respectively) in which continued government supervision has provoked the cultural industries into adopting a cautious approach to creating programmes. Hong Kong’s media are facing a set of unique challenges that reflect the politically guarded nature of news journalism (encouraging a growing culture of self-censorship among reporters) framed by the territory’s peculiar position within the PRC’s orbit. Yet Taiwan too, often labelled the ‘first Chinese democracy’ (Chao and Myers 1998), is confronting its own difficulties as the media there continue to negotiate and renegotiate their roles and responsibilities in a highly polarised democratic society. All three Chinese societies are coming to terms with the demands of market forces and an under-researched claim that audiences thirst for ever more sensationalist news, gossip and scandal. The similarities and differences experienced by the media and their consumers in the PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan – and their interactions with each other and the rest of the region and the world – validate Daya Thussu’s observation: the ‘global media landscape’, he noted, is 2

Introduction

now ‘multicultural, multilingual, and multinational. Digital communication technologies in broadcasting and broadband have given viewers in many countries the ability to access simultaneously a vast array of local, national, regional and international’ media products (Thussu 2014: 8). Emerging from this terrain of cross-national flows of communication, entertainment and news that breaches the personal and the public and is oblivious to considerations of time and space, is a complex, non-linear evolution of media processes, industries and agencies that erode further the increasingly fragile partitions between society, culture, economics and politics. These are issues discussed in Part I of this volume in which Yuezhi Zhao, Colin Sparks and Rogier Creemers reflect on the ‘state of the field’ from national and international perspectives. They identify the principal themes, questions and concerns that drive the subsequent chapters and engage with Chinese media on multiple disciplinary and geographical levels. The discussions in Part I embed the volume in a discourse of transformation – of the location and exercise of global power, in the nature of capitalism, and in Chinese and global media spaces. At the forefront in Part I, and in Part II which is concerned with varying understandings of, and practices in, journalism, are questions about media economy and shifting ideological priorities; the relationship between state, media and society; accountability, social mobilisation and empowerment; and the laws and regulatory frameworks and processes that govern media architectures and practices. In a novel approach to communications, Chapter 20 by Anthony Y.H. Fung on online gaming reveals the challenges facing the Chinese government in constructing appropriate frameworks to regulate a completely new landscape. The levels of popular participation and interactivity involved in gaming have provoked government authorities, finding themselves with little jurisdiction in the game environment, to reconsider their relationship with the cultural industries; while at the same time opening new opportunities for online participants to take control and shape their own virtual worlds. This represents a unique and unprecedented form of negotiation between government and civil society in China. Meanwhile, Joseph M. Chan and Francis L.F. Lee in Chapter 9 remind us of the way the media – and especially new media technologies – have played an essential role in the rise of social movements in Hong Kong. This is of course not limited to Hong Kong: in Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere (2013), Paul Mason reflected on the global wave of protest and revolution. The book includes the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the ‘Occupy movement’, and riots in Athens and London, and documents how social media have both encouraged and facilitated popular mobilisation throughout the world. Mason quotes one activist who explained her use of the social media during meetings and captured succinctly their democratic benefits: ‘We use Twitter to expand the room’ (Mason 2013: 45). Since the landmark protests of 1 July 2003 when the conversation about Hong Kong’s future expanded to the 500,000 participants who marched to force the government to postpone a controversial national security bill, we have observed frequent protest activity there, including the annual vigil in memory of the victims of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. We have witnessed a similar trend in Taiwan where, following the occupation (assisted by the mobilisation power of social media) of the legislature by the so-called Sunflower Movement in the spring of 2014, the number of demonstrations involving people from all walks of life and political persuasions, concerned about an expanding range of issues, have proliferated (e.g. Cole 2014). The themes of mobilisation and empowerment are explored further by the contributors in Part III who explore the formation and expression of particular political, social and economic identities. The internet, social media and the adoption of public service broadcasting (PSB) models have modified both the structure of, and popular participation in, the public sphere. But there 3

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are limits: in Taiwan, as Chun-wei Daniel Lin notes in Chapter 17, the (re)constitution of the public sphere has revolved around PSB. Although taking reference from the experience of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), debates about PSB in Taiwan have revealed less a commitment to its ideals than a contest between competing elites, with the public largely excluded from debates. This connects to Chapter 18 by Rawnsley and Feng on the development of PSB in China and Cheung’s discussion on the lack of PSB in Hong Kong in Chapter 25. While Cheung points out that ‘without a strong public media tradition, the Hong Kong media are hyper-marketised’, Rawnsley and Feng concur with Raymond Williams (1976: 130): ‘In one way the basic choice is between control and freedom, but in actual terms it is more often a choice between a measure of control and a measure of freedom, and the substantial argument is about how these can be combined.’ In Part III our contributors evaluate how the boundaries between the personal and private have adjusted to new communications technologies, and one example is the curious development of the ‘selfie’ among young Taiwanese females (Chapter 16 by Wang). It is good to remind ourselves that prior to the word ‘selfie’ entering the Oxford English Dictionary, and long before no celebrity, prime minister or president could consider themselves either authentic or popular (populist?) until they had tweeted a photograph of themselves taken on their own mobile phone, young people throughout Greater China were documenting their everyday lives through digital self-portraiture. Is this another example of the global flow of culture from east to west, confounding the advocates of the old-fashioned ‘cultural imperialism’ thesis? And how does this global flow connect with frameworks that approach the impact of online nationalism and the way Chinese view themselves and are viewed by global audiences (Ma in Chapter 12), and China’s growing commitment to exercising ‘soft power’ among its neighbours and the world (Sparks in Chapter 2 and Gary D. Rawnsley in Chapter 28)? Selfies, as in the other examples identified by the chapters in Part III, confirm that it is no longer possible to mark a clear distinction between producer and consumer, an issue that is again addressed in Parts II and III when the phenomenon of citizen journalism is considered as a supplement to (rather than replacement of) mainstream professional news reporting. This expansion of citizen journalism, as well as the growth in popular participation and intervention in news processes, is of course a product of evolving communications technologies, but is also partly explained by an apparent decline across the Chinese world in the quality of mainstream journalism via the pressures of marketisation and commercialism. This is certainly the case in Taiwan where, as Chen-ling Hung notes in Chapter 10, ‘citizen journalism has emerged at a time of widespread distrust of the sensational and commercial media’. The development of the ‘PeoPo’ platform in Taiwan has occurred alongside the evolution of PSB, and it is not a coincidence that PeoPo was created by Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS). This symbiosis has encouraged a new form of democratic participation in Taiwan’s media, but given the small audience enjoyed by PTS, is it making any real difference? Or are the converted merely preaching to the choir? The theme of marketisation runs through Part IV in which our contributors use a range of examples – including China’s evolving copyright culture, online gaming (a very recent and welcome addition to media studies), the ‘clustering’ of Chinese media production, and specific case studies of genres and events – to consider the interactions of Chinese cultural and media industries, free markets and issues of global governance. In Chapter 25 by Charles Chi-wai Cheung we learn how market forces help define the powerful and the powerless in Hong Kong. Using representations of youth as the focal point for his discussion, Cheung not only helps us to understand media representations of young people and their issues in Hong Kong, but also how youth groups and groups acting on their behalf engage in a form of resistance to disrupt 4

Introduction

mainstream representations. So the chapter also brings to our attention questions of visibility and the way media representation can decide who is deemed important, legitimate and authoritative. This connects with the discussions by Athina Karatzogianni and Andrew Robinson (on dissidents in China in Chapter 13), Wanning Sun (on the working classes in Chapter 14) and Qian (Sarah) Gong (on the salaried and lower middle classes in Chapter 15). We move beyond the region in Part V to analyse the global dimension of Chinese media. Our contributors discuss the way that China, broadly defined, is seen through foreign eyes and how the media help to project the particularly favourable image identified by the government in Beijing as a way of changing the global conversation about China. So Yunya Song in Chapter 27 evaluates how American journalists have ‘decoded’ China and Chinese media reports to narrate the incredible changes that have taken place in the country since the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s. This then feeds into Chapter 28 by Gary D. Rawnsley on China’s public diplomacy and ‘soft power’ in which he argues that China’s strategy of global engagement through its growing international presence has been determined less by clear foreign policy or diplomatic objectives, and more to correct what Beijing considers a distorted and inaccurate picture of China in foreign media. The interconnected nature of the global media space, highlighted in Chapter 26 by Junhao Hong and Youling Liu who discuss the interactions of the Chinese media industries with their foreign counterparts, has given rise to a most curious situation: the world is watching China watching the world watching China. Such is the complexity of the modern technologically driven international space, but it also demonstrates the capacity of the media to hold a mirror to themselves and reflect back to their own domestic audiences a view that may be a little more unpalatable than desired. In 2008, of course, the world was watching China live when Beijing hosted the Olympic Games. This exercise in soft power, discussed by Limin Liang in Chapter 24 as a ‘media event’, has been described as both China’s ‘coming out party’ (Leibold 2010) and a ‘campaign of mass distraction’ (Brady 2009), demonstrating that in discussing ‘soft power’ we have to remember that power lies not with the source of the message, but with the audience; for, as Song reminds us in Chapter 27, the audience can decide whether and how to receive, interpret and act upon particular messages. This is also addressed on a local level in Chapter 23 by George Dawei Guo who calls for the return of ‘audiences’ to studies of Chinese television drama. How viewers receive the official representation of Chinese history – in fiction or in documentaries (Cao in Chapter 22) will determine whether or not the government’s objective to create a new nationalist discourse (discussed by Yiben Ma in Chapter 12) will be successful. History has long proved a successful theme in the national propaganda of any country. China has a particularly long and complex historical narrative from which to draw its communications capacity (Rawnsley and Rawnsley 2010); and both Hong Kong and Taiwan are now constructing their own historical narratives that may define the way they see themselves and how they are seen by the world. We hope this book confirms what the authors have long known: that studying the Chinese media – in the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong – is a complex, exciting and challenging endeavour, but one which pays dividends in understanding how the media landscape is both an agent and an object of transformations taking place there. All three societies are engaged in intricate and sometimes difficult processes of change that affect their politics, culture, society and relationships with the world beyond their borders. Our contributors have adopted unique approaches and case studies that we hope will challenge the conventional methods of analysing not only the Chinese media, but the media in a more global and comparative perspective. We expect that the discussions here will raise more questions and issues; and we know full well that, because of the speed at which these societies are changing and communications technologies are 5

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developing, the specific data presented will soon be out of date, though the frameworks, perspectives and insights offered here will remain relevant. At that point, we hope that a second volume may address the new Chinese media landscape now evolving before our eyes.

References Brady, A.M. (2009) ‘The Beijing Olympics as a campaign of mass distraction’, China Quarterly 197(March): 1–224. Chao, L. and Myers, R.H. (1998) The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Cole, M. (2014) ‘Was Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement successful?’, The Diplomat, 1 July. Available online http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/was-taiwans-sunflower-movement-successful/ (accessed 4 August 2014). Leibold, J. (2010) ‘The Beijing Olympics and China’s conflicted national form’, China Journal 63(January): 1–24. Mason, P. (2013) Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, London: Verso. Rawnsley, G.D. and Rawnsley, M.Y.T. (eds) (2010) Global Chinese Cinema: The Culture and Politics of Hero, London: Routledge. Thussu, D. (2014) De-Americanizing Soft Power Discourse? Los Angeles, CA: USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School and Figueroa Press. Williams, R. (1976) Communications, 3rd edn, London: Penguin.

6

Part I

The development of the study and the structure of Chinese media

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1 (Re)-Focusing on the target Reflections on a trajectory of studying the Chinese media1 Yuezhi Zhao

In the context of China’s rapid transformation in a turbulent global system since the late 1970s, to study the Chinese media is to shoot at a target that appears easy to focus on at first sight, but is in actuality rather elusive. On the surface, the target appears static as there has not been any radical transformation in the basic structure of the Chinese media system after more than thirty years of reform. Upon closer examination, however, the target has both undergone dramatic mutations in its shape and shed much of its original colour. Moreover, in the context of a highly unstable and rapidly evolving global order, the target has not only repeatedly defied conventional expectations in terms of the direction of its movement, but also is realigning its geopolitical relations with other objects and streams of flow in the global media universe. Which direction to look at? What does the target look like at a particular moment? What lenses to use and how to aim? What kind of shooting guns do we have in hand and are they adequate for the purpose? No less important, isn’t it the case that the shape and colour of the target, our ways of approaching it, even the very language we use to define and describe it, very much depends on who we are and where we stand as scholars? Finally, beyond the imperative of surviving the academic curse of publishing or perishing, what is this analysis for? Rather than writing a conventional chapter on a specific topic, I would like to take this opportunity to re-examine my own endeavour in this adventure of shooting at a changing target. In doing so, I hope to exercise intellectual self-reflectivity and discuss both the substantive and methodological issues involved in studying the Chinese media. Although I will inevitably discuss many of my own publications, I must stress at the outset that this is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of my own work, let alone a review of the state of the field – which, after all, is an objective of this handbook.

Media, market and democracy in China: the power of existing frameworks Born in China a year before the Cultural Revolution started in 1966, I received my secondary education during the transition years between the Mao era and the reform era (1975–80), and completed my undergraduate education in journalism at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute (now the Communication University of China) in 1984. After finishing graduate studies in communication at Simon Fraser University in Canada from 1986 to 1996, I had the privilege 9

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to pursue research in the field first at the University of California, San Diego, from 1997 to 2000, and since then at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Starting from the mid-1990s, I have had the opportunity to visit China frequently to conduct field research and to participate in a wide range of scholarly activities, from teaching intensive graduate seminars to giving guest lectures and participating at conferences. By the time this particular volume appears, it will be more than twenty years since I decided to study China’s post-Mao media transformation for my doctoral dissertation, which was published as Media, Market, and Democracy in China: Between the Party Line and Bottom Line (Zhao 1998). I did not intend to write my dissertation on the Chinese media to begin with. With a plan to return to China to teach after my graduate studies in Canada, I was eager to find out what the western media system is really about, in particular how it claims and practises ‘objectivity’, in contrast to the Chinese media system’s self-proclaimed and (by then) much-challenged partisan stand, instrumentalist mentality and propagandist mission. By the time I finished my MA work on journalistic objectivity and started my doctoral programme in autumn 1989, the dominant narrative about China’s media reform process, that is, the struggle for greater freedom and autonomy by established journalists and liberal intellectuals, had come to an abrupt end with the 4 June crackdown that year. Realising that even the possibility of going back to China to pursue fieldwork could no longer be taken for granted, I spent the first few years of my doctoral programme doing further research on the ethos and practices of journalistic objectivity and issues of media and democracy in the Anglo-American context. This led to the co-authored book, Sustaining Democracy? Journalism and the Politics of Objectivity (Hackett and Zhao 1998). This volume not only deconstructs and demystifies journalistic objectivity as a Foucauldian knowledge–power regime that is deeply embedded both in the political economy and everyday practices of AngloAmerican media, but also depicts what we call the ‘regime of objectivity’, along with its underpinning political economic structure and ideological framework, that is, capitalism and liberal democracy, as in deep crisis. This work had an enduring impact on my own subsequent approach to studying the Chinese media. Just as we all use an ‘other’ to construct the self, we presume certain knowledge of the western, and to be more precise, Anglo-American media in studying the Chinese media. My critique of the Anglo-American media did not result in a blind endorsement of the Chinese media system; however, it does mean that I treated liberal justifications of the Anglo-American media model as an ‘ideology exhausted’ (Hackett and Zhao 1998: 180), and I refused to simply accept the then prevailing ‘end of history’ thesis by using liberal press concepts as taken-forgranted normative standards in analysing the Chinese media. These justifications include the liberal notion of press freedom, the watchdog role of the press, the notion of the press as an information smorgasbord providing people with diverse viewpoints and neutral, non-ideological and apolitical information for rational individual decision making in a democratic polity, the notion of the press as an eyewitness on behalf of the public and, above all, the notion of consumer sovereignty, that is, ‘the media best serve society when market mechanisms are unleashed from regulatory constraints, so that the media’s programming reflects the tastes and preferences of their audiences’ (Hackett and Zhao 1998: 186). I had armed myself with the arguments in Sustaining Democracy? when I recast my gaze on the Chinese media in early 1994. The year 1992 marked a turning point in China’s reform history when Deng Xiaoping’s ‘southern tour’ (nanxun) spearheaded the acceleration of marketoriented development of the Chinese political economy in the post-1989 era. As part and parcel of this process, China’s media reform process took a dramatic turn towards commercialisation and market-driven transformation. So, by mid-1994, when it was time for me to finalise my doctoral dissertation topic and when it was clear that returning to China to do research was 10

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not a problem, I felt I had a compelling new story to tell: commercialisation under party control, or the intertwined state and market dynamic in shaping the structure and content of the Chinese media. I had a unique perspective from which to tell the story as well: while I was aware of the modernisation theory-inspired perspective about the liberalising impact of market forces, I could not help but be influenced by the critical perspective I have developed through my study of the regime of journalistic objectivity in the Anglo-American media and my critique of the class bias of an advertising-supported and market-driven media system. Critical media scholarship on post-communist media transitions elsewhere, especially Slavko Splichal’s timely book, Media Beyond Socialism: Theory and Practice in East-Central Europe (Splichal 1994), also emboldened me to go beyond the dominant paradigm of ‘transitology’. Thus, while I described the positive changes brought by state-directed media commercialisation and documented in great detail how the introduction of market forces in the Chinese media had ‘made some parts of the system more responsive to readers and audiences’ and ‘modified the elitism of media professionals and given rise to populist sensibilities’ (Zhao 1998: 182), I had no hesitation in analysing the problematic dimensions of media commercialisation. These include the disturbing fusion of state and market power in various forms of journalistic corruption, the social biases of the market as a new mechanism of media control, as well as ‘evidence of reification of the market in much of the literature advocating commercialisation of the Chinese news media’ (Zhao 1998: 181). Thus, it is not fair to say that I only critique the market, not the state, which had become the most common way that domestic Chinese students, who barely had any chance to read my work in English and may have learned my work at second-hand, challenged me when I lectured in China in the first decade of the new century. Among other reasons, such an understanding was clearly caught in a conceptual framework that espouses a simplistic state versus market dichotomy. To be sure, at the time of my dissertation work my own reading of the western critical political economy literature was rather media-centric. For example, I had not read Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation (Polanyi 1944/1957) which offered a powerful analysis of the indispensability of state intervention, even state violence, in establishing a capitalist market economy. Indeed, as Radhika Desai put it well in a recent book, even though ‘the bourgeoisie could not do without the state’, ‘opposition between politics and economics and between markets and states have critical ideological functions in capitalist society’ (2013: 29). In a post-Mao China where the most famous neoliberal doctrine complains how the state’s ‘visible foot’ has stampeded the proper function of the market’s ‘invisible hand’, I would now go so far as to argue that such a dichotomy serves an even more powerful ideological function for the rising ‘new bourgeoisie’. Still, my basic critical political economy of communication learning at the time of my dissertation work had led me to conceptualise state and market as mutually constitutive mechanisms of power and allowed me to see how the media commercialisation process in China was driven by the state from the very onset, just as it was the post-Mao Chinese state which decided to install market relations in the broad Chinese political economy in the first place. Nor was I so naive that I was unable to make a distinction in media criticisms within the western and Chinese contexts by blindly following the calls of western critical scholars and applying the critical framework to China. I questioned any simple historical linearity in understanding China’s transformation and I was adamant in refuting the dominant liberal framework on the relationship between capitalism and democracy: While some people still believe that China’s capitalist revolution will eventually lead to a democratic political system, there is no necessary relationship between capitalism and political democracy even though capitalism and liberal democracy have been ideologically and historically fused together in the West. Indeed, there is a real possibly that global capitalism 11

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will become increasingly authoritarian. Although the current hegemony of neoliberalism makes it difficult to imagine and discuss alternatives, capitalism is not the only possible future for humanity. (Zhao 1998: 188) While I was not persuaded by criticisms against my 1998 book on the basis of a ‘state versus market’ dichotomy or from a neoliberal market fundamentalist perspective, in retrospect this book has omissions and blind spots. First, although my education in critical media scholarship in Canada had led me to be wary of any assumption of a necessary linkage between marketisation and democratisation, I could not help but be influenced by the prevailing neoliberal intellectual currents of the 1980s that had begun to sweep across east and west alike. This was the moment of the death of the ‘Third World Project’ (Prashad 2008) and the disintegration of the struggle for a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). Within the academy, this was the moment of the decline of critical political economic analysis, and the ascendency of postmodernism and cultural studies. At Simon Fraser University where I received my graduate education, not only had Dallas Smythe, a pioneering figure in the critical political economy tradition, retired and was no longer teaching any graduate course, but also the very first advice I got from a fellow Chinese student was to avoid Smythe altogether because he had a leftist perspective on the Chinese Cultural Revolution. As a matter of fact, I did not have any political economy class in my MA and PhD transcripts. At the same time, I had not been able to fully dispose of the intellectual and ideological baggage I carried from China, with its heavy load of the intertwined elitist ‘New Enlightenment’ intellectual consciousness and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) official ‘reform consensus’ of the early 1980s. Although there was the ‘reformer versus hardliners’ division within the Chinese political field in the 1980s, and I had come to note the coexistence of reform Marxist, democratic, neo-authoritarian and technocratic tendencies within the broad reformist intellectual field after the mid-1980s (Zhao 1998: 42), overall there existed in the 1980s a ‘highly unified historical and cultural consciousness’ in the Chinese intellectual field (He 2010: 5). Humanistic scholars were at the forefront of articulating this new consciousness which held a historical nihilist perspective on the Chinese Communist revolution and the entire Mao era and constructed the post-Mao era as a second May Fourth period of Chinese Enlightenment (in an analogy to the western Enlightenment that had brought the west out of its medieval Dark Ages). In this perspective, the Communist revolution and the Mao-era attempt to build socialism represents a dark chapter of Chinese history. Specifically, it brought a violent disruption to China’s search for modernity and its integration with the modern world, the first attempt having culminated with the May Fourth Movement (wu si yundong) of 1919. Fortunately, with the death of Mao in 1976 and the launching of the reform process in 1978, China was to enter an era of new enlightenment, presumably following the old one of the May Fourth period. This, as He Guimei contended, is ‘one of the biggest “myths” constructed by the intellectual circles of the 1980s’ (2010: 18). Through this myth, the process of reform and openness to the global capitalist market by post-revolutionary China, which as a third world country attempted to break away from the Cold War geopolitical blockage and developmental impasse, was described as a process whereby China as a traditional empire suddenly awoke from self-imposed isolation and joined the world in the process of modernisation (He 2010: 18). This new consciousness bid farewell to revolution and mobilised the language of humanism to criticise the Maoist class struggle discourse and the socialist vision. Concurrently, it embraced the grand vision of modernisation – neither as a ‘theory’ nor a ‘school of thought’, but as ‘a matter of historical fact itself’ (He 2010: 278). Thus, as Jing Wang pointed out, although the utopian vision of modernity embedded in this new consciousness was in the 12

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end ‘modernity on paper, not in reality’ because it failed to acknowledge the necessary unsavoury process of modernisation, elite intellectuals, who assumed themselves a vanguard role in China’s modernisation project, ‘took for granted that their interpretation of the modern . . . did a tremendous service to the program of modernisation’ (Wang 1996: 55). Moreover, this ‘new enlightenment’ intellectual consciousness emerged both in tandem and tension with the official modernisation-centred and market-oriented ‘reform consensus’ forged by Deng Xiaoping. This ‘reform consensus’ does not abandon socialism in principle. Nor does it negate the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist revolution. Nevertheless, it was built around an ideological campaign against the ultra-leftism of the Cultural Revolution and the repudiation of the Mao-era class struggle discourse. This reform consensus was consolidated not only through the top-down process of the ‘truth criteria’ debate launched by the official newspaper Guangming Daily in May 1978, but also through Deng’s eventual suppression of the more radical bottomup Democracy Wall (minzhu qiang) movement of 1978–79. Spearheaded by a wide range of critical voices that aimed to reflect upon the Mao era, especially the Cultural Revolution, movement activists had mobilised both ‘big character posters’ (da zi bao) and unofficial publications – called ‘people’s publications’ (minjian kanwu) – for the expression of popular ideas on the directions of China’s post-Mao transformation, including the fulfilment of the promise to build a socialist democracy or people’s democracy in China. As is well known, the movement got its name for the big character posters mounted on a wall in Beijing’s Xidan district. To be sure, I was intuitively critical of the manifestations of the ‘new enlightenment’ consciousness in the Chinese media reform literature. Thus, in my assessment of the theoretical arguments of media reformers, I exposed the limits of the press reform discourse as advocated by reformist liberal media scholars and journalists of the 1980s, noting how ‘this emerging democratic discourse was burdened with potential contradictions and inconsistencies’ (Zhao 1998: 42). Specifically, in addition to critiquing their blind trust in the potential of the market in liberating them from party-state control, I pointed out that ‘many reformers who took part in the pro-democracy movement are neo-authoritarians and technocrats’ and that ‘there is a fundamental gap between these reformers, many of whom are within the party, and grass-root elements’ (Zhao 1998: 43). For example, I discussed how the press reformers’ apparent ‘democratic sensibilities often intermingle with elitist sensibilities’, as in the case of former People’s Daily chief editor turned press freedom advocate Hu Jiwei. There was clearly a tension between Hu’s argument for ‘press freedom for all the people’ and his imagined ideal newspapers of the future, established and run by entrepreneurs who are at the same time politicians or have the power to influence politicians (Zhao 1998: 42). However, it was a sure sign of the double hegemony of the elitist ‘new enlightenment’ intellectual discourse and the Dengist official ‘reform consensus’ that I failed to make any reference to the 1978–79 Democracy Wall movement and the flourishing ‘people’s publications’ in my historical account of post-Mao media transformation in my 1998 book. The ideological power of the elitist intellectual and official discourses in erasing historical memory and in suppressing counterintuitive empirical evidence in my writing of the post-Mao media reform narrative became all the more astonishing in retrospect when I realised that I was already a university student in Beijing by the autumn of 1980 to witness the last attempts to eradicate the unofficial publications of the Democracy Wall movement. It was only after I ventured beyond media-centrism to read a Modern China article by Lei Guang (1996) on the conceptual changes in China’s democracy movement from 1978/79 to 1989, and how the Democracy Wall era’s more diverse concepts of democracy, including a more grassroots-based, egalitarian, participatory and welfarist-oriented notion of socialist democracy had been replaced by an elitist and liberal notion of democracy by 1989 that I realised how I had been blinded by the shared elitism and vanguardism of both 13

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the dominant Chinese intellectual and official discourses. Grateful that my book’s generous reviewers had not faulted me for this omission, I rushed to address the conceptual and empirical oversights of my 1998 book in an article entitled ‘Media and elusive democracy in China’ (Zhao 2001) which, among other things, included a whole section on the Democracy Wall movement and its implications for understanding the theories and practices of media and democracy in China. Moreover, even though one of my 1998 book manuscript’s reviewers had raised a point about my lack of attention to the external dimension of China’s reform, including the role of transnational advertising in the commercialisation of the Chinese media, my inadequate grasp of the wider global political economy meant that I was not able to comprehend the broad geopolitical and conceptual issues this comment had raised. As a result, the book failed to adequately address the ‘openness’ part of China’s post-Mao transformation and its implications for Chinese media and its communication politics. In fact, even though ‘openness’ had always gone hand in hand with ‘reform’ and I was even selected by the Chinese education system to be an agent of this very process of ‘openness’ itself (I won one of the government scholarships to pursue graduate studies abroad), like many other Chinese scholars of my generation I was caught in a form of ‘methodological nationalism’ that views China’s reform as an internal process. After all, the nation-state is the taken-for-granted unit of analysis and it is commonly held to be the ‘“container” of political rights and democratic accountability’ in the dominant liberal framework (Zhao and Hackett 2005: 5). As a further manifestation of the double blind spots of the above-discussed intellectual currents in the east and west in the 1980s, I was not able to grasp the pivotal role of the Cold War geopolitical architecture in shaping China’s domestic and foreign policy options, let alone the significance of China’s reinsertion into the ‘new international division of labor’ (Hung 2009). Specifically, I was not able to see the articulations between China’s ‘reform and openness’ and a concurrent neoliberal revolution at the global scale, a development that would be later made strikingly clear by David Harvey in his A Brief History of Neoliberalism, which has a jacket cover image that juxtaposes the portraits of Ronald Reagan, Deng Xiaoping, Augusto Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher (Harvey 2005). To be sure, as Harvey pointed out, ‘the uneven geographical development of neoliberalism on the world stage’ had been a ‘very complex process entailing multiple determinations and not a little chaos and confusion’ (2005: 9). Moreover, although ‘the grim reach of US imperial power might lie behind the rapid proliferation of neoliberal state forms through the world from the mid-1970s onward’, it was not a case of the USA having ‘forced China in 1978 to set out on a path of liberalisation’ (Harvey 2005: 9). Rather, ‘the reforms just happened to coincide . . . with the turn to neoliberal solutions in Britain and the United States’ (Harvey 2005: 120). Nevertheless, my lack of an adequate critical world historical perspective had led me to neglect the Chinese media reform process’s complex articulations with the ongoing global neoliberal transformation. Such dimensions started with the enduring impact of the western media and the liberal democratic ideology, including the liberal press theory, in framing China’s ongoing transformation. Indeed, as I would later recognise, the direct impact of US media on China’s developing television industry could be traced back as early as Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, when the ‘professional and technological sophistication’ of US television networks that transmitted live satellite reports of Nixon’s visit back to US audiences left a powerful ‘demonstrative impact’ on their Chinese hosts. Thus, ‘[I]f it was the Soviet bloc that had helped introduced television to China, it was through US television that the Chinese television industry saw an image of its future’ (Zhao and Guo 2005: 523). During the early reform era, of course, the intersecting power of changing global geopolitics and western media was most dramatically illustrated by the pivotal role of Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing in the middle of the 14

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1989 pro-democracy movement and the prominent role of western media – with US television networks as its more powerful outlets – in framing and shaping the unfolding events of 1989. Not to be neglected are also the role of transnational advertising in the initial commercialisation of the Chinese media system and the promotion of China’s consumer revolution; and the revealing and even counterintuitive fact that the very first US–China business joint venture was actually established in the very unlikely area of the print media industry, an industry that even today is not officially open for foreign investment. As I documented in great detail in subsequent studies (Zhao 2003a, 2008), this joint venture was established as early as March 1980, between a Chinese state publishing entity and the Boston-based International Data Group (IDG), to publish a Chinese version of IDG’s flagship publication, Computerworld (Zhao 2008: 154–6). This event marked a pivotal intersection of what Dan Schiller (2008) calls digital capitalism’s two poles of growth: China and information technology. In 2000, I had the privilege to be invited by Dan Schiller to work with him on an article entitled ‘Dances with wolves? China’s integration into digital capitalism’ (Zhao and Schiller 2001): from then on, to study the Chinese media was no longer an internal Chinese affair for me. The nation-state-centric framework has proved inadequate. Similarly, I had realised that it was imperative to move beyond a narrow focus on journalism.

The ‘democracy question’ in hindsight: coming to terms with the global ideological air of the time Just as I had not been able to adequately locate China’s media reform within the broad global political economy, I was not self-reflective enough of the global ideological air – that of third wave democratisation – in my 1998 book. However, this came to me intuitively soon after while attending the ‘Democratisation and Mass Media: Comparative Perspective from Europe and Asia’ colloquium in April 2001. This was the academic venue that had provided me with a platform to write the ‘Media and elusive democracy in China’ article. As I quickly came to realise in a joke to a fellow participant at the colloquium, while it is comfortable, indeed an imperative, to speak about ‘democracy’, it is harder to speak about ‘capitalism’ in such a splendid setting – a heavenly villa on Lake Como in Italy, as guests of one of the most powerful foundations of American capitalism, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Conference and Study Center. This is not because somebody had explicitly influenced what we have to say: not at all. It was just that ‘democratisation and mass media’, rather than ‘capitalism and mass media’, was the title of the colloquium, which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Conference and Study Center, and as a junior scholar I was only too honoured to be an invited participant. Thus, although my critical theoretical training and new empirical reality in China had led me to focus on the intertwining logics of the state and market in the Chinese media and to question any linear logic between market reforms and liberal democratic development in China, democracy was my conceptual and normative preoccupation. If I have an argument at all, it is not whether democracy or not (unless one is a diehard authoritarian or conservative ideologue, who dares to argue against democracy?), but liberal democracy or radical democracy. This is evident even in the titles of my work: ‘Sustaining democracy?’, ‘Media, market, and democracy in China’, ‘Media and elusive democracy in China’ or ‘Democratising global media’, and ‘Who wants democracy and does it deliver food?’. And I was not alone in this preoccupation with the ‘democracy question’. Even today, it is fair to say that this question continues to be the overriding normative concern of the entire Chinese media studies field – be it posed implicitly or explicitly, positively or negatively. To be sure, ‘democracy is a good thing’ as Keping Yu, a prominent Chinese scholar, famously puts it (Yu 2006). However, not only are there 15

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competing notions of democracy, but also there are profound contradictions between capitalism and democracy, and the pursuit of democracy has never happened in a historical vacuum. As Samir Amin put it, the choice is not whether democracy or not, but ‘“democracy” or democratisation associated with social progress’ (2011: 13). In this view, the entrenchment of the ‘democracy’ paradigm is not innocent in the Cold War global geopolitics: It was a stroke of genius of the Atlantic alliance diplomacy to choose the field of ‘democracy’ for their offensive, which was aimed, at the beginning, at the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the re-conquest of the countries of Eastern Europe . . . It was a stroke of genius because the ‘question of democracy’ was a genuine issue and the least one could say was the Soviet regimes were certainly not ‘democratic’, however one defined its concepts and practice. The countries of the Atlantic Alliance, in contrast, could qualify themselves as ‘democratic’, whatever the limitations and contradictions in their actual political practices, subordinated to the requirements of capitalist reproduction. The comparison of the systems operated in their favour. (Amin 2011: 13) As Amin went on to note, although the moral power conveyed by the democracy discourse was not fully appreciated by the Atlantic Alliance of US, European and Japanese capitalism until President Carter’s administration, it was highly successful in displacing the capitalism versus socialism rivalry between the west and east, because ‘choosing to concentrate the battle around the “democracy” discourse made it possible to opt for the “implacability” of systems and to offer the Eastern countries only the prospect of capitulation by returning to capitalism (the “market”) which should then produce – naturally – the conditions for democratisation’ (2011: 14). The collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communist regimes had complex internal and external reasons. Nevertheless, as Amin pointed out, the dominant classes of leading capitalist countries were able to learn a lesson from the success of their strategy vis-à-vis the Soviet bloc, and this in turn led them ‘to continue this strategy of centering the debate on the “democratic question”’ (Amin 2011: 15). Thus, from the vantage point of this strategy, ‘China is not reproached for having opened up its economy to the outside world, but because its policies are managed by the communist party’ (Amin 2011: 15). However, as Amin pointed out, one has to be naive to think that the triumph of democracy is the real objective of this strategy. Rather, the ‘only aim is to impose on recalcitrant countries “the market economy”, open and integrated into the so-called liberal world system’. Thus, this strategy is ultimately imperialistic to the extent that it condemns these countries to ‘the status of dominated peripheries of the system’, a situation that is ‘in no way an advance in response to the “democratic question”’ (Amin 2011: 15). Moreover, not only is the ‘democracy theme’ selectively invoked ‘against countries that do not want to open up to the globalised liberal economy’, but also the proposed ‘“democratic” formula hardly goes beyond the caricature of “multi-party elections” that are not only completely alien to the requirements of social progress but that are always – or almost always – associated with the social regression that the domination of actually existing capitalism . . . demands and produces’ (Amin 2011: 15). Consequently, Amin noted, this formula ended up undermining a society’s democratic prospects, leaving many confused people to substitute democracy with ‘religious and ethnic attachment to the past’ (2011: 15). Amin’s conclusion, then, is that it is ‘more than necessary now’ to reinforce a radical left critique that ‘associates, rather than dissociates, the democratisation of society (and not only its political management) with social progress (in a socialist perspective)’ (2011: 15). Thus, ‘in this critique, the struggle for democratisation and the struggle for socialism are one and the same. 16

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No socialism without democracy, but also no democratic progress without a socialist perspective’ (2011: 15). Here is one more passage from Amin that deserves full citation: Democratisation is an endless process, not to be reduced to pluriparty elected representative so called democracy, which does not empower the people and permit them to transform society. Democratisation is multi-dimensional. It integrates the major issues of gender as well as the guarantee of individual liberties, which should be developed, not restricted. It involves also collective social rights, with a view to socialising the management of the economy, moving therefore beyond capitalism, based on the sacred character of private property. (Amin 2011: 15) This excursion into Amin’s ideas has allowed me to further contextualise my own engagement with the ‘democracy question’ in the Chinese context: I could now read my own two decades of work with the hindsight of Amin’s framework. Even though I did not quite realise it at the time, there is no question that my engagement with the democracy question was conditioned by the prevailing wind of the time. However, rather than going with the wind, I had conceived my own project as one of writing ‘against’, that is, I was writing against the dominant paradigm of transitology and its narrow concept of democracy. In other words, my approach to the topic at the time was consistent with Amin’s recently advanced perspective; I viewed democracy as a broad process of societal transformation, and viewed the struggle for democratisation as the same as the struggle for socialism. This, to be sure, was a politically risky position to argue in the post-1992 Chinese context, because even though Deng suppressed the ‘socialist versus capitalist’ debate over the nature of the reform process, it remains the case that the CCP had not abandoned the banner of socialism altogether. If arguing for socialism risks one’s scholarly ‘objectivity’ in general, to argue for socialism in the contemporary Chinese context risks the further danger of being accused of complicity with CCP authoritarianism from the liberal or neoliberal perspectives. Still, while I refrained from calling for the need for a ‘new left’ in China, I managed to write at the end of my 1998 book: ‘[s]ince the Party is still rhetorically committed to the socialist values of justice and equality, it is vital for democratic forces to appropriate the Party’s language and struggle for a different articulation of this language’ (Zhao 1998: 186).

The unfinished struggle for socialism in China: the eruption of the social and the return of the suppressed Testifying to the relevance of Amin’s radical perspective in understanding the Chinese case, what I had wished for in the above-cited call for the radical democratic rearticulation of socialism had indeed found its clear manifestations by the early 2000s. Moreover, as I will discuss shortly, a ‘new left’ has indeed emerged in China and I found myself being part of this new intellectual ferment. At the same time, even though my initial critique of the anti-democratic aspects of the fusion of party-state power and market power in the Chinese media may have pioneered this line of critique in the field, it had become clear to me that any top-down and institutionalist take on Chinese media that depicts a complete dystopian fusion between party-state and market power in a bureaucratic capitalist formation or a project of ‘marketing dictatorship’ (Brady 2008) had taken my initial insight to a libertarian or anti-socialist extreme. To be sure, along with the acceleration of China’s reform and openness process, especially in the aftermath of China’s 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the party-state’s targeting of the media and cultural sector as new sites for capitalistic development, there has indeed been a 17

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deepening process of bureaucratic capitalist formation in the Chinese media and the larger cultural industries. I documented these developments in the first half of my 2008 book, Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict, which represents a new effort to shoot the moving target of China’s media transformation, or telling the story of China’s social transformation through the prism of media and communication. Rather than limit my analysis to media-centric and institutionalist perspectives, I attempted to offer a more explicit mixture of Marxian and Foucauldian perspectives by analysing the role of media and communication in the reconstitution of class and other dimensions of knowledge–power relations in Chinese society. Furthermore, I explicitly moved beyond a nation-centric framework by building upon the earlier ‘Dances with wolves’ article and other pieces to develop an analysis of the role of transnational capital, the issue of Chinese nationalism, and the terms of the Chinese media and communication industries’ global reintegration. For example, as early as 2003 I had noted how ‘a newly constituted power bloc – consisting of the bureaucratic capitalists of a reform Party state, transnational corporate capital, and an emerging urban middle class, whose members are the favored consumers of both domestic and transnational capital – has assumed hegemonic dominance of the communicative processes both in and out of China’ (Zhao 2003a: 53). However, the book’s attempt at achieving a new paradigmatic shift lies elsewhere. Even though the process of democratisation in and through communication was the central concern of my book, democracy was no longer the book’s explicit keyword. Rather, ‘capitalism versus socialism’ had emerged as the central conceptual issue that I was engaging with. Specifically, two developments had compelled me to refocus and expand my intellectual horizons in understanding the Chinese media in Communication in China (Zhao 2008). The first is the eruption of the social. To the extent that China’s post-1992 processes of accelerated marketisation and global reintegration have engendered staggering social inequalities and profound cultural contradictions, it was only a matter of time before the social question would come to the fore, as members of China’s lower social classes, especially workers and farmers, protested against the negative social and cultural consequences of the economic reforms. To be sure, the social and cultural issues were not entirely new. Despite the western media’s framing of the 1989 movement as a pro-democracy movement and it was eventually cast in a simplistic ‘man versus tank’ Cold War ideology and the ‘end of history’ framework, the demand for social equality and justice was a central component of the movement. As Hui Wang put it, the multiplicity of the 1989 movement lies in that ‘it was (for students and intellectuals) an appeal for democracy and freedom, even as it was (for workers and other urban dwellers) a demand for social equality and justice’ (Wang 2003: 62). For this reason, Hui Wang argued that the demands of the 1989 movement have affinities with the anti-WTO and International Monetary Fund (IMF) protests that took place in Seattle in November 1999 and Washington, DC, in 2000, as these movements all ‘exemplify a close unity between the values of democracy and freedom and a movement to protect social security’ in the context of the neoliberal expansion of a comprehensive market society (2003: 64). However, the Chinese social field was highly uneven and profound divisions existed within the movement. Thus, even though violent state repression was the direct cause of the failure of the 1989 movement, ‘the indirect cause lay in the movement’s own inability to bridge the gap between its demands for political democracy and the demands for social equality that had been its mobilising force’ (Wang 2003: 64). With the post-1992 enfranchisement of a new capitalist and urban middle-class strata through market-oriented development and the state’s systematic effort at ‘buying off’ the intellectuals and knowledge workers as the most vocal segment of the urban middle class (Zhao 2012a), social struggles exploded in more diffused and variegated forms throughout Chinese society, with those at the lower social strata emerging as the main protagonists. Moreover, as ‘the processes 18

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of social stratification, class polarisation, and cultural displacement in a rapidly globalising context . . . the frequency and velocity, as well as the breadth and scope, of these hydra-headed conflicts and resistance have also intensified’ (Zhao 2008: 9). While western liberal democracy-inspired intellectuals continued to champion the end of one-party rule and the installation of electoral politics, it was the ordinary people’s struggles for the necessities of daily life and their inner sense of justice, including the very meaning of life – be it the laid-off workers’ protest against unfair compensations in the illegal privatisation of state-owned enterprises, migrant workers’ demand for unpaid salaries, farmers’ protest against the unauthorised seizure of lands, or the ordinary Falun Gong practitioners’ quest for health, community and meaning in life. Indeed, as a testimony to the relevance of Amin’s above-cited analysis about how a confused population, disillusioned with failed democracy struggles, ended up turning to religion and the past, it was perhaps not coincidental that the first massive post-1989 social protest would erupt in the form of the Falun Gong movement in 1999. Literally meaning ‘Dharma Wheel Practices’, Falun Gong narrowly refers to a series of five stretching and meditation exercises aiming at channelling and harmonising the qi or vital energy that in traditional Chinese qigong thinking supposedly circulates through the body. Started in 1992 as a particular form of qigong exercise and moral cultivation that draws elements from Taoist and folk Buddhist discourses, Falun Gong attracted millions of followers, generated a massive body of media products, developed an elaborate organisational structure, and ended up being banned by the Chinese government as a cult movement in 1999 when tens of thousands of its members gathered in Beijing to protest against what they perceived to be biased official media representation of the group. Like many others, this movement caught me by surprise, and I found myself studying this phenomenon out of a Chinese media scholar’s sense of responsibility to what needs to be done in the field: Nick Couldry and James Curran had invited me to contribute a chapter to their book, Contesting Media Power: Alternative Media in a Networked World (2003), and it had become very clear to me that, like it or not, the most visible and influential form of alternative media in China in the 1990s was Falun Gong media and its internet-based transnational communication system. As I concluded, Falun Gong, with its initial depoliticised focus on self-cultivation and individual moral salvation, started as a ‘complete reversal’ of the 1989 outpouring of desires for political participation for, as a social movement, it is ‘reactive, defensive, and politically conservative’ (Zhao 2003b: 212). Thus, like many forms of religious fundamentalism, it is not a purveyor of what Castells would call a ‘social project’ (Castells 1997: 106). Nevertheless, in the end, Falun Gong did not just posit a challenge against the Chinese state; as a symptom of the malaise of Chinese modernity it also posited a fundamental challenge against the ‘new enlightenment’ intellectuals’ self-confidence in their project of modernisation. As I wrote: ‘[t]he fastest and most spectacular program of modernization involving the world’s largest population over the past two decades has produced an unprecedented, if contradictory, backlash against modernity’ (Zhao 2003b: 221). Thus, despite western-centric optimistic writings about the potentials of the internet in perhaps finally uniting the global working class, I found myself first being compelled to make sense of the powerful internet-enabled transnational Falun Gong communication network, while later deploring the ‘short-circuiting’ of working-class communication in China (Zhao and Duffy 2007). Is this simply a sign of Chinese ‘backwardness’? Or is such a question itself implying a dogmatic and western-centric bias? In short, whether it was the more substantive notion of socialist democracy as expressed by some Democracy Wall activists, or the social equality and justice dimension of the 1989 movement, or the complex articulations of the social and cultural in the Falun Gong movement, the social dimension of democracy had always been there in China; it was not a premature importation from some western-inspired radical notions of democracy. Moreover, the demands 19

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for social progress would not go away even though some liberal and neoliberal intellectuals, caught in transitology and a linear view of history, would like to prioritise the political. As an overseas Chinese scholar who is very much detached from ongoing social struggles in China, this social dimension became most vivid for me when I encountered Feng Xiuju, the handicapped Beijing newspaper vendor from whom I had purchased newspapers for yet another of my ‘reactive’ research projects: reading the street tabloids to find out whether they – as the most commercialised segment of the Chinese press – would pose a challenge to official ideology. Feng’s struggles to sustain her newsstand against repeated attempts to displace her by the family of a local official in the context of Beijing’s bid for hosting the 2008 Olympics engrossed me, and she ended up being the cover woman of Communication in China (Zhao 2008). Moreover, what was most remarkable was not just her persistence and audacity, but also her moral outrage and her predisposition in framing her struggles not in terms of democracy, but in terms of socialism and her normative claims to sustain her livelihood and maintain her dignity, as well as her sense of what a ‘socialist country of ours’ ought to be (Zhao 2008: 3). It is with the story of Feng Xiuju in the background that I now must turn to a discussion of the second key development that had informed my 2008 book, that is, the revival of a heterogeneous discourse on Chinese socialism, the return of the suppressed ‘capitalism versus socialism’ debate or, perhaps, more broadly, the emergence of a broad anti-neoliberal intellectual ferment in China in the early 2000s. Again, just like the social dimension of democracy, the ‘socialism versus capitalism’ question had never disappeared despite Deng Xiaoping’s famous ‘cat theory’ and his post-1992 imposition of the ‘no debate’ curse – that is, there should be no debate of the socialist or capitalist nature of the reforms. Of course, this is an ideological directive that the post-1992 liberal and neoliberal intellectual and media elite who had come to dominate the market-oriented urban media and internet discourses (sometimes because of and sometimes despite the party-state’s controlling position) have been only too happy to support. As I have described, even though they had long lost their political power, ‘old leftists’ (i.e. ‘old’ revolutionaries who stick to ‘old’ Marxist and Maoist rhetoric) had persistently voiced their critique against the CCP’s ‘capitalist restoration’ through marginal publications and the so-called ‘one thousand character essays’ that aimed to persuade those in power to stick to the socialist path. Within Chinese society, the yearning for socialism was expressed in ‘Mao fever’ in many vernacular forms. Furthermore, there were apparently more politicised grassroots leftist attempts at reviving the ‘capitalism versus socialism’ debate. Just as newspaper vendor Feng had made the ‘eruption of the social’ strikingly vivid for me, this return of the ideologically suppressed became real when I serendipitously encountered an underground ‘small character poster’ proclaiming itself as a ‘Communism Manifesto’ on 18 August 1999 on an official newspaper reading window hosting the Beijing Daily against the outer wall of the Central People’s Radio tower in central Beijing. Among other things, the poster debunked the ‘plan’ versus ‘market’ dichotomy, spoke of workers’ employment, a crisis of overproduction, and how the capitalist road had reached a dead end and how communism was not an obsolete idea. As I wrote: ‘the irony is hard to miss. Against the backdrop of the party’s broadcast and print mouthpieces, this poster sent two powerful messages at once. Communism has gone underground (again) in China, and China’s market reforms . . . have generated its antithesis’ (Zhao 2008: 53). This powerful anomaly demanded my attention and compelled me to engage with it as a matter of some urgency, so much so that I ended up giving up a well-in-progress book project on China’s telecommunication reform to focus once more on the moving target of Chinese media; and I found myself doing so in a more explicit radical left perspective by foregrounding class analysis, and bringing back the ‘capitalism versus socialism’ debate. And I was certainly not alone in this intellectual endeavour for, like it or not, as the intellectual manifestation of the 20

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‘dialectic of the Chinese reform’ launched in 1978, whereby a historically leftist CCP led a capitalistic-oriented programme of development, a radical democratic socialist discursive formation, espoused by the so-called ‘new left’, had gained force in the Chinese intellectual and media scene by the late 1990s. This discourse is ‘new’ in relation to what is left of the CCP, that is, the ‘old left’ generation of Marxist-Leninist and Maoist revolutionaries who fought the 1949 Communist revolution and continued to voice their critique of the party’s capitalistic transformation in the reform era. It is ‘left’ in relation to the prevailing liberal and neoliberal intellectual discourses that have presented themselves as the only alternative to the dominant formation of market authoritarianism. Given the negative connotation of the term ‘left’ in postMao China, which as a political orientation was blamed for the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), the ‘new left’ label, as a term of abuse, was meant to discredit re-emergent radical socialist ideas by their liberal opponents. Still, the term has gained wide currency and these ideas have gained strength. Inspired by western Marxist, postmodernist and post-colonial perspectives, the ‘new left’ has offered a critique of contemporary Chinese social formation within the context of global capitalism and has become interested in more substantive and participatory notions of democracy. Instead of waiting for the market to create a mythical middle class, which in turn will bring democracy to China, ‘new left’ intellectuals are fully aware of the mutually constitutive relationship between the state and the market in the formation of reform-era Chinese political economy. Rather than simply repudiate the Chinese Communist revolution, they have engaged with China’s revolutionary legacies and tried to reimagine a democratised Chinese socialist state that would enable substantive political economic and cultural democracy. Instead of applying the boilerplate of capitalist liberal democracy to China or clinging to a Maoist past, ‘new left’ intellectuals are arguing for the democratic renewal of Chinese socialism as part of a contemporary, worldwide and open movement, drawing lessons not only from indigenous Chinese socialist experiments with economic democracy and people’s democracy, but also from socialist thoughts and movements abroad. In this way, they have not only made a decisive break with the ‘new enlightenment’ intellectual consciousness of the 1980s, but also are attempting to make socialism a pursuable political objective rather than just a ruling ideology. As I have noted elsewhere (Zhao 2012a: 110), to the extent that ‘new left’ intellectuals do not negate China’s Communist revolution and base their analysis on a critique of global capitalism and the unequal power relations it has engendered, they gave voice to concerns that, in the first half of the twentieth century, had been central to the public appeal of the CCP. However, some of the ‘new left’ critique of contemporary Chinese political economy went beyond the CCP’s historical critique of capitalism by questioning the modernisation project not only of the liberal intelligentsia and technocracy but also of the CCP itself (Barme 2001: 249). In fact, the ‘new left’ critique of capitalist modernity and its notion of radical democratic politics are fundamentally at odds with the CCP’s paternalist and authoritarian ideology. Thus, the ‘new left’ intellectual formation at once challenged both the ‘new enlightenment’ intellectual consciousness of the 1980s and the Dengist official ‘reform consensus’. In this way, the ‘new left’ has not only re-injected a radical democratic component into oppositional discourses against the party’s market authoritarian orientation, but also threatened to undermine the self-confidence of the liberal democratic discourse as the only desirable ideological alternative for China by bringing into sharp focus the class character and the hegemonic aspirations of the liberal democratic discourse as a universalising alternative discourse in a capitalistic and globally reintegrated China. The re-articulation of a broader and more substantive notion of democracy echoes urgent demands for political participation, economic justice, social inclusion and cultural enfranchisement by China’s lower social classes in whose name the Chinese Communist revolution was won in 1949. 21

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‘New left’ ideas were initially confined to intellectual journals such as Dushu and Tianya, with Tianya’s publication of Hui Wang’s essay ‘Contemporary Chinese thought and the question of modernity’ in 1997 (see Wang 2003) as a formative event. By 2000, however, ‘new left’ ideas had started to find more popular forms of expression, including theatre and the internet. The production and popularity of Che Guevara, a theatrical drama anchored in the ideals and revolutionary struggles of Che Guevara, symbolised the first step towards the popularisation of a ‘new left’ perspective outside a small intellectual circle in reform-era China. Like many other media productions based on historical subjects, Che was a vehicle for critiquing contemporary Chinese and global politics. Specifically, the play articulated the long suppressed ideals of justice and equality, a class-based critique of exploitation and oppression, and revolutionary internationalism. The play debuted in April 2000 in Beijing and became an instant hit in many Chinese cities. In the following years, as China’s internet communication started to explode and led to the emergence of a vast literature in communication studies on the potentials of this new technology in bringing about the liberal democratic transition that somehow still evaded China in the aftermath of the market reforms, leftist voices – ‘old’ and ‘new’ alike – had emerged online by ‘swimming against the tide’, and websites such as Mao Zedong Flag and Utopia had quickly gained influence (Hu 2007). The intersection of the social question, China’s socialist legacies and the return of the suppressed debate of ‘socialism versus capitalism’ figured prominently in Communication in China (Zhao 2008). As I described in detail in the book’s last two chapters, by late 2004 a large-scale debate on the future direction of China’s reform process had broken out to challenge ‘no debate’ curse. To be sure, not all those who challenged the neoliberal orientation of the Chinese reform process can be labelled as ‘leftists’, let alone concerning themselves with the ‘socialist versus capitalist’ question. For example, Lang Xianping, the Hong Kong economist who spearheaded the debate on state enterprise reform, famously proclaimed that if even he was considered too left-leaning, then everybody who was more right-leaning than him was ‘definitely wrong’ (cited in Zhao 2008: 293). Still, by early 2006 even the party’s tightly controlled media regime and official venues could no longer contain the explosive power of a broad anti-neoliberal discursive formation, leading the New York Times to observe that even the March 2006 National People’s Congress meeting was ‘consumed with an ideological debate over socialism and capitalism that many assumed had been buried by China’s long streak of fast economic growth’ (cited in Zhao 2008: 323). By late 2006, when I had the opportunity to witness the debut of Huang Jisu’s play We Walk on a Broad Path (Women zouzai dalushang) in Beijing, I was struck by how it had managed to take the ongoing media and internet-based debate on the future direction of China’s reform to a new high with both its devastating critique of the manifestations of what David Harvey (2005) had described as ‘neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics’ and its faith in a non-capitalist alternative Chinese modernity. Thus, if I alone had called for the re-articulation of the language of socialism in my 1998 book, I was able to draw upon both fellow critical Chinese scholars and the inspirations of the anti-neoliberal social forces I had studied to make the following observation in my 2008 book: ‘perhaps not only the party’s official socialist slogans per se, but also their re-appropriation by various Chinese social forces and the unfolding societal processes of subordinating both state and market to the social needs of the working people, are what the struggle for socialism in China is about’ (Zhao 2008: 343).

No sense of a conclusion: more thrillers in studying the Chinese media It was the counterintuitive and complex intersection of party-state and market power in the Chinese media that led me to publish Media, Market and Democracy in China in 1998. It was 22

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the surprising sighting of an underground ‘Communism Manifesto’ in a Communist Party-led China that compelled me to write Communication in China in 2008. Now, writing this chapter just five years after 2008, I feel I have been caught by too many surprises to even be capable of focusing on my subject, let alone conceive a coherent single new book on the Chinese media – a subject matter that has grown too large and too nebulous. Globally, the dual crises of capitalism and liberal democracy that my co-author and I had wrote about in 1998 (Hackett and Zhao 1998) had dramatically intensified and deepened in the aftermath of the 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown, the British tabloid press hacking scandal and Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US state’s massive surveillance operations. Meanwhile, countries in the former ‘Third World’ have re-emerged prominently both as important geopolitical forces and as compelling theoretical and methodological reference points for Chinese media studies. Within this context, the disappointing results of the Arab Spring and unyielding American imperial power in the Middle East and, in particular, the bloodshed and ominous turn of events in post ‘Twitter revolution’ Egypt in the summer of 2013 have all lent further credence to Samir Amin’s insight about the importance of democratisation with social progress. In short, the post-Cold War unipolar world dominated by the USA as the sole global hegemonic power is being replaced by an increasingly multi-polar global order and the worldwide backlashes against neoliberalism have further brought the social question to the fore. As part of the process of an ongoing global power shift along the nation-state axis, the Chinese state’s effort in projecting its soft power through its media and communication systems has meant that analysis of the Chinese media’s foreign influence, rather than foreign media’s influence on China, has quickly emerged as the new focus of research. I have joined many others in this endeavour (Zhao 2013), even though I have conceived this research to be part of a larger intellectual effort aiming at understanding the dynamics of ‘communication, crisis, and global power shifts’ (Zhao 2014). Meanwhile, locally, the small Chinese natural village where I grew up is at risk of disappearing – following the footsteps of the tens of thousands of other Chinese villages that already disappeared in the past decade – in the new wave of urbanisation; and, paradoxically, in the particular case of my own village, in the name of preserving rural cultural heritage. Among China’s multifaceted social issues, the urban–rural divide is of central importance and with the new push for urbanisation and new attempts at capitalistic accumulation through the dispossession of the rural population, social and environmental conflicts resulting from land seizures and ecological destruction, not to mention cultural dislocations resulting from the end of an entire rural way of life, will likely intensify. As Xinyu Lu and I have argued, a Chinese media study that neglects Chinese rural society is doomed to be partial and inadequate (Zhao 2010a, 2010b), and it was with this in mind that I have attempted to pursue a research programme under the rubric of ‘communication, culture and China’s urban–rural divide’. While these two research programmes pulled me away from a nation-centric focus on the Chinese media, new surprises in the field have continued to challenge received wisdoms, demand urgent attention and call for sharper focus. As I wrote in the opening paragraph of my introduction to the June 2012 Javnost special issue entitled ‘Communication and Class Divide in China’, even though I have tried my best to capture the magnitude of political, social and intellectual conflicts resulting from China’s ‘neoliberal strategies’ and ‘socialist legacies’ in and through China’s media and communication system, ‘I could not have imagined just how challenging it is in trying to be “as radical as reality itself” in this intellectual endeavour’ (Zhao 2012b: 6). In April 2010, I was shocked by the Southern (Nanfang) Weekend-led media campaign against leading ‘new left’ scholar Hui Wang for alleged plagiarism and the extent to which China’s most prominent liberal newspaper had abandoned any pretence of journalistic professionalism in favour of blatant forms of media instrumentalism and sensationalism (also see Chen, Chapter 23

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5 in this volume). After having paid persistent attention to the agency of Chinese journalists and intellectuals with articles such as ‘Watchdogs on party leashes: contexts and limitations of investigative reporting in post-Deng China’ (Zhao 2000) and ‘Underdogs, lapdogs and watchdogs: journalists and the public sphere problematic in China’ (Zhao 2004), I was tempted to carry on the metaphorical line by writing about ‘mad dogs’ and the extent to which China’s public discourses had denigrated into symbolic violence, rumour-mongering and fist fights in a new form of partisanism that serves narrow sectarian and dogmatic objectives. But I had no time to amuse myself because, by April 2012, the whole world had been busy watching the transnationalised and highly mediated political thriller surrounding the downfall of the CCP’s former Chongqing head and Politburo member Bo Xilai. The rise and fall of the so-called ‘Chongqing Model’ and the Bo Xilai saga have offered a fascinating extended case study – or a super text – for the exploration of scores of significant topics: the resilience of China’s socialist legacies and the role of media in suppressing or mobilising these legacies for various political and ideological agendas; the prominence of the social welfare agenda and the popular appeal of ‘common prosperity’; the degree of elite division and the brutal nature of ideological and power struggles within the CCP; the extent to which the party-state’s censorship regime continues to ‘guard against the right, but mainly the left’; and, in particular, the ongoing suppression of grassroots leftist voices as a condition of China’s capitalistic development, the global dimension of Chinese domestic politics and the pivotal participant role of transnational media, especially elite Anglo-American press outlets and overseas Chinese websites in the ongoing Chinese transformation; and, in the end, the highly counterintuitive ‘law and order’ spectacle of the micro-blogged trial of Bo Xilai: isn’t micro-blogging supposed to be the most democratising form of communication? Isn’t the whole world supposed to wait for a micro-blogged Chinesestyle liberal democratic revolution in the aftermath of the Arab Spring? Or, as I posited it in an October 2012 article, ‘Will the removal of Bo as a contender for national power and the concomitant suppression of leftist communication make China safe at last for the kind of “political reform” that will secure China as a haven for global capitalism?’ (Zhao 2012c: 16; for the discussion of the Bo Xilai case, also see Rawnsley and Feng, Chapter 18 in this volume). The answer to this last question appears to be negative as of this writing, as the Xi Jinping leadership steals Bo Xilai’s thunder by reviving Mao-era mass line practices and pursuing related media control and ideological initiatives in an attempt to re-establish the CCP’s credibility and prevent a Soviet-style regime collapse. Meanwhile, as ethnic conflicts continue to erupt in Xinjiang and as I made my first trip to Urumqi for an academic conference in September 2013, I have come to realise that it has become more urgent than ever to correct the Han-Chinese centric bias in Chinese media studies and seriously locate our endeavour with a view of China as a multi-ethnic and multi-nationality entity. Thus, just one year after I had the confidence to edit a special journal issue entitled ‘Communication and Class Divide in China’ (Zhao with Lu 2012), I realised the limits of focusing the subject through the class lens and the imperative to refocus it through the complex intersection of class and nation. And the temptation of working on one more exciting project relating to the Chinese media did not stop: in October 2013, I found myself writing long and urgent emails to Chinese and international collaborators in an effort to finalise the text of a China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) Special Policy Study entitled ‘Media and Communication Policies for Improving Public Participation in China’s Green Development’. Along with the explosion of the social, the ecological has pushed itself to the fore, as mounting environmental crisis drove home the ‘unsavoury process of modernisation’ for the Chinese population and led to a massive increase in mass incidents relating to the environment in the past few years. The environment has truly become a life-and-death issue, and the Chinese media and blogging sphere are key 24

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drivers of China’s nascent environmental movement. A Chinese media study field that does not have an ecological dimension is certainly no longer adequate, and when I was approached by the CCICED to be a member of the study’s international expert team, I found the invitation irresistible. The study’s recommendations were presented to the Chinese State Council for possible policy formation and implementation in November 2013. Will they have any impact? I do not know. However I decided to participate in the study as if it matters.

Note 1

I would like to thank Yingfen Huang and a member of the Editorial Board for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.

References Amin, S. (2011) ‘The implosion of global capitalism: the challenge for the radical left’, International Development Economics Associates. Available online www.networkideas.org/alt/apr2013/alt25_ Samir_Amin.htm (retrieved 15 April 2012). Barme, R.G. (2001) ‘Times arrows: imaginative pasts and nostalgic futures’, in G. Davies (ed.), Voicing Concerns: Contemporary Chinese Critical Inquiry, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 226–57. Brady, A.M. (2008) Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Castells, M. (1997) The Power of Identity, Malden, MA: Blackwell. Couldry, N. and Curran, J. (2003) Contesting Media Power: Alternative Media in a Networked World, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Desai, R. (2013) Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalisation and Empire, London: Pluto. Guang, L. (1996) ‘Elusive democracy: conceptual change and the Chinese democracy movement, 1978/79–1989’, Modern China 22(4): 417–47. Hackett, R.A. and Zhao, Y.Z. (1998) Sustaining Democracy? Journalism and the Politics of Objectivity, Toronto: Garamond Press. Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. He, G.M. (2010) A Knowledge Archive of the New Enlightenment (Xinqimeng zhisi dang’an), Beijing: Peking University Press (in Chinese). Hu, Y.N. (2007) ‘The revival of Chinese leftism online’, Global Media and Communication 3(2): 233–8. Hung, H.F. (2009) ‘Introduction: the three transformations of global capitalism’, in H.F. Hung (ed.), China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1–21. Polanyi, K. (1944/1957) The Great Transformation, New York: Beacon. Prashad, V. (2008) The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, New York: New Press. Schiller, D. (2008) How to Think about Information, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Splichal, S. (1994) Media Beyond Socialism: Theory and Practice in East-Central Europe, Boulder, CO: Westview. Wang, H. (2003) China’s New Order (written by Hui Wang and ed. by Theodore Huters), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wang, J. (1996) High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China, Berkeley: University of California Press. Yu, K.P. (2006) ‘Democracy is a good thing’ (Minzhu shige haodongxi), People.com. Available online http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/49150/49152/5224247.html (retrieved 25 October 2013, in Chinese). Zhao, Y.Z. (1998) Media, Market, and Democracy in China: Between the Party Line and the Bottom Line, Urbana: University of Illinois Press. –––– (2000) ‘Watchdogs on party leashes? Contexts and limitations of investigative reporting in post-Deng China’, Journalism Studies 1(4): 577–97. –––– (2001) ‘Media and elusive democracy in China’, Javnost 8(2): 21–44. –––– (2003a) ‘Transnational capital, the Chinese state, and China’s communication industries in a fractured society’, Javnost 10(4): 53–74. 25

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–––– (2003b) ‘Falun Gong, identity, and the struggle for meaning inside and outside China’, in J. Curran and N. Couldry (eds), Contesting Media Power: Alternative Media in a Networked Society, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 209–24. –––– (2004) ‘Underdogs, lapdogs, and watchdogs: journalists and the public sphere problematic in China’, in X. Gu and M. Goldman (eds), Chinese Intellectuals between State and Market, London: RoutledgeCurzon, 43–74. –––– (2005) ‘Who wants democracy and does it deliver food? The evolving politics of media globalisation and democratisation in China’, in R.A. Hackett and Y.Z. Zhao (eds), Democratizing Global Media: One World, Many Struggles, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 45–67. –––– (2008) Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. –––– (2009) ‘Communication, the nexus of class and nation, and global divides: reflections on China’s post-revolutionary experiences’, Nordicom Review, Jubilee Issue 30: 91–104. –––– (2010a) ‘For a critical study of communication and China: challenges and opportunities’, International Journal of Communication 4(2010): 544–51. –––– (2010b) ‘Chinese modernity, media, and democracy: an interview with Lu Xinyu’, Global Media and Communication, 6: 1. –––– (2012a) ‘Your show’s been cut: the politics of intellectual publicity in China’s brave new media world’, Javnost 19(2): 101–17. –––– (2012b) ‘Introduction to “Communication and Class Divide China”’, Javnost 19(2): 5–21. –––– (2012c) ‘The struggle for socialism in China: the Bo Xilai saga and beyond’, Monthly Review 64(5): 1–22. –––– (2013) ‘China’s quest for “soft power”: imperatives, impediments and irreconcilable tensions’, Javnost 20(4): 17–30. –––– (2014) ‘Communication, crisis, and global power shifts: an introduction’, International Journal of Communication 8: 275–300. Zhao, Y.Z. and Duffy, R. (2007) ‘Short-circuited? The communication of labor struggles in China’, in C. McKercher and V. Mosco (eds), Knowledge Workers in the Information Society, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 229–47. Zhao, Y.Z. and Guo, Z.Z. (2005) ‘Television in China: history, political economy, and culture’, in J. Wasko (ed.), A Companion to Television, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 521–39. Zhao, Y.Z. and Hackett, R.A. (eds) (2005) Democratizing Global Media: One World, Many Struggles, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Zhao, Y.Z. and Hackett, R.A. (2005) ‘Media globalisation, media democratisation: challenges, paradoxes, issues’, in R.A. Hackett and Y.Z. Zhao (eds), Democratizing Global Media: One World, Many Struggles, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1–28. Zhao, Y.Z. and Schiller, D. (2001) ‘Dances with wolves? China’s integration into digital capitalism’, Info 3(2): 137–51. Zhao, Y.Z. with Lu, X.Y. (eds) (2012) ‘Communication and Class Divide in China’, special issue of Javnost 19(2).

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2 China, soft power and imperialism Colin Sparks

Introduction The development of China has not only altered the balance of global power economically but also politically, militarily and culturally (Rudd 2013). Alongside the second largest economy in the world, China has the second largest military budget in the world, and it is in the middle of a substantial drive, launched at the seventeenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2007, to promote its media and culture internationally (Wang 2011: 2; Li and Sligo 2012). Most recently the new President, Xi Jinping, has popularised the notion of the ‘Chinese Dream’ as a way of increasing China’s international influence and considerable efforts are being devoted to developing this both internally and internationally (Li 2013; Keane 2007). All of these changes are related, and all have been the subject of an enormous amount of political, journalistic and scholarly attention. This chapter, however, is primarily concerned with developing an approach that facilitates the understanding of the international cultural impact consequent upon China’s rise. The dominant discourse on this issue is that advanced by Joseph Nye under the label ‘soft power’. This concept has provided the starting point for many western commentaries about China and it has been argued that it is even more influential inside China, where: ‘soft power has become one of the most frequently used phrases among political leaders, leading academics, and journalists’ (Li 2009: 1). Nye’s account, derived from his work on international relations, has the great merit of seeing cultural activities not as some separate field of human activity but as an aspect of power. It thus provides an excellent starting point for discussion of the Chinese case. Much of the debate in China takes place within discussions of ‘comprehensive national strength’, including not only soft power in all its aspects but also hard power (Ding 2008: 28). From this perspective, the integration of different aspects of power under government control means that ‘soft power has already become the key component of the comprehensive power of a nation’ (Li and Hong 2012). The current success of this ‘going-out’ policy, and its possible long-term consequences, are a matter of debate. Estimates made in the United States tend to be sceptical of the likely value of this huge investment, while Chinese views are much more positive (Pan 2006; Glaser and Murphy 2009; Zhao 2009). The concept of soft power is not, however, the only way in which the relationship between the economic, military and cultural power of a nation can be considered. The concept of cultural 27

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imperialism addresses the same issues, albeit from a rather different normative perspective. This concept was once fashionable in debates about international communication and still commands considerable resonance inside China both among scholars and more broadly. It is often argued that China, along with the rest of the developing world, is subject to US cultural imperialism. Senior media figures have suggested policies to rectify that situation taken directly from earlier discussions about constructing a New World Information and Communication Order as a counter to media and cultural imperialism (Li 2011). Occasionally it is even suggested that too aggressive a promotion of soft power might result in China itself being accused of such imperialism (Li 2009: 4). This chapter compares these two approaches from the point of view of their utility in helping us understand current developments. It begins with a brief statement of the two positions and makes some comparisons between their claims. It then considers them from the point of view of their ability to illuminate a number of key problems raised by the role of culture in international relations. These approaches, both developed with the US experience very much in mind, are shown to be lacking in some important dimensions necessary to explain current developments. Neither on its own is sufficiently developed as to provide an adequate theoretical framework to study the contemporary situation. In response to these shortcomings, an attempt is made to use these insights to develop a theoretical framework that is adequate to solve the problems presented by the distinctive features of the Chinese case.

Soft power Nye introduced the concept of soft power as long ago as 1990 and has continued to deploy and develop it up to the present, most recently arguing that it is a component of the more general category of smart power (Nye 2011). Over this long history, the emphasis of the concept has changed in a number of important ways, not least in terms of the specific problems towards which its critical edge has been directed. In its original formulation, promulgated in the last years of the Cold War, the idea was a general one, involving a wide range of resources which were held up as evidence that the USA, far from entering terminal decline, would likely remain the world’s major power over the foreseeable future (Nye 1990: 31–2). If military and economic strength provided the resources of hard, ‘command’ power, endowing the USA with the ability to force or bribe potential opponents to accede to its wishes, culture provided those of soft power. This soft, ‘indirect or co-optive’ power permitted the USA to achieve its objective through its powers of definition and attraction: other countries do what the USA wishes because they can be persuaded that they want the same things (Nye 1990: 31). In Nye’s view, while the overwhelming preponderance of the USA as an economic and military power might be reduced in the future, it would retain a broad range of cultural advantages over any competitors that would ensure its continued overall dominance. In stressing the importance of cultural power, Nye was certainly not attempting to discard the use of economic or military power, which he agreed remained central mechanisms in realising the national interest. His concern was to supplement the classical ‘realist’ view that regarded coercion and bribery as the only effective means of achieving state objectives in international relations with a recognition that ‘soft, cooptive power is just as important as hard, command power’ (Nye 1990: 32). Just over a decade later, Nye gave the idea perhaps its most influential articulation in the course of a critique of the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and in particular its invasion of Iraq (Nye 2004). In this formulation, Nye stressed the reciprocal links between hard and soft power, and was particularly concerned with the way in which, he believed, the Bush administration’s profligate use of hard power was damaging US soft power and thus leading to 28

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an overall decline in the international influence of the USA. While the USA was able to invade and conquer small countries almost at will, it did so at the cost of serious damage to its ability to persuade others, both inside the conquered countries and more generally in the world, of the benefits of its prescriptions. The military adventures of the first Bush presidency and their disastrous outcomes had, he noted, transformed the USA from a state that had been admired, and perhaps even loved, all around the world into one that was perceived, particularly in the Muslim world, as embodying a ruthless and brutal arrogance towards others. As the limits of US military power became evident and its economic dominance was increasingly fragile, its actions had made it harder and harder to achieve its foreign policy objectives through the third leg of cultural influence. Rebuilding US soft power, particularly in the Muslim world, was and remains a major preoccupation of Nye’s work. Up until very recently, this dimension of US soft power concerned him more than any other possible challenges to US influence (Nye 2011: 231–3). It is only relatively recently (perhaps as a result of changes to US foreign and military policy) that China has begun to emerge in his writing as a major contender with the USA. An earlier phase of US and Chinese policy sought to build a common approach to contentious issues and this found one expression in a degree of scholarly cooperation, involving Joseph Nye himself, dedicated to exploring areas of possible collaboration (Rosecrance and Gu 2009; Nye and Wang 2009). This overall situation is currently changing, and some US journalists and scholars are quite vocal in expressing concern at the ‘rise of China’ (Landler 2012; Friedberg 2012). At their most alarmist, US scholars are raising the question: ‘Will China’s rise lead to war?’ (Glaser 2011). Nye is certainly following the Obama administration’s ‘pivot towards Asia’ and devoting more critical attention to China. His recent work displays a marked change of tone from his writing of only two or three years previously. He is convinced that, whatever other challenges it may offer, China does not offer any serious challenge to US soft power for the familiar reason of its internal authoritarian policies (Nye 2010a, 2010b, 2012). The USA, by contrast, is able to enjoy considerable advantages since ‘the values of democracy, personal freedom, upward mobility, and openness that are often expressed in popular culture, higher education, and foreign policy contribute to American power in many areas’ (Nye 2002: 11).

Cultural imperialism The concept of cultural imperialism had a dominant role in discussions of international communication in the 1970s and 1980s, but it was eclipsed in the 1990s in scholarly debate by theories of globalisation. More recently, the same political developments as made soft power a fashionable concept, notably the increased use of military force by the USA (exemplified in the invasion of Iraq), have provoked a renewed scholarly interest in the general theory of imperialism, and provide the opportunity to reconsider its cultural dimensions (Callinicos 2009; Fuchs 2010). Cultural imperialism comes from a much more critical tradition than does the notion of soft power. Although writers using the term have adopted a range of different positions, the dominant current has been a version of Marxism. The most influential theorist was unquestionably the US scholar Herbert Schiller who, like Nye, was mainly concerned with the impact of US culture on other countries. Schiller began by contrasting US world domination in the 1970s with the domination exercised by earlier imperial powers, notably the United Kingdom. In that earlier phase, military force had been the key determinant of power, and the subordination of huge territories and populations was achieved by the establishment of direct imperial rule. Schiller argued that in the post-1945 world, the USA had replaced the UK as the dominant power, but its characteristic 29

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form of domination was not through building an extensive colonial empire. US rule was much more dependent upon the exercise of economic power and the domination of international communication: ‘What lends sophistication to the still-youthful American imperial structure is its dependence upon a marriage of economics and electronics, which substitutes in part, though not entirely, for the earlier, “blood and iron” foundations of more primitive conquerors’ (Schiller 1970: 5). Schiller thus operates with a very similar tripartite structure of power as Nye: military power, economic power, cultural power. Like Nye, he also believed that the three operated together to establish the power and influence of the USA on the world stage. Unlike Nye, however, Schiller did not have a wholly positive view either of US power or of US culture. He believed that US culture was complex and diverse, but its representation, both domestically and internationally, was filtered through the needs of the commercial companies, primarily broadcasters, that dominated its production and distribution. These were dependent upon revenues from advertisers seeking to reach large audiences and thus: ‘whether at the beginning of the “creative” process or at its conclusion, the advertiser’s influence in American programming is paramount’ (Schiller 1970: 101). It was what he saw as an homogenised and conformist version of US culture, rather than its diverse reality, that was dominant nationally and was being exported internationally, at the expense of the rich local cultures of smaller and poorer nations: ‘What is involved is the cultural integrity of weak societies whose national, regional, local, or tribal heritages are beginning to be menaced with extinction by the expansion of modern electronic communications, television in particular, emanating from a few power centers in the industrialized world’ (Schiller 1970: 109). The spread of modern means of mass communication, and notably television broadcasting, facilitated the spread of programmes made in the USA. This was part of a more general process which involved a combination of economic influence, military power and cultural persuasion. This had the effect of influencing the attitudes and behaviour of the ruling classes of the developing world and effectively subordinating them to the will of the USA. It was this combination of factors that, in a much-quoted passage, he labelled ‘cultural imperialism’: the concept of cultural imperialism today best describes the sum of the processes by which a society is brought into the modern world system and how its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating center of the system. (Schiller 1976: 9) Schiller was overwhelmingly concerned with the cultural and economic power of the USA. To the extent he considered other cultural centres, he saw them as in a cycle of decline, like the UK, or as relatively weak and defensive, as with the Soviet Union (Schiller 1970: 5). Unlike Nye, however, Schiller did not operate with an unquestioned category of national interest. Alongside the dominant commercial culture, he identified a range of cultures of resistance embodied in ‘the forces of enlightenment’ that provided an alternative and, in his view, preferable, vision of America (Schiller 1970: 158).

Common strengths, common weaknesses The most striking feature of any comparison between these two approaches is how much they have in common. Nye’s formal definition of soft power, which is that ‘soft power is the ability 30

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to affect others through the co-optive means of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes’. This could very easily be inserted into Schiller’s claim that the USA achieved its ends through means by which foreign elites were ‘attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed’ (Nye 2011: 20–1). Both of these writers are, in practice, exclusively concerned with the USA. Nye’s concept of soft power could in principle be applied to any country but, while there are some passing references to other cases – for example, the soft power wielded by the Soviet Union in the days when communism commanded a substantial international following – there is no detailed examination of the general conditions for the possession of such influence. Similarly, despite mentioning Western Europe more or less in passing, nowhere in a long career did Schiller devote significant attention to the cultural activities of any state other than the USA. Both seek to explain the distinct nature of US domination of the international scene and neither really has any conception of it facing a serious challenge from another state in the realm of culture. Both make a clear distinction between military and economic power on the one hand and cultural influence on the other, and both hold that the latter is of unique importance for understanding the international influence of the USA. Both see the exercise of US domination as arising from a combination of these different forms of power, although Schiller’s analysis is more concerned with economic domination while Nye’s gives relatively more weight to military force. The most obvious difference between the two positions is, of course, normative. Whereas Nye sees his own country as in every way superior to others, Schiller effectively argues the opposite. Nye, particularly in his elaboration of a foreign policy based on ‘liberal realism’ remains unquestioningly committed to the pursuit of what he sees as the US national interest (Nye 2011: 231). Schiller, on the other hand, argued that the pursuit of the US national interest, at least as defined by the US elite, had served to advance a situation in which the cultural life, first of the USA and then increasingly of the world, had been subordinated to the narrow commercial ends of large communication companies: ‘It is, after all, the global market imperative of the US- and West European-controlled multinational corporations that energise and organise the world system. It is the imagery and cultural perspectives of this ruling sector in the center that shape and structure consciousness throughout the system at large’ (Schiller 1976: 17). The result of the spread of what he termed ‘cultural mush’ was the destruction of distinct local cultures and the distortion of the economies of poorer nations away from urgent developmental priorities like education into satisfying elite personal consumption modelled on that of the USA (Schiller 1970: 110–15). Examined more closely, however, these wildly divergent normative judgements demonstrate a similar structure. Both offer a very one-sided view of US culture, albeit they evaluate that culture very differently. For Schiller, there is a constant emphasis upon the ways in which US commercial culture is imposed upon other countries. There is little or no recognition that there might be aspects of the dominant US culture that others find seductive, although there has long been evidence that such artefacts can be popular precisely because they articulate issues that are invisible or repressed in the national culture (Miller 1995). More generally, Schiller was apparently blind to the appeal that the profusion of commodities characterising US life and celebrated in the dominant version of US culture might have for those from cultures poorer in material goods. Edward Luce caught this point very well when he wrote: ‘When my British mother spent several months in the US in the 1950s, it was dazzlingly futuristic. There was airconditioning, an icebox in every fridge, ubiquitous neon lights and an open road on which even the working class could afford to drive’ (Luce 2012). For his part, Nye (2002: xi) dwells only upon what he sees as the attractive elements in US culture: ‘There is no escaping the influence of Hollywood, CNN, and the Internet. American 31

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films and television express freedom, individualism, and change (as well as sex and violence).’ While he is clear that other countries, and notably China, have aspects of their culture that are unattractive, he does not consider whether this might also be the case for the USA – unless he supposes that ‘sex and violence’ do not attract a certain audience. Certainly, he seems unaware that a culture obsessed with gun ownership, that legitimises the death penalty, and in which religious fundamentalists have enormous and intrusive political and intellectual influence, might not be universally attractive. Neither writer is willing fully to accept that every culture has both positive and negative aspects. Indeed, some commentators on soft power have argued that this selective assessment is a necessary part of the exercise of international cultural influence since states attempt to filter their culture so that only the attractive elements are visible: ‘A state only attempts to display the good part of its culture that the outside world believes is enjoyable or agreeable and hides those elements that may cause uneasiness or misgivings in other states’ (Li 2009: 8). In reality, all cultures, even that of the USA, are contradictory: positive elements are attractive and the negative ones are repellent. The international influence, or otherwise, of a culture is the result of the balance between the two. Any adequate theory of cultural power, and its ability to influence other aspects of international relations, would require an assessment of both the positive and negative aspects of a national culture. There would not, of course, be general agreement upon what is positive and what is negative about US culture, and neither would these judgements necessarily be constant terms: something that makes a particular country’s culture unappealing in one context might have a positive valuation in another. As Nye (2011: 84) puts it: ‘Soft power is a dance that requires partners.’ More generally, the international impact of the culture of any particular country might, at one and the same time, display elements which are attractive to one group and repellent to another, and might be perceived by one group of people as having both positive and negative aspects at the same time.

The complexities of international cultural influence While there is this surprising degree of overlap between two positions that might be thought to be completely antithetical, there are several issues, all central to understanding contemporary Chinese cultural activities, upon which there is no such implicit agreement, and to some of which neither writer gives serious attention. The first and simplest is the scope of the activities that can be considered under this heading. Schiller does not spell out in any detail the exact scope of cultural imperialism, although the burden of his overall work is to concentrate upon the electronic technologies of communication and the ways in which they have promoted an increasingly commoditised form of culture that could be traded internationally. Nye certainly includes such material, but he argues for a very broad definition of soft power. It includes popular culture and higher education, as well as diplomacy (Nye 2002: 11). In proposing a broader definition of the potential influence of culture, Nye offers a better starting point than Schiller. Not all international cultural influence is the result of the sale of television programmes or the control of information sources; diverse other factors also need to be considered in judging the extent to which a state can wield such power effectively. Adopting this broader perspective, however, leads to a second and more intractable issue: the broader approach covers quite different social phenomena and finding a way of assessing their impact that can account for such diversity poses very great problems. Diplomacy, even public diplomacy, upon which much of Nye’s writing concentrates, operates in a quite different way to Hollywood or Harvard. Different institutions, even within the mass media, have 32

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different potential for realising cultural power and should not be judged by a single standard. It is therefore very hard to find a simple way to measure international cultural influence. For example, Nye notes quite correctly that the 24-hour news channels upon which China Central Television (Zhongyang dianshi tai, CCTV) and Xinhua have devoted so much time, effort and resources have attracted only very small audiences (Nye 2012). However, the broadcasters he holds up as alternatives and important elements in soft power – CNN and the BBC – also attract very small audiences. In its UK home BBC News 24 attracts around a 1 per cent audience share and CNN’s audience share of less than 0.1 per cent is so small it cannot be measured accurately (BARB 2012). In its home market, CNN attracted a median prime time viewership of around 626,000 out of a total US 18+ population of 228 million, or less than 0.3 per cent of the potential audience in 2012, while the BBC’s audience is unmeasured but presumably tiny (Nielsen 2011: 12; Holcomb and Mitchell 2013). These are hardly mass audiences even at home, and internationally even the news channels produced by relatively proximate cultures have very few viewers indeed. Any claim to their international cultural influence can therefore hardly be based on the relative size of their audiences. Hollywood blockbusters, on the other hand, attract very large audiences, both in their US home and abroad, including China: in the first half of 2012, 9 out of 10 top-grossing movies in China were from Hollywood (Cain 2012; Coonan 2012). It is certainly the case that the cultural power exerted by an international news channel differs in scale, and probably in social composition, from that of a mass-market cinema film. The difference between the influence of each of these and that of the reputation of higher education institutions is certainly even greater, and there is no obvious way in which they can be added together to create a composite category of international cultural influence. This problem is compounded by the fact that it is also likely that the nature and degree of influence will differ between such widely different experiences as watching a Hollywood movie and spending a year on a scholarship at Harvard. While Hollywood movies may have some influence on widespread popular images of the USA, immersion in an elite academic environment is aimed at a small group who are assumed either already to be, or to be on the road to becoming, power holders in their country of origin. These are important differences in terms of both the cultural influence and the forms of behaviour that they are intended to produce. A popular taste for Hollywood movies may or may not be generalised into a more favourable attitude towards US trade policy, and even if the majority of ordinary people hold such an attitude it is by no means certain that they will influence elite decisions, since governmental indifference to popular sentiment is a commonplace in all existing political systems. Training actual or potential members of those elites, on the other hand, whether soldiers at Fort Benning, economists at the University of Chicago, or politicians and bureaucrats at the Kennedy School of Government, is intended profoundly to shape the intellectual culture of the elite, and thus, at least indirectly, to influence what they do. While it is unclear whether movies have significantly influenced attitudes towards US policy, there seems to be some evidence that these latter institutions have been successful in this aspect of their mission and to have resulted in policies which, however advantageous or deleterious they may have been to the general population of the countries in question, fitted well with US foreign policy objectives. The problem of measuring the impact of cultural power is further complicated by the fact that these different aspects of cultural power operate on different timescales and in different ways. A religious or philosophical position – say Buddhism or possessive individualism – may have a very great influence over very wide areas, but its effect is likely to be measured in decades if not in centuries. A news item – a report of an earthquake, for example – on the other hand, 33

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may have a very great influence over very wide areas but its effect is unlikely to be measured in weeks, let alone months. Similarly, an imaginative work, whether poem, painting, novel or film, may have an effect on the emotional life of an individual or group, but a course in quantitative social science will probably produce a different and less emotionally charged response. Overall, it seems difficult to conceive of any way in which this range of different impacts, operating at different levels over different timescales on different groups of people, can simply be aggregated into one single ‘effect’ that we might term soft power and which permits that state to exercise international cultural influence. The likelihood is that the international cultural influence of any country will be contradictory and shifting, with some aspects appealing strongly to some people at some times, and others proving similarly repellent. Just because of the very wide range of items that are, quite correctly, gathered under this heading, attempts to sum these positive and negative dimensions into a single balance of soft power are doomed to failure.

Articulations of power Another major issue concerns the relationships between different aspects of power. Both writers stress the need to see cultural power as part of the overall power of a state, but they differ significantly in their assessment of the links between the three domains. Schiller’s analysis tended to stress their mutual interdependence as different aspects of what he termed the ‘power complex’ (Schiller 1970: 16). In his account, there were close institutional and organic links between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense, on the one hand, and the development of communication technology on the other, notably as embodied in the development of satellite communications. Similarly, the stress placed by the government upon the ‘free flow of information’ was, he argued, a powerful factor in allowing US entertainment companies to establish their domination over the world market. This interdependence was embodied at the level of personnel by individuals like Frank Stanton, then president of the Columbia Broadcasting System who was also ‘Chairman of the United States Advisory Commission on Information . . . which . . . assesses the operation of the United States Information Agency (USIA), the propaganda arm of the American Government overseas’ (Schiller 1970: 55). Nye, on the other hand, stresses the relative autonomy of the different aspects of power, arguing that ‘soft power does not belong to the government in the same way as hard power does . . . many soft power resources are separate from American government and only partly responsive to its purposes’ (Nye 2002: 11). Some important aspects of what Nye includes in this category, notably public diplomacy, do in fact belong to the government, and others, for example academic exchanges, are largely funded by the government and follow its priorities, but core aspects of what he identifies as the sources of US soft power like films, television programmes and popular music are indeed produced by commercial organisations that are relatively distant from the government. It is true that the links between Hollywood, Harvard and the White House are present – Nye is a living embodiment of at least two-thirds of that reality – but they are relatively weak. For example, during the period when the USA was undertaking the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Hollywood made a number of movies that were either directly or indirectly highly critical of that policy. Neither is the US higher education system entirely linked to US government policy. After all, while there are well-known figures like Nye who flit between Washington and Boston, the most famous living member of the US academic community, at least in terms of online visibility, is Noam Chomsky, who can hardly be considered a promoter of US soft power. 34

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All of this evidence of the distance between the institutions of soft power and those of hard power is certainly persuasive, and the substantive products of those institutions are not necessarily such as to promote US soft power. It is, however, possible to overstate the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the organs of soft power. There is a degree of interchange between the leadership of governmental institutions and that of commercial organisations even in the USA that fits quite well with Schiller’s notion of a power complex. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) provides a good example of the interpenetration of institutions producing soft power and the government that disposes of hard power. The MPAA is a body organised and financed by the six major film and television studios and it most certainly is not an arm of the US government. On the other hand, it has always had very close relations with US politics. At one time, it described itself as the ‘little State Department’ and devoted the majority of its efforts to supporting the establishment of free trade agreements between the US government and other states. More recently, its focus has shifted to the protection of intellectual property, and it lobbies the US government to take firmer action against piracy and copyright theft. In pursuing these aims, it has always been led by individuals with good links to the US government: its first chairman was a former US Post-master General under President Harding; its second served in government posts under presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower; its third was a former special adviser to President Johnson; the fourth was agriculture secretary under President Clinton; the current, fifth, incumbent was a US Congressman for thirty-six years, served as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and in 2007 ran unsuccessfully for the post of Democratic nominee in the upcoming presidential election. At the highest levels, at least, talk of a plurality of competing elites seems a little off-key. The analysis of the international cultural influence of a country requires, among other tasks, the investigation of the precise links between the different institutions that wield the different dimensions of power, and of the two considered here the one advanced by Schiller offers a much better starting point. The positions of Schiller and Nye, and the evidence concerning the degree of autonomy or interdependence between the institutions of the state and those of cultural power can best be seen as points upon a spectrum between an extreme of integration, perhaps most clearly embodied in an earlier period of China’s modern history, and an extreme of autonomy, of which perhaps the Nordic countries are the best modern examples.

Filling the gaps Overall, we may say that while the approaches advocated by Nye and Schiller both provide valuable starting points for a comprehensive assessment of the cultural consequences of China’s development, neither separately nor in combination do they provide a completely adequate guide. While we can accept the contention of both writers as to the importance of cultural power, and its linkage with economic and military power; and while we can accept Nye’s broad definition of cultural power as well as Schiller’s greater willingness to analyse the links between soft power and hard power, there are six points at which we need to diverge from both of them, or at least to clarify the issues at stake, if we are to understand both the overall nature of the problem and the precise ways in which it is developing in the Chinese case: •

No culture can be seen in terms that are wholly positive or wholly negative. Any really existing culture will have elements that certain groups find attractive and others that they find repellent. Analysing the cultural influence of a state requires specifying which others 35

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are supposed to be subject to this influence, and accepting that in most situations there will be ambivalence, if not contradiction, present in their attitude. We cannot arrive at an estimate of the cultural influence of any given state simply by adding up the positive and negative aspects of this or that dimension of culture. Different dimensions of culture have different audiences, different potential influences and operate over different timescales. These dimensions may act to reinforce one another or they may contradict one another, and their overall effect is unlikely to be the simple sum of their discrete elements. The complexity of the different kinds of activities and possible influences grouped together under the term ‘soft power’ means that the concept is an inappropriate starting point for serious analysis, whatever its popular currency. It would be better to begin from the cultural resources of a state, to analyse the different ways by which such cultural resources are projected, and to measure, if at all possible, the influences that these projections have in particular contexts. Only this latter is a measure of something we might term ‘soft power’. The articulation of different dimensions of power and influence is not a given. In some contexts the three dimensions of economics, culture and coercion are only loosely connected, but in others they are tightly packed together, invariably under the direction of the state machine. It is likely that the nature of these linkages will have some influence on the ways in which different aspects of culture are received. The close linkages that Schiller analysed between the state and the electronic industries were the reason that he used the term ‘imperialism’ in discussing the international dimension of US culture; where cultural activity is not linked to state organisations and policy, the term is inappropriate. Later attempts, including those by Schiller himself, to extend the term to cover the entire gamut of international cultural exchange significantly reduce the analytic power of the concept. Only in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that the use of state power is a significant element in cultural projection can we legitimately speak of ‘cultural imperialism’. While recent experience has indeed been of one dominant culture, that of the USA, having much more international exposure than any of its possible competitors, such a situation can best be seen as exceptional. During most of the Cold War, for example, the USA faced not only a military challenge from the Soviet Union but also an ideological one. A more accurate picture of the record of at least the last century is that just as there has been economic and military competition and conflict between major power centres, so too there has been ideological and cultural conflict. Any analysis of cultural influence must place it within the field of international competition rather than considering it in isolation and entirely in terms of its own self-image. Although Schiller recognised, as Nye does not, that there were important counter-currents that provided an alternative to the dominant commercial culture of the USA, the stress in his analysis is upon that dominant culture. So, too, in his estimation of the alternatives to cultural imperialism, he tended to stress the defence of national cultures, although it should be remembered that he also recognised that these could be contested from within (Schiller 1976: 95–6). An adequate account of international cultural influence would give greater prominence to a recognition that ‘national cultures’ are much more contradictory, contested and changeable than either Schiller or Nye is prepared to acknowledge. While almost by definition those aspects that are most likely to be promoted by both the political and commercial elites of any society will be examples of the dominant culture, it might be that alternative or oppositional cultural forms are also internationally influential – the example of Black music in the USA immediately springs to mind.

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If neither soft power nor cultural imperialism, at least in their canonical forms, provides a wholly satisfactory theoretical framework within which to analyse the present and future international cultural impact of China, they both provide valuable starting points for a more adequate approach. The two writers share a surprising amount of their analyses in common, and the insights of each writer overcome some of the weaknesses and gaps in the other’s work: Nye’s stress upon the broad range of factors that contribute to cultural influence usefully extends Schiller’s concentration upon electronic media, while the latter’s attention to the links between state action and cultural influences improves upon Nye’s vague statements about the relative autonomy of soft power institutions.

China’s cultural resources If we begin our assessment of the current cultural influence along these lines, we obtain a quite different picture from the easy dismissal of China’s soft power that Nye has repeated so often. Rather than following his lead and generalising from the reaction of this or that group in one particular country to one particular aspect of Chinese culture, a more convincing picture would accept that China’s international cultural influence will be contradictory. Alongside the negative assessment of its political regime, for example, there might be more positive responses to other aspects of Chinese culture. Tracking the different ways in which aspects of contemporary China are received by different social groups around the world is a much more challenging, but also much more productive, response than simply sneering at the allegedly repulsive features of this or that particular facet of the whole. It is true that there are many egregiously unattractive features of contemporary Chinese society, economically, politically and culturally. These are, of course, important in shaping the international image of China and giving it a distinctively negative twist, certainly among western intellectuals, but to focus exclusively on these is to take a ludicrously narrow and short-sighted view of the issues at stake. Considered in the broader perspective that we have argued is a more realistic starting point for assessing international cultural influence, the resources available to China are clearly very considerable; indeed they may well be more substantial than those available to any other state, with the possible exception of India (Thussu 2013). The enormous scale and long histories of these two countries means that they both have well-developed philosophical systems, strong literary traditions, robust linguistic resources, distinctive musical forms and vibrant popular cultures that owe little or nothing to western models. No one would ever imagine that the cultures of these countries were in danger of being ‘swamped’ by that of the USA, although they might welcome and absorb many of its artefacts. Irrespective of political system, neither of them is likely to be a short-term competitor with the USA across the full spectrum of cultural production, and particularly not in the audiovisual field, since they both currently lack the material abundance that is both the material and symbolic foundation for much of the attraction of those aspects of US culture. The scale of their cultural and creative industries is constrained by this relative poverty, but economic growth will, if it continues, eventually level that particular playing field. With equal material resources at their disposal, it is difficult to see why Chinese or Indian cultural influence should not be able, at the very least, to provide a viable alternative to many aspects of US soft power, as indeed Indian film production already does for some markets. In the meantime, other aspects of their cultures, less dependent upon the size of their internal markets than film and television, are more strongly placed to exercise international influence. In the case of China, these abundant cultural resources have in fact proved themselves historically to be extremely influential, certainly in the immediate ‘sinosphere’ and arguably 37

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much more widely, for example in important aspects of European poetry and visual culture. ‘Chinoiserie’ was certainly never an accurate copy of its original inspiration, but the different imaginary renderings that embodied it are a recurrent theme in many aspects of European culture over the last 500 years. This cultural influence, however, has operated over relatively long timescales and it may be argued that its major impact is now in the past, although it is in fact still possible to purchase contemporary Chinoiserie from John Lewis (tableware) and Macy’s (bed linen). The undoubted historical influence of Chinese culture in general exists alongside the immediate impact of aspects of the contemporary society and any rounded assessment of China’s potential cultural influence must analyse the interaction of these disparate elements. We can explore this dynamic interaction if we consider political philosophy, which is one of the aspects of Chinese culture that proved attractive to particular foreign social groups in the past. Historically, a world-view that stressed continuity, embedded in a culture that displayed remarkable stability in the face of severe historical shocks like invasion and conquest, and embodied in what was then the most advanced extant civilisation, had an understandable attraction to the ruling elites of other similarly un-dynamic but less sophisticated societies. Those conditions, however, no longer apply either in terms of China itself or of potential emulators. What does remain is the persistence of a cultural framework that provides an alternative to the dominant western models and which can have a very real, if diffuse, international influence (Ding 2008: 73). While a full-blown Confucian philosophy might not give much purchase on the contemporary world, the core idea of a society in which the common lot can best be advanced through the recognition of mutual interdependence and collective responsibility is far from alien even in the west. The ideology of the state as the expression of the collective will required for necessary social and economic projects retains a powerful appeal in quite surprising places, for example the US House of Representatives, where some of the prescriptions of neoliberal deregulation are increasingly viewed as outdated and inadequate to solve contemporary problems of infrastructure (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure 2013). On the other hand, there are more immediate and short-term aspects of contemporary Chinese society that offer a quite different perspective to the stability of the historical model. This is the China that has lifted more than 600 million people out of abject poverty; the China where a politically quiescent middle class happily squander fortunes on luxury brands; the China that has opened itself economically to the world but at the same time retains a state monopoly of symbolic production. Today, a political philosophy that justifies authoritarian rule, embedded in a culture that is undergoing rapid transformation, and embodied in the most dynamic economy on earth, has an understandable attraction to the ruling elites of other relatively impoverished societies seeking to stimulate social change while retaining their own unquestioned power and privileges. After all, China provides what appears to be a triumphantly successful developmental alternative to the notorious prescriptions of the Washington Consensus and for this audience its cultural influence certainly challenges that of the USA. At the same time, these features of contemporary China will have no attraction whatsoever to those concerned with resisting the ruthless exploitation and savage repression that are always and everywhere the hallmarks of this kind of primitive accumulation, whether they happen to be living in impoverished or wealthy societies. The enormous economic achievements have come at a colossal price. China is a society rife with social unrest, with ‘mass incidents’ involving peasants and workers running at around 200,000 a year and often boiling over into full-scale local uprisings. It is a society in which the oppression of national minorities has driven more than 100 Tibetans to public self-immolation in the year prior to this writing and resulted in 38

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the virtual occupation of the cities of the Muslim west by armed police. It is a society ravaged by ecological disasters in which polluted rivers and poisoned food are mundane items of news. The undoubted economic success of China over the last three decades, and the ideological and political models that have accompanied it, can be and are interpreted in quite different and contradictory ways. The gleaming, modern, albeit sometimes dangerously unreliable infrastructure that China is constructing so expeditiously without doubt holds a powerful appeal for other national elites seeking to improve their competitive position in the world market. It took China seven years to build the 2,200-kilometre high-speed rail line from Beijing to Shenzhen. It is taking ten years to build the last 25 kilometres from there to the West Kowloon terminal in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The latter is no democracy, but it does enjoy many democratic liberties that do not exist in mainland China. These permit popular opposition to schemes that destroy people’s homes and livelihoods and which make it much harder and slower to railroad through developmental projects irrespective of social cost. Depending upon the relative weight accorded to development and democracy, so the cultural influence of China will be judged differently. Just because of these different and quite contradictory cultural resources, we would expect to find that contemporary China wields different and equally contradictory cultural influences around the world. We cannot dismiss the whole of the ‘going-out’ strategy, as one prominent Chinese scholar privately does, as ‘mission impossible’ – an expensive exercise in national vanity that can achieve nothing in the way of positive results. There is certainly some element of that involved: despite the huge investment, it is unlikely that, at least in the short term, either of the two international news channels will supplant CNN as a source of information for the global elite. On the other hand, the longer-term influence of Chinese culture, in both its elite and popular forms, is already a reality: the Confucius Institute and Classrooms programme, with nearly 700 locations around the world, has undoubtedly increased the number of people who are learning something of the Chinese language and thus of Chinese culture; contemporary Chinese visual art enjoys a high reputation, and high prices, in art centres throughout the developed world; at a more popular level, various elements of wuxia (i.e. martial arts) have influenced cinema and potentially provide an alternative mythological resource for computer gaming (Blum 2013).

The mass media A similarly uneven influence can be expected in terms of efforts to expand the influence of China’s mass media, and in particular its substantial investment in international news outlets. As we saw above, the audiences for all international news channels are small in size. Only Al Jazeera’s Arabic service really has a substantial viewership, particularly in moments of great crisis in the Middle East. At such times, it provides an alternative to the sterile propaganda of the state broadcasters and is eagerly watched by large audiences. The other international channels have many fewer viewers, even in moments of international crisis, but these will tend to be from elite groups and thus these channels do have a significant international political influence. While it is improbable that either CCTV News or Xinhua’s CNC World will replace CNN as the dominant global news channel in the foreseeable future, it is possible that one or both might join Al Jazeera English as a serious source of alternative perspectives that do not share the essentially imperialistic assumptions that underlie so much of the reporting on the main international channels. Similarly, while none of the cinematic or broadcast organisations that China is trying to develop are likely, in the short term at least, to replace Hollywood as the 39

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capital of the world’s imagination, it is certainly feasible to move from being an importer (and sometimes thief) of foreign films, programmes and formats towards developing markets for products that originate in China and are produced by Chinese organisations. To identify such relatively modest, but more realistic, objectives, however, is to confront directly the issue of the articulation of cultural, political and economic power. It is certainly the case that in China these three moments of power are very closely intertwined and Nye and other critics are quite correct to point to the ways in which that close relationship can damage the prospects of Chinese international cultural influence. In China, the gamut of soft power is much more firmly under government control than in the USA, although perhaps in the nature of things this control cannot be as tight and direct as is party control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Nevertheless, it remains the case that, unlike the current situation in the USA, ‘the Chinese government can centrally coordinate Chinese TV stations at all levels – by command or coercion – to work together and expand public diplomacy activities abroad’ (Zhang 2011). Even though some commentators have noted that organisations like universities and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have increasingly become players in China’s soft power projection, it still true that ‘China’s authoritarian regime lies at the root of both China’s successes and shortcoming in public diplomacy’ (D’Hooge 2011: 29). The contradictions that this close articulation raises can be seen most clearly in the case of international news. The condition for the recently expanded Chinese international news channels to exist is that they receive, now and for the foreseeable future, massive subsidies from the Chinese state. Whether in the direct form of payments from the state budget or in terms of payments for ‘advertisements’ placed by provincial governments and state-owned corporations, the budgets of these channels are overwhelmingly the result of political decisions. On the other hand, the condition for them to achieve a serious international audience is that they are able to provide a credible news service which demonstrates some political autonomy and does not simply repeat official statements from Beijing. If they continue to be perceived by their potential audiences as propaganda instruments, pure and simple, then they will never be able to win even the modest audiences of a CNN or a BBC (also see Gary D. Rawnsley, Chapter 28 in this volume). The perception of credibility will only be a possibility if the Chinese international news channels are able to operate with at least the same degree of independence from Beijing as Al Jazeera does from Doha. The independence of the latter is, of course, very far from complete, but it is nevertheless real enough for its Code of Ethics, which stresses the need for accuracy, transparency and diversity, to be considered a serious guide to its operations (Al Jazeera 2013). Such a code of ethics, particularly with regard to the stress upon the presentation of the diversity of opinion, is not even a remote approximation to the rules governing the domestic output of China’s media. Whether, as many of the journalists employed by the new channels desire, these rules can be sufficiently different for the international output of these media as to make them credible remains very uncertain, although recruiting experienced western journalists to work alongside young and enthusiastic Chinese citizens in the overseas offices has already increased pressure for more than mere presentational changes (Liang 2013). A similar contradiction faces attempts to export Chinese entertainment programming. A number of provincial TV stations, most notably Hunan TV, have in the past begun to develop very successful domestic entertainment shows and to explore the possibilities of international collaboration and export. In autumn 2011, however, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) ordered them to shift their programming towards more serious material and to drop some of their most popular shows (Branigan 2011). This decision was justified in terms of the need for television to do more to build a harmonious society, but at 40

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least in part it was designed to limit competition with CCTV. Examples like this demonstrate how political influence can still be used to gain economic advantage at the expense of commercial factors, in cultural production as much as in other areas of business. Unless China can adopt cultural policies that allow an entertainment-oriented broadcasting sector to develop and mature according to its own dynamics, then the chances of producing material that can be a success on the international market are seriously reduced. The close relationship between political, economic and cultural power that prevails in China is both the condition for China’s international effort in broadcasting and an obstacle to achieving success. It does not prevent the country from developing international cultural influence but it does make it very much more difficult. A large and increasingly wealthy industry contains enough diverse talent, both journalistic and creative, to ensure that new and attractive ideas and methods of working will be developed. As things stand, some of these innovations will find favour with the party censors, some will be blunted or sidetracked into safer channels, and some will be stopped by the authorities, while still others will simply be adapted to the prevailing conditions. This is not the atmosphere in which an irresistible challenge to Hollywood is likely to develop.

Cultures in competition Alongside the recognition of the likelihood that China’s international cultural influence will differ depending upon which aspect we consider, and which country, region or social class we analyse, we need to remember that this effort will take place not in a vacuum but in an environment of competition, primarily with the USA. The latter is the incumbent power, economically, politically and militarily, and it undoubtedly enjoys very considerable advantages in terms of international cultural influence, particularly at the popular level. As we have seen, in some important respects the close relationship between culture and power in China, which generally produces some difficulties, brings important advantages. The international spread of culture requires interstate agreements at least as much as the trade in any other commodity, and the economic growth of China has involved an increasing number of such international agreements. In the field of culture, China has been perceived as adopting protectionist policies restricting both imports of production and ownership of media outlets while at the same time failing adequately to police the trade in stolen cultural goods. The former policy is undoubtedly a reality. While there is some confusion as to who actually owns the mass media in China, there is little doubt as to the extent to which foreign participation is limited (Zhao 2008: 105). Protecting creative and cultural industries is not, of course, something unique to China; it has been recognised as a legitimate exception to the free trade logic since the founding of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, now the World Trade Organization or WTO). Numerous states of various kinds, most famously France, have used this exception to support indigenous production in one way or another. While the motivation of Chinese control of ownership and content is no doubt largely political in nature, the fact that it leads to a relatively closed environment for the creative and cultural industries has permitted them to benefit from the increasing wealth of the internal market in which they would otherwise have faced very strong competition from foreign companies. In these industries as much as any other, protection of an infant indigenous producer allows it to grow and develop the potential, if not the actual ability, to become an international player in its own terms. This ‘mercantilist’ calculus is clearly present in the history of the various relaxations of the restrictions upon foreign films and broadcasters. The slow relaxation of the number of permitted foreign films allowed into China per year has been accompanied by efforts, not necessarily successful, to produce 41

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Chinese films that are capable of finding reciprocal international markets. Similarly, the agreements allowing foreign broadcasters limited access for their satellite services has contained clauses guaranteeing CCTV access to their home markets (Chin 2011: 197). With regard to the protection of intellectual property rights, China is frequently perceived internationally as one of the states failing most egregiously to take vigorous action against offenders. In its 2012 filing to the Intellectual Property and Innovation Office of the US Trade Representative, the MPAA identified a number of notorious offenders around the world. In China, it specified Xunlei.com and Paipai.com, both hosted by state-controlled China Unicom, as major providers of illegal online content, and the Hailong mall and the San Li Tun district in Beijing as major sources of illegal physical items. The latter, shockingly, ‘is especially popular with foreign tourists’ (Motion Picture Association of America 2012).1 None of these outlets are obscure or beyond the easy reach of Chinese law enforcement agencies, which in other respects demonstrate high levels of activity in the surveillance and control of illegal activity, so the suspicion of the MPAA appears to be that they are officially tolerated. More generally, Chinese television has long used foreign programmes as, at the very least, ‘inspiration’ for its entertainment programming. Many successful dramas and game shows bear unmistakable evidence of their foreign originals (Keane et al. 2007). Only relatively recently, and still very unevenly, have these borrowings been sanctioned by the legal purchase of a format. Both of these examples, one in which the state acts to protect Chinese concerns and the other in which it more or less consciously fails to act to protect foreign companies, demonstrate the importance of state policies in the international trade in cultural commodities. They have in common, however, the fact that they are both predicated upon the Chinese industry’s ‘weakness’ compared to its competitors. This situation will certainly change as the Chinese economy develops and matures. The export of Chinese films and television programmes is still very modest in scope, but as the home market grows richer and the quality of local productions increases so that situation will change and China can expect to become a substantial exporter of such goods. The ambitions of its media companies will also change as they grow larger, richer and more experienced. If today they worry about the threats posed by foreign competition, in due course they are likely to want to acquire overseas assets themselves. Already one of the motivations for the shift from the theft to the purchase of TV formats is because some broadcasters in China now have the ambition to sell their own products internationally and see the need legally to protect their own property, which is difficult to do if one is notorious for the abuse of the rights of others (Keane 2008). Greater cultural ambitions will undoubtedly develop with the increasing wealth and selfconfidence of Chinese media, but they will also then encounter the reality that China is not the only state that acts to protect its cultural and creative industries. Other states besides China place obstacles in the way of foreign companies selling goods and acquiring assets. Given its size and importance, the US broadcasting market will eventually become a target for Chinese media companies just as it is a market for other Chinese exporters and investors. The US audience is notoriously insular, and the US industry is rich enough to supply that market with indigenous products, so there is unlikely to be a significant direct market for Chinese programmes. There is, however, a thriving market for foreign formats, even in the USA, which Chinese companies might hope to enter without too many problems (Moran 2009). The next logical step, the move to vertical integration through acquiring broadcasting outlets, is a much more difficult question. US law prevents non-citizens from owning a controlling interest in a radio or television broadcaster, which is why previous entrants in the market, like Rupert Murdoch, have had to go native in order to build their empires. Such a passport-switching exercise would not be so easy for the Shanghai Media Group or the Hunan Broadcasting System. Allowing a Chinese 42

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company to acquire control of a US television station would require an amendment to the Federal Communications Act. Given the furore that has surrounded other Chinese acquisitions and attempted acquisitions, this would be likely to be strongly resisted. The close relationship between culture and power in China would at that point be an important asset in the diplomatic pressure and international bargaining necessary to resolve such an issue. Today the US State Department works closely with the US media industry to prise open markets around the world, including China. In the longer term, we can expect the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will work closely with the Chinese media industry to prise open markets around the world, including the USA.

Conclusions Throughout this chapter we have made two assumptions about the near future: first, the Chinese economy will continue to expand, not perhaps as rapidly as in the last decade but at least fast enough to ensure that China plays an increasingly important role in the world. Second, the current political system will remain, perhaps experiencing some important modifications but not any fundamental changes. Both of these assumptions can be challenged, and if either or both of these prove to be wrong it will be necessary to conduct a fresh analysis of the prospects for China’s international cultural influence. The rate of growth of the economy is certainly slowing from the dizzying pace of the early years of the century, but at the time of writing it remains at an annualised rate of 7.5 per cent and is not, apparently, a cause for concern among the Chinese leadership (Rabinovitch 2013). Growth rates are closely tied to the prospects for political stability, since a rapidly expanding economy and rising living standards are powerful arguments for the status quo among those who have benefited so conspicuously from widening social inequality. Currently, the drive for political change comes from mass movements of workers and peasants, like those in the Guangdong village of Wukan, whose determination won them genuinely democratic village elections in 2012. The only kinds of mass protests that involve a broad spectrum of society are those over environmental issues: as in Victorian London, pollution and poisoned food kill the middle classes just as much as they kill workers and peasants. It is commonly noted that ‘getting rich’ is the dominant popular ideology in contemporary China and, with rapid economic expansion, it has been an ideology that works for millions of people. If the economy suffers big problems and can no longer deliver these material goods, then some sections of the middle class might also turn to political action with unpredictable consequences. With those caveats in mind, however, we can draw a number of conclusions about this influence. In the first place, China has substantial cultural resources and its international influence is likely to increase. This will confound some of it harshest critics who are not prepared to allow for the complexity both of the different cultural resources available and for the variety of responses that the intended audiences may have. At the same time, however, there are very important impediments to success which will also confound some of the more enthusiastic proponents of the going-out strategy and limit the appeal of the Chinese Dream. The longterm influence of Chinese language and culture is likely to grow but the attempt to win influence in the world’s media may prove much more difficult to achieve even over an extended timescale. In terms of the relatively recent past, China is a newcomer to the role of contender for international influence – economically, politically and culturally – and it confronts an established system which is dominated by a powerful incumbent. To a large extent, that incumbent sets the rules of engagement, in the nature and form of news reporting as much as in the rules of international trade, and it will use all of its power to hang on to its existing position. Rapid 43

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transformations of the patterns of international regulation, of the trade in cultural artefacts or in the world’s lingua franca, are unlikely to occur. As noted above, the abundance embedded in the artefacts of US culture retain a powerful and understandable attraction to those in less fortunate material circumstances and the scale of its internal market means that it is able to deploy vastly greater resources in the production of cultural commodities than any other country. China’s per capita income today is a small fraction of that of the USA, and it will be a very long time before a similar level of individual, as opposed to aggregate, abundance prevails in China as a whole. The reality of the American Dream may be fading with static living standards and much lower social mobility, but it is likely to remain significantly more attractive than Xi Jinping’s rather nebulous Chinese Dream for some time to come (Patience 2013). In the longer term, however, it is probable that in the cultural realm, as much as anywhere else, China’s international influence will increase substantially, and this will involve the seductive power of Chinese culture. To the extent that this occurs it will represent not a new global order but a reassertion of the cultural realities that have dominated most of human history. Up until the nineteenth century, China could claim to be the world’s largest economy and its most advanced civilisation. Its culture was, correspondingly, extremely influential internationally. It will not, however, be a simple process of cultural osmosis. In both the history of China and in the contemporary world, soft power does not exist in isolation. Chinese culture’s increased influence will also rely upon the strength of the Chinese state to, as Nye would put it, bribe or coerce other nations into accepting a different world order.

Note 1

In fairness, it should be noted that the MPAA commends Taobao, the largest Chinese e-commerce site, for its increasing efforts to stamp out piracy.

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3 Evaluating Chinese media policy Objectives and contradictions Rogier Creemers

Introduction In recent years, there have been great changes in the Chinese media environment which have been mainly driven by technological and commercial developments. Social media have flourished, the film sector has expanded and commercial television stations have grown ever more successful. However, in China’s particular political–legal environment, these developments pose challenges to government and policy making, as the media administration aims to reconcile political objectives, such as maintaining legitimacy, social objectives, such as youth protection, and economic objectives. Furthermore, the party’s supremacy in political and legal matters has created a situation where overarching constitutional notions, which can underpin the structure of governance, are absent. At the same time, it is clear that there is a strong institutional structure to govern the sphere of public communication which has its own underpinnings and dynamics. How then can we make sense of the content and structure of this Chinese media governance apparat? Simply arguing that policy outcomes are a reflection of the politics of the day would be too simplistic. First, Chinese political actors are constrained by various institutional characteristics. They need to demonstrate loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and manage complex relationships with other institutions and individuals. In other words, they need to be able to refer to a shared normative framework to justify their actions. Second, these structures are highly influenced by past political practice, reaching back to the early days of Chinese civilisation. Certain expectations and concepts have been handed down through the ages, being reinterpreted as political circumstances changed, particularly in the nineteenth century. Media governance is officially considered to be a part of an organic political and social whole with a teleological mission. However, many observers only start their analysis of Chinese media regulation with the beginning of the reform era in 1978 or the Communist takeover in 1949 (Shirk 2011; Zhang 2011; Zhao 2008). Other studies concentrate on specific issues in contemporary China (Donald et al. 2002; Lee 2003). Also, there is a tendency to concentrate on political matters and censorship at the expense of a broader analysis of public communication writ large (Brady 2010). It is important to provide a grounded explanation for the development of the guiding concepts, practices and structures governing public communication in China. Given the fact that these developed largely separately from western concepts of law or society, 47

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it is necessary to understand them on their own terms and against the background of Chinese society and politics. Consequently, a contextual analysis of media governance in the light of the objectives that media are deemed to pursue is more useful than a deductive approach based on western rights-based legal concepts. This chapter will therefore answer a double question. First, it will analyse the central philosophical underpinnings of the current Chinese communication order as well as their historical origins. Second, it will illustrate how the current governance structure – both in terms of institutional structuring and content of media rules – is set up in order to implement these objectives. Finally, it will briefly analyse the severe problems the government faces implementing media regulation in the rapidly shifting Chinese environment.

The philosophical background of Chinese media regulation In order to understand the concrete rules that govern the production and distribution of ideas in the Chinese marketplace, it is necessary to understand the background against which they are made. Certain aspects of the media regulation framework seem puzzling to western observers. First, media regulation consists of hundreds of disparate rules and documents published by different administrative bodies. It also extends into the sphere of criminal law, but few civil statutes directly relate to the media. Certainly, the doctrines of privacy and defamation remain underdeveloped in Chinese practice.1 Second, some fundamental and substantive principles that a western lawyer would expect are lacking. Although the Chinese constitution provides for freedom of expression (People’s Republic of China 1997a), it is not enforceable in court. As such, there is no presumption of free expression or protection against state intervention to limit public expression, which means that the concomitant expectation of robust tolerance and harm (Keller 2011: 40) is not present either. At the same time, there are rules that a western observer would not expect, such as very specific provisions determining, for example, that time travel is not permitted in television programmes (SARFT 2011; also see Guo, Chapter 23 in this volume), the choice of songs in popular talent shows (SARFT 2007) and the specific maladies for which cures cannot be advertised during mealtimes (SARFT 2009). Third, the regulatory framework explicitly claims that the media have a political role in disseminating correct public opinion, ensuring that development is ‘healthy’ and morality is maintained, while at the same time little substantive content is given to these principles. Lastly, a foreign observer would be astounded by the high number of administrative procedures and licensing obligations that Chinese media enterprises need to negotiate.2 From the point of view of liberal democracy, these rules fundamentally conflict with the role that the media should play in society (Freedom House 2012). However, the Chinese leadership explicitly rejects many of the values of liberal democracy, such as pluralism, regulatory impartiality and free expression. Conversely, it espouses a complex and layered view of the role of the media and its governance which developed over time and contains elements that go back to pre-imperial political philosophy, Leninist tools of governance and neoliberal market instruments. To understand this complex framework, it is instructive to analyse the goals and beliefs as officially proclaimed by the CCP, with the Central Committee’s most recent resolution (Central Committee 2011) concerning reform of the cultural sector as an example.3 This document was promulgated in November 2011 after a special plenary meeting of the Politburo had been convened to address the issue of culture and ideology. This has quickly risen to the top of the leadership’s agenda in the wake of increasing dissent on the internet, the expanding economic importance of the media sector, a perceived moral vacuum in Chinese society and a perceived onslaught of foreign cultural influences. This document is significant for a number 48

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of reasons. First, it is a confirmation of the Central Committee’s increased focus on culture as a source for legitimacy, social control and economic development, as decided upon by the central leadership. Second, it contains a blueprint of measures to be developed in the next few years, as well as a focus area for investment. Third, the media campaign surrounding the publication of this document placed security chief Zhou Yongkang in the spotlight, next to propaganda chief Li Changchun, further underlining the link between culture and social stability. In its first paragraph the Central Committee’s resolution states that the objective of cultural construction is to ‘construct a relatively well-off society, initiate a new dimension for the socialist undertaking and realise the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. The latter objective has been at the core of Chinese politics since the second half of the nineteenth century. China’s millennia-old imperial system collapsed after conflicts with emerging industrial powers such as Britain and Japan, as well as a series of internal conflicts and uprisings in which millions were killed. As a result, saving the nation (jiuguo) and building it into a strong power which would be able to resist foreign invasion became the core objective of successive Republican and Communist rulers. Modernisation had internal goals as well. Echoing the Confucian notion of the idealised past, self-strengthening has combined with a utopian, eschatological vision in which at the end of history complete harmony would be achieved. The intermediary step to this is the ‘relatively well-off society’ (xiaokang shehui) which has become the current objective of modernisation and self-strengthening (for example Central Committee 2012). This harks back to notions developed by the philosopher Mencius in the third century BC and describes a society in which there is relative material comfort for the absolute majority.4 This indicates that Chinese political philosophy prioritises socio-economic issues over political participation and individual liberty (Perry 2008: 37–50). Although we may accept that strengthening the nation and ensuring material well-being are the main political objectives and bases of legitimacy, the question remains how these goals are to be achieved. The answer to this at present remains socialism under the leadership of the CCP, although the definition of what socialism means has varied greatly during different phases of the party’s rule. The present consensus about politics and the role that media play in this is embodied in a number of policy formulations outlining the guiding ideology of cultural work. Most important media documents, including the Central Committee Resolution, but also the eleventh and twelfth five-year plans for media and culture development, include a section called ‘guiding ideology’ which lists the different slogans that are supposed to provide a clear direction for the document’s implementation. These slogans, in turn, reflect a political consensus that has been forged through the decades of CCP leadership. There are four important building blocks in this consensus: (1) integrating a spiritual civilisation with a material civilisation, (2) liberating thoughts, letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend, (3) seeking truth from facts and (4) guiding the people with correct public opinion and moulding them with a noble spirit. All of these crystallised during the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the post-Cultural Revolution party leadership hammered out a new model for development and growth. They point towards a complex background of political imperatives and choices which strongly influences media policy.

Integrating a spiritual civilisation with a material civilisation The modernising reforms of the late 1970s were aimed at technological development and economic expansion, reflected in the Four Modernisations of agriculture, industry, defence and science. Hence, Deng Xiaoping tried to shift the political emphasis away from the ideological focus and towards pragmatism (Vogel 2011). However, he was faced with the difficulty that 49

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the conservative side of the party centre was concerned with the deleterious impact of material welfare on social morality. These ideologues, headed by official party historian Hu Qiaomu and Propaganda Department director Deng Liqun, pushed for a campaign against spiritual pollution which started at the end of 1983 (Gold 1984: 947–74). The campaign fizzled out after a few weeks, as it aroused fears of a return to the frenzy of the Cultural Revolution and threatened to nip the resurgence of science in the bud. Nonetheless, Hu and Deng were not removed from their positions and the notion of a socialist spiritual civilisation, which complemented material development, remains present in the most important policy documents on media and culture issues. While it lacked a detailed substantive meaning, it signalled the party’s continuing claim to a leading moral position. Morality gained new traction in the mid2000s, as continuing corruption and increasing inequality were deemed to erode social coherence. As a new exhortation, the Hu–Wen administration launched a new moral concept, the eight honours and eight disgraces (barong bachi) in 2006.5 These, in turn, serve as the central notion for the ‘socialist core value system’ (shehuizhuyi hexin jiazhiguan tixi), a term that is equally empty but with an equally important signalling function (Von Senger 2012: 399–414). The function of the media is to provide, among other things, an environment conducive to the realisation of this morality. This is realised through big-budget government-sponsored main melody (zhu xuanlü) films, online campaigns with themes such as ‘surfing the web in a civilised manner’ (wenming shangwang), and television programmes extolling the glory of Chinese culture and history. Nonetheless, an intractable tension remains between idealised notions of moral behaviour and a perceived crisis of social conduct, particularly in relation to official corruption and privilege. Also, the concept is opposed to tendencies that are defined as ‘excessive entertainmentisation’. This pushed the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) to come down strongly against popular television programmes including dating shows or talent competitions, as these are deemed to exert a negative influence on public morality.

Liberating thoughts, letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend This term directly harks back to the pre-Qin era when the Chinese territory was taken up by small feudal states that were locked in continuous warfare. Philosophers were often retained in courts to advise on matters related to internal ordering, diplomacy and warfare. The resulting flourishing of political philosophy became known as the ‘Hundred Schools’, and counted Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, Laozi and Hanfeizi among its luminaries. However, this period came to an abrupt end as the First Emperor ruthlessly suppressed dissenting opinions. Philosophers were buried alive and all books, with the exception of those relating to legalism, agriculture, medicine and divination, were burned (Lai 2008). In the mid-1950s, the confident new CCP regime relaunched this notion as it started to encourage differing views on, and criticism of, the regime. The party had gained control over the Chinese mainland, implemented land reform, succeeded in drawing western forces to a stalemate in Korea and completed campaigns aimed at eliminating anti-Communism and capitalism. It seems that the leadership believed that criticism would either relate to specific problems in bureaucracy that could be resolved, or come from misunderstanding the superiority of party rule, which could be countered through argument and persuasion (Cheek 1997). However, the ensuing torrent of criticism took the party by surprise. Millions of letters were posted to government institutions, newspapers published critical articles and street rallies were organised. Hundreds of public postings criticised the privileged position of party members, the party’s intervention into private life and the relationship with the Soviet Union, among other 50

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matters. Retaliation was swift. In July 1957, Mao ordered the end of the campaign and cracked down heavily on those who had expressed criticism (Hua 1990: 234–56). By the end of the year, 300,000 had been purged or punished in this Anti-Rightist Movement. Mao himself openly referred to the First Emperor: ‘He buried 460 scholars alive; we have buried 46,000 scholars alive . . . You call us Qin Shihuangs. Wrong. We have surpassed Qin Shihuang a hundredfold’ (Sun 2012). This crackdown heralded the hardening of ideological positions, and the disasters of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. After Deng Xiaoping gained control over the party at the end of 1978, his ally Hu Yaobang reinstated the ‘Two Hundreds’ and called upon the party to liberate its thoughts (Hu 1979). This was a reaction against the ideological purism of the Cultural Revolution and aimed to support scientific and technological expertise, as well as limit ideological ossification through enhancing debate. Again, this open space invited critical voices, with the public posters on a wall in Beijing that become known as Democracy Wall (minzhu qiang) arguably the best-known example. At first, criticism was aimed at the excesses of the past decade, which Deng tolerated because it supported his reform efforts. Very rapidly, however, the posters started criticising the leadership of the party and Deng Xiaoping himself. On 5 December 1978, a young electrician working in the Beijing Zoo, Wei Jingsheng, posted a call for a fifth modernisation, democracy. This was beyond the limits of what Deng could tolerate (Hua 1990: 234–56). Democracy Wall was torn down, Wei and other activists were imprisoned, and Deng instituted four cardinal principles which would be beyond argument: persisting in the socialist path, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the leadership of the party and Marxism-Leninism–Maoism. Nonetheless, the ‘Two Hundreds’ principle still appears in most media policy documents. It does not aim to foster political pluralism, ideological liberalisation or a loyal opposition. Deng Xiaoping himself indicated that the party’s mistakes were always corrected by the party itself, and that no one should use party mistakes as an excuse to resist party leadership (Lin 1990: 272). Rather, it serves to provide a space for debate on technical issues in support of overall political objectives, differentiate the correct political messages for different target groups, and generate feedback on policy implementation and local issues. As such, it is perhaps the clearest boundary for the different discourse registers that are permitted within the Chinese media: it permits the publication of different opinions on certain aspects of policy within a clear and carefully defined space where no criticism of fundamental principles is countenanced.

Seeking truth from facts This phrase originated in the Han Dynasty when it referred to a scholarly attitude of not passing judgement before grasping facts to the fullest extent. It was at the core of a reform movement which started in the Qing Dynasty which aimed to return to the core texts of classical learning, rather than late commentaries. In turn, it became the motto of the Yuelu Academy in Nanchang, where Mao Zedong studied (Chen 2005). Mao later adopted it into CCP doctrine (Mao 1940), referring to the need to pragmatically learn from reality. After Mao’s death in 1976, the term reappeared in the power struggle that erupted between Hua Guofeng, Mao’s appointed successor, and Deng Xiaoping. The rally for public opinion was primarily fought through newspapers. Hua had sponsored a People’s Daily editorial outlining the ‘Two Whatevers’ policy, upholding all Mao’s policy decisions and following all his instructions. Countering this, Deng sponsored an editorial in the Guangming Daily entitled ‘Practice is the sole criterion of truth’, which was followed up by a speech for the military. Both texts exhorted the need to seek truth from facts (Vogel 2011: 211–13). It has been a key part of Chinese policy since. 51

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In brief, this phrase requires the integration of practice and theory, and the integration of universal Marxist principles with the concrete experience of the Chinese revolution. The new policy also aimed to reinvigorate science, echoing nineteenth-century reformers who already identified science as the key necessity for saving the nation. This policy has been very successful in rapidly transforming China’s industrial structure. More relevant to understanding media policy is that this tenet is applied in philosophy and social science as well (Central Committee 2004). Again, pluralism is not the objective of scholarly activity. Rather, its role is to explore how fundamental theories of socialism materialise on the assumption that society, like the natural world, operates according to objective laws that can be deduced through scientific study. This impacts on the media in two ways. First, in terms of context, the role of the media is to spread the excellent results of philosophy and social science in order to educate the population and illuminate the ‘historical development laws of humankind and society’ (Central Committee 2004: para. II(5)), while debate is limited to the specific technical method that is used, rather than fundamental assumptions or observations. Second, in terms of governance the assumption seems to be that media operations can be improved by specific scientific means. In other words, as part of society, public communications also works on the basis of objective laws, and discovering these is deemed to enable the ‘perfection’ (wanshan) of regulatory frameworks. This in turn results in popular, high-quality and commercially successful media products.

Guiding the people with correct public opinion One of the core notions of traditional Chinese philosophy is the role of self-cultivation and education. A human being is born as a blank canvas and should attain morality through diligent study and the emulation of models from the past. Again, this paternalist requirement to follow predetermined moral imperatives differs from the liberal notion that proposes individuals should primarily pursue moral notions as they see fit. Furthermore, the substantive rules of ethics are determined externally. In imperial times, morality was determined by the Confucian classics. In the 1930s the Nationalist (i.e. Kuomintang or KMT) government aimed to mould the population through the purist, austere New Life Movement (Dirlik 1975). Throughout the Communist era, there have been ample model citizens and normative behavioural codes, including Lei Feng6 and the above-mentioned core socialist value system. Politically speaking, however, there was also a strong moral obligation on rulers. Philosophically, their legitimacy was derived from the notion of the Heavenly Mandate, an entrustment from Heaven to govern. In contrast with the divine right of kings, the mandate was dependent on the behaviour of rulers. If they would not be able to ensure the livelihood of the people, which they would do by acting morally, Heaven would withdraw its mandate and the dynasty would be overthrown. This doctrine justified popular scrutiny of the action of rulers, although not the content of the moral rules themselves. This is echoed by the notion of the masses monitoring acts of individual officials and government departments, which was a core function of CCP press from the very early beginnings of the People’s Republic (Central Committee 1950). In current Chinese politics, this is embodied in the notion of ‘public opinion supervision’ (yulun jiandu), introduced at the thirteenth party congress in 1987. Former Premier Zhao Ziyang stated that in order to establish social dialogue and consultation, the masses must know major issues, and these must be discussed with the people (Zhao 1987: para. V(5)). This mood changed very rapidly after the 1989 riots when the leadership – from which Zhao had been ousted because of his conciliatory efforts to reach a compromise with the student demonstrators – asserted strict control over public communications because maintaining stability became the CCP’s overarching 52

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imperative. A number of media outlets had supported protesters’ demands, and this was deemed to have exacerbated the problems for the leadership which nearly caused the overthrow of the party regime. Consequently, public opinion supervision was counterbalanced with public opinion guidance (yulun daoxiang). In a speech at the end of the year, new propaganda chief Li Ruihuan laid down the components of this policy (Li 1989). Newspaper reports should mainly report and propagate positive matters, criticism should be concentrated on problems that can be resolved and critical reporting should include information on the resolution of the problem. At the same time, Li called for structural reform: propaganda art should be improved, and news and propaganda personnel should be better trained in how to perform their duties in accordance with the guidelines of the centre. Since then, the party has established a considerable public opinion monitoring and guidance structure, including traditional media outlets, presence on the internet, education, culture and tourism, aimed at ensuring that reality is presented correctly to, and perceived correctly by, the population. One last important notion is the militaristic language often used in these documents. While after 1989, the party ratcheted down the classical Communist notions of class struggle and collective ownership, party documents are still written in a strident tone echoing military campaigns. The 2011 Central Committee Resolution states that ‘consolidating the common ideology and morality for united struggle of the entire party, country and all ethnicities’ is necessary, and that the party and people must be armed with socialist and scientific theory to develop along the correct path. It seems to be part of the political culture of the CCP that some form of antagonism is indispensable as a justification for mobilising the masses in pursuit of common objectives. Throughout its history, the party has done so by opposing external enemies, such as the Japanese, imperialist nations, the Soviet Union or Vietnam, but also the KMT. After 1949, the CCP externalised certain classes of persons to struggle against, most recently with the anti-bourgeois liberalisation campaign of 1987. While the CCP’s stability-oriented method of leadership realised after the Tiananmen uprising largely refrained from such ideological campaigns – apart from the occasional anti-Japanese or anti-US riot – the culture bureaucracy seems to be reluctant to shift its tone of regulation away from mobilisation. Another important consequence of this is the perception of the role of public communication in the public sphere. In policy documents, this is described as the ‘ideological battlefield’ (sixiang zhendi) which must be occupied and dominated by the voice of the party. In short, in contrast to the liberal notion which holds that governments are not entitled to limit the liberty of expression unless compelled to do so to prevent harm to other individuals, the Chinese view is teleological. In this conception, public communications are purposive means to an end, the rejuvenation of China, and individual liberty is subordinate to that end. Morality and social truth are determined by the leadership, not through pluralist debate, but are preestablished by the CCP. Not everyone should be able to access the sphere of public opinion, but only those representing sufficiently advanced levels of insight and education, and vigilance against threats from inside and outside must be maintained. The next question then is how institutions and rules are structured in such a way as to realise these objectives.

Design and reform of the media regulatory framework Structures The regulatory structure established to implement the above philosophy took its definitive form after 1989, as the CCP reasserted control over media and aimed to regain control over the ideological battlefield. Unsurprisingly, both institutions and rules are designed in such a way as 53

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to maintain control over the content of publicly available expression, as well as the actors who can produce or distribute them. Hence, the aim is not to create a framework of rules and principles that clarify the rights and obligations of all concerned parties, within which individual actors can pursue their own objectives, but to manage the sphere of public communications in support of a specific set of political objectives and to do so in a flexible way and with a high degree of discretion (Keller 2000: 151–80). The institutional aspects of China’s media governance include party organs, state departments, state-owned enterprises and industrial associations.7 Confirming its Leninist identity, this structure is divided along functional lines, and the different organisations within it do not have a mutually balancing or safeguarding function. At the top level of this structure are informal discussion groups within the Standing Committee. These feed general objectives to the Central Propaganda Department (CPD), a party organ that is in charge of all matters related to thought and culture in China, including newspapers, radio, television and the internet, but also the education system. In turn, the CPD formulates general policies and guidelines to the ministry-level state institutions: the Ministry of Culture, State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT),8 the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the State Council Information Office (SCIO). These formulate concrete rules for media enterprises, with particular stress on procedural aspects, such as registration and licensing procedures, as well as administrative punishment for violations. Where necessary, other ministries cooperate in rule making in cross-jurisdictional cases. For example, the General Administration of Customs assists in drafting and implementing rules on the import and export of cultural products. Less conspicuous in terms of rule making, but therefore not less important in implementing policy, are the media enterprises. In principle, the party has maintained complete state ownership or majority state control in all significant parts of media distribution. All television stations, newspapers and distributors of foreign films must be state owned. Furthermore, in activities where private companies are permitted, state-owned enterprises remain in the dominant position. The Xinhua press agency, for instance, is the most important source of online news, as government instructions often oblige news outlets to only use Xinhua copy. Similarly, while there are a number of private film distributors, China Film Group remains the most powerful in this field, partly due to its shared monopoly on the lucrative distribution of foreign films. Only in the field of social media is state ownership absent. However, this may make them more susceptible to strict state control as they are less well connected through party channels than state-owned enterprises. Lastly, there are a number of sector and professional organisations. Some of these, such as the All-China Federation of Literary and Artistic Circles, the Chinese Writer’s Association and the All-China Journalists Association, have been part of China’s media structure for decades. The function of these associations is to provide a space for interaction between the party and these professional groups, as well as providing feedback for policy making and a targeted platform for new policy. Following the expansion of the internet, the leadership has actively supported the establishment of new sector associations and self-regulatory initiatives in the online world. These organisations officially fall under the supervision of the relevant ministry, but are also controlled through party means. In fact, true to its Leninist origins the CCP maintains considerable direct power over this entire structure through direct intervention as well, creating effectively a double command structure. There are mandatory party organisations inside all state regulators and media enterprises. Furthermore, many private internet enterprises, such as Sina9 and Tencent (SZNS News 2011), have established party groups as well. The role of these groups is to ensure policy implementation and provide ideological education and professional training. They also ensure that all levels of 54

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media governance and commerce are linked to the party. For example, the head of a ministry will often be the secretary of the party committee as well, as in the case of Minister of Culture Cai Wu (Xinhua undated) and SAPPRFT director Cai Fuchao (Xinhua 2011). Also, party members may hold different party committee positions, such as Hu Zhanfan, who is the director and party committee chair of China Central Television (CCTV) and a member of the SARFT Party Committee. This control through individual staff is further enhanced through the nomenklatura appointments system, through which the party controls all significant leading positions in the media structure (Burns 1994). This power was used to appoint the conservative Yang Jian as party secretary of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group, which is well known for its relatively independent political stance (Bandurski 2012). At the same time, the requirement for media entities to have a sponsoring government unit creates a strong incentive against straying too far from the line, as few officials would welcome closer scrutiny from higher levels. Also, news outlets, particularly People’s Daily and Xinhua, are not only responsible for openly reporting news, but also for composing ‘internal reference’ (neican) reports for the leadership. These are regularly published briefing documents containing news that might create disturbances if posted publicly, such as reports on policy implementation or corruption (He 2008: 73).

Rules The structure of regulatory documents echoes the institutional structure, and the power of rules varies in scope and application, depending on who formulates them and for what purpose. The Central Committee and the ministries regularly publish policy documents, outlining shifts in priorities for the media following economic development and technological evolution, but these contain few binding provisions. Rather, they are the prism through which the state institutions and media enterprises are supposed to lay down, interpret and apply the rules. The State Council, which groups all ministries, drafts the top-level rules for different media sectors, such as the Radio and Television Management Regulations, the Film Management Regulations and the Internet Information Service Management Rules. In turn these are substantiated through subsidiary ministry-level rules. Generally, these rules cover three major areas (Creemers 2012). The first area, content control, is usually worded in vague terms with a standard list of prohibited categories that returns in most documents. These categories include content violating the constitution, endangering national security, insulting others, propagating obscenity, gambling or violence, or endangering public morals. It also contains an open-ended category of other content prohibited by law or regulation. This vagueness is intentional, as it allows the administrative body significant discretion in applying these standards during the mandatory licensing processes of products and businesses. The second area covers licensing procedures, which are often the most elaborated parts. Licensing requirements are imposed for most activities relating to public communications and provide a convenient method for managing the number of businesses active in this area, as well as their products and services. The third area comprises the punitive provisions that apply when the rules are broken. With a few exceptions, these are either administrative punishments imposed by the regulatory authority or criminal punishments. Below these general rules there is a continuing stream of notices, circulars and orders that impose new rules, clarify or reiterate older provisions, and inform about specific campaigns related to law enforcement, celebrating politically significant activities or supporting special events, such as the Beijing Olympics. Furthermore, where news media are concerned, the CPD and the SCIO send daily instructions to editorial departments on whether and how to report certain developments (Brady 2010). As the spread of news has speeded up through the internet, they 55

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may even directly contact news outlets with orders that must be implemented at extremely short notice, often minutes (China Copyright and Media 2010). Generally, the strictness and acuity of media regulations vary with the perceived impact and speed of the platform at issue. Books are regulated more lightly than newspapers which are read more broadly. Television and the internet, being mass media able to spread news at high speed, are under even closer watch. In order to control better the mercurial internet operators and social networks, some rule-making work has been outsourced to sector organisations or, under the name of self-regulation, to the enterprises themselves. One of these is the Weibo Community Pact through which Weibo users are contractually liable for any objectionable content they post.10 Nonetheless, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that if this is not implemented sufficiently well, Weibo will itself come under fire. There are few civil laws that directly influence the content of public communication. One important exception to this is the Advertising Law (People’s Republic of China 1994), which regulates the content of advertising, which is limited further by the Anti-Unfair Competition Law (Supreme People’s Court 2003). Furthermore, some headway has been made in certain private aspects of media content. For example, Article 101 of the General Principles of Civil Law provides for a right of reputation and prohibits insult and slander. Article 120 provides that in cases where this right is harmed, citizens may demand redress before the courts. Two Judicial Interpretations of the Supreme Court added details on how to implement these provisions (Supreme People’s Court 1986, 1993 and 1998). Further provisions regarding the right to reputation were present in drafts of the 2009 Tort Law, but were removed (Liebman 2006: 43). The Tort Law does include the protection of civil rights on the internet, and defines user and internet service provider (ISP) liability for internet-related infringement of rights. Furthermore, at the time of writing, a research project into a potential Human Dignity Law (renge quan fa) is under way, and a draft implementation manual for dealing with media-related torts is being tested in a pilot court in the Haidian People’s Court.11 Defamation is also included in the Criminal Law (People’s Republic of China 1997b: Article 246). Conversely, the Criminal Law also contains very broad provisions for dealing with offensive content. Some of these provisions are shared with western restrictions on the freedom of expression, such as the prohibition of ethnic discrimination present in Articles 149 and 150. However, some provisions provide a legal basis to restrict messages that offend the powers that be, especially in cases of political dissent. While the crime of counter-revolutionary activism was removed from Criminal Law in 1997, it was replaced with the crime of endangering state security in Part Two, Chapter I, and little substantive change resulted (Clarke 1998). For example, Article 105 of Criminal Law prohibits subversion of state power. This was the legal basis for the conviction of the activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. In other words, criminal suits are an effective way for the party-state to silence dissent through legal procedure. Economic transactions of cultural and media products are protected by the Copyright Law. However, other legal frameworks, such as competition, have relatively little impact on traditional media outlets. This is largely the case because they are differentiated regionally and functionally, but also because, as party institutions, they are part of the administrative structure outlined above. Hence, they are not free operators in a competitive marketplace. This is different for private enterprises which are mostly found on the internet. In February 2012, there was a high-profile spat between video websites Youku and Tudou (Xinhua 2012). This case was never brought to a conclusion as a few months later the two websites announced their merger, which created some issues of competition and market dominance in itself (China IP Lawyer 2012). Consequently, it remains to be seen how media competition and other economic issues would develop, especially as private enterprises increasingly compete with the state media entities. 56

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Structural reform: reconciling ideals and realities The guiding philosophy of media governance has changed little since 1989. However, there have been significant shifts in the context in which this philosophy is implemented. China has become the second economy in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), it became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and raised its international profile, among others through the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Its economic policies are under readjustment, as continued development requires that China moves higher up the value chain. At the same time, there are a number of destabilising factors. Social unrest is increasing due to corruption, abuse of power and privilege and a perceived moral vacuum in society. Moreover, technological development has enabled new modes of public communication and interaction. Due to internet and mobile technology individual Chinese citizens now have access to low-threshold means of communication that extend beyond the immediate scope of the workplace, the family or local community. These shifts have driven an evolution of media policy and regulation starting in the mid1950s aiming at commercialising the media sector and turning it into a location of economic growth, but also for media to become a more effective tool for propaganda, ‘public opinion guidance’ and social control. The most important reforms have taken place in the economic environment of media operators. Recognising that financial input is needed to develop media services and products, investment channels into the cultural industries were widened to certain party or state institutions at first, and subsequently to private and foreign investors. Furthermore, corporate structures were reshaped as most media outlets transformed from politically oriented public service entities (shiye) to commercial enterprises (chanye) (Guo 2004). Commercialisation, however, does not mean liberalisation. As indicated before, the objective of structural reform was to make the media system a more effective political tool. Consequently, the opening of economic and investment channels, especially where foreign activity is concerned, is structured in such a way as to maintain final political control. Private capital, for example, may only hold minority participation positions in publishing, distribution of lifestyle television programmes and cable operators. It is prohibited from entering any news-related area, radio or television stations and certain infrastructure activities (China Copyright and Media 2005a). Foreign capital may participate in production and sales of media products, as well as media-related venues such as cinemas and theatres. It may not invest in radio and television stations, news companies, film production, internet culture enterprises, media distribution, and audiovisual publishing (China Copyright and Media 2005b). In early 2012, a Sino-US agreement raised the quantitative film import quota, but it did not expand business operation channels. Furthermore, party influence over the media has been strengthened in some areas as well. For example, party-run study programmes for media officials and professionals have been expanded. The highly supported professional and technical training programmes for young media talents invariably contain courses related to the political role of media and public communication. The emerging copyright collection societies12 and media sector associations are also closely related with the party media departments, and many private media enterprises have now established party committees.

Evaluating media governance in practice In terms of achieving its primary goal, monopolising the public debate within the Chinese territory, the party-state has so far been successful. There are a number of opposing voices, particularly in online social media, but this may indicate the sophistication of the control regime in allowing a safety valve for discontent rather than a failure to control these messages. Certainly, 57

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these spheres are managed in such a way that dissent remains individualised and unorganised. However, the price of this external achievement is internal weakness and fragmentation. The structuring of media governance through administrative regulation has created an environment in which the rules can change rapidly and unpredictably. The prioritisation of political objectives over other interests, combined with a lack of checks, balances and accountability, resulted in a number of intractable tensions and what Keller (2003) calls a crisis of governance which has, if anything, deepened after the expansion of social media. This crisis manifests itself in the corpus of media rules which is mostly present in administrative regulations and orders, not in law. Since 1979, hundreds of documents with regulatory effect have been released13 by all the regulatory authorities involved, which are often contradictory. Also, it is often not clear which rules are still in force, or through which process they are enforced. As a result, it is very difficult for media operators and investors to gauge the present state of the rules. However, even if this was clear, the administration enjoys a wide discretionary space for intervention and discretion which is not limited by general provisions concerning basic rights of media outlets or consumers, robust tolerance or strong institutional checks. This has a number of consequences inhibiting development in the media sphere. First, official media outlets, being party institutions, have close relationships with the institutions supposed to manage them, leading to local protectionism and departmentalism. Second, promotion of management-level staff in both media outlets and regulatory bodies depends on party evaluation criteria which are often related to quantitative achievements. Consequently, media regulators are under pressure to pass regulatory documents as proof of their activity, even where they only reiterate existing rules or duplicate them in a more narrowly defined sphere. As a result, there are many documents related to the delivery of audiovisual services through television or the internet which all contain the same basic provisions on market access, content and punishment. Third, the media sphere is constantly in flux. When new rules are introduced, media operators often find creative ways to bypass their spirit, be they related to matters of content or commercial activity. One very visible example of this are film co-productions. Films that are officially classed as co-productions between foreign and Chinese enterprises are not subject to a number of limitations that foreign films are subjected to, and neither do they count towards the foreign film quota. The policy objective for co-productions is to provide opportunities for Chinese film companies to learn more about advanced filmmaking techniques, to support their export drive. However, from the Hollywood side, much more interest is aimed towards the booming Chinese cinema market. As a result of this, many ‘co-productions’ only feature token Chinese participation or content, while at the same time being very lucrative for the Chinese film studio (Burkitt 2013). Technological evolution also challenges the implementation of earlier rules. The party is constantly moving to deal with emerging political and social trends. In the absence of a framework of legal principles, this means that the administration continually needs to issue new documents to paper over the cracks left in earlier documents, confront strategic behaviour or to deal with new challenges that arise. The party also seems to display a naive trust in the content of its message. While it professes to support the creation of media products ‘that the people love to see and hear’, it has also prohibited the use of audience research and viewing rates to inform programme decision by television channels. The party seems to assume that audiences automatically embrace the content it wants to send as long as it is packaged well. However, many official productions with high production values and strong government support have not met with success in the marketplace. Conversely, many popular media products, including television programmes and online services, have been banned or strongly curtailed. For instance, although foreign films 58

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generally tend to bring in vastly larger box-office incomes than domestic films, the state-owned duopoly distributors China Film and Huaxia are required to support the screening of main melody productions, removing commercially more profitable works from circulation. This imposes a high cost on cinema owners. In addition, the poor product variety offered through official channels has provided strong incentive for piracy, exacerbating China’s poor reputation in the field of intellectual property protection. Lawlessness is not limited to the infringement of, often foreign, intellectual property rights. Corruption and other improper practices are rife at all levels of the media structure. There are repeated instances of journalists manufacturing news for payment or accepting bribes to keep certain stories from becoming public knowledge (Liu 2004). While there have been a number of high-profile convictions, such as that of Guangzhou media baron Li Yuanjiang in 2004 (Zhao 2008: 114), the problem remains serious enough for the party centre to dedicate a specific campaign against journalistic corruption in the run-up to the eighteenth party congress. Moreover, the administration’s licensing monopolies create further opportunities for rent-seeking behaviour. Apart from the above-mentioned internal cracks in the system, China’s media governance creates problems on the international stage as well. Apart from the well-known and high-profile concern about the state of human rights in China, the limitations on foreign participation in the Chinese media sector and the import of foreign media products have led to trade disputes, for example in the WTO. In one case, China-Audiovisuals, it was found that a number of Chinese restrictions on foreign products and businesses infringed WTO rules. Another case, China-Financial Information Services, was settled after it became clear that the restrictions on the information trading services of foreign operators were a clear violation of China’s WTO provisions. However, the impact of both cases on the domestic communication order is negligible. In the audiovisuals case, China updated a few legal provisions related to the import of media products, but the core matter – the right of foreign enterprises to distribute their own products on the Chinese market – is not a part of China’s WTO commitments and therefore out of the scope of this case. Further pressure was avoided through an agreement that provided for an increase in the number of foreign films permitted on the Chinese market, and an increase in the profit share of the foreign rights holders. As for financial information services, new regulations were passed which again do not significantly change the business environment for foreign service providers.

Conclusion China’s governance of its public communication sphere is closely related to philosophical concepts that have helped to shape structures, processes and expectations. There is no objective to create a pluralist forum with democratic representation, but an incentive to monopolise the sphere of public discourse. The party proclaims to be the evident and irreplaceable ruling group, led by scientific and infallible principles, and legitimised by its ability to deliver economic growth and national strengthening. As a result, the media are mainly governed through administrative fiat and kept on close watch by party organs. The role of civil law is limited, while criminal law is mainly used as a tool to combat dissent. Similarly, private media are heavily circumscribed but play an increasingly important role on the internet. Nonetheless, this structure is coming under increasing strain through corruption, fragmentation and the inevitable complexity of a modernising, industrialising society, as well as the loss of trust that the CCP faces. While the party’s grasp on power is still absolute and organised dissent has been mostly silenced, a deep 59

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malaise has taken hold in Chinese society and media. It will therefore fall to the successors of the Hu–Wen administration to tackle political and media reform head-on, or face an increasing delegitimation of their positions.

Notes 1 This is not to argue that these doctrines do not exist at all (Fu and Cullen 1998: 9; Liebman 2006: 33–177). However, they seem to have taken secondary importance to content control and market access. This is understandable given the fact that most mainstream media outlets are either party or state controlled, but it has created significant issues in the internet era. 2 A full list of licensing procedures can be found in Creemers (2012). 3 While this chapter centres on the 2011 Central Committee Resolution, it draws upon an extensive study of the corpus of media policy documents. A comprehensive selection of these is available in the English language on the author’s website: http://chinacopyrightandmedia.wordpress.com. 4 While this resembles Benthamite ideas of utilitarianism, the Chinese definition is strongly aimed at collective or communitarian values, rather than the subsequent debates on justice and the individual in Enlightenment Europe. 5 As translated by David Bandurski, they are: ‘Loving the Mother Country is honorable, harming the Mother Country is disgraceful; Serving the People is honorable, neglecting the People is disgraceful; Upholding science is honorable, blindness and ignorance are disgraceful; Hard work is honorable, idleness disgraceful; Unity and cooperation are honorable, using others for profit is disgraceful; Honesty and keeping one’s word are honorable, seeing personal gain and forgetting justice is disgraceful; Respecting laws and regulations is honorable, disobeying laws and regulations is disgraceful; Suffering for the struggle is honorable, conceit and lasciviousness are disgraceful’ (China Media Project 2007). 6 Lei Feng is a model soldier, who allegedly came from a poor peasant background, and did many good deeds: sending money to the parents of a fellow soldier after they became victims of flooding, darning socks of comrades and, most of all, diligently studying Chairman Mao. He is reputed to have been killed in an ordinary accident in 1962. Afterwards, his diaries were published as he was venerated as an example of the selfless revolutionary. There are questions whether or not Lei Feng and/or his diaries are fictional. See also Landsberger (2010). 7 For a more in-depth overview of these structures, see Creemers (2012). 8 SARFT and the General Administration of Press and Publications were merged in early 2013. 9 Sina’s organisation includes seven party branches and more than 190 party members (Changjun 2012). 10 In May 2012, Sina published three interrelated self-regulatory documents. The Community Management Regulations provide the substantive base, the Community Pact is the contract with users and the Community Committee System outlines the internal enforcement structure. Translations of these documents are available on the author’s website: http://chinacopyrightandmedia.wordpress.com/ ?s=sina+weibo#. Also see China Copyright and Media (2012). 11 The author has participated in projects supporting these two initiatives. 12 Copyright collection societies are organisations that receive payments for the use of, among others, film, television and music works on behalf of their copyright holders. 13 The author’s website, http://chinacopyrightandmedia.wordpress.com, contains translations of nearly 400 regulatory documents.

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Guo, Z. (2004) ‘WTO, “chanye hua” of the media and Chinese television’, working paper, Institut für Rundfunkökonomie, Universität zu Köln. Available online www.rundfunk-institut.uni-koeln.de/ institut/pdfs/18904.pdf (retrieved 6 May 2014). He, Q. (2008) The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China, Hong Kong: Human Rights in China (HRIC). Hu, Y. (1979) ‘Introduction at the conference on theory work principles’ (Lilun gongzuo wuxu yinyan), China Copyright and Media, 18 January. Available online http://chinacopyrightandmedia. wordpress.com/1979/01/18/introduction-at-the-conference-on-theory-work-principles/ (retrieved 25 August 2012, in English and in Chinese). Hua, S. (1990) ‘Big character posters in China: a historical survey’, Journal of Chinese Law 4: 234–56. Keller, P. (2000) ‘Rules without law: media regulation in China’, in E. Barendt et al. (eds), The Yearbook of Copyright and Media Law 2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 151–80. –––– (2003) ‘Privilege and punishment: press governance in China’, Yeshiva University Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Journal 21: 87–138. –––– (2011) European and International Media Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lai, K. (2008) An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Landsberger, S. (2010) ‘Learning by what example? Educational propaganda in twenty-first century China’, Critical Asian Studies 33(4): 541–71. Lee, C.C. (ed.) (2003) Chinese Media, Global Contexts, Abingdon: Routledge. Li, R. (1989) ‘Persisting in the principle of giving first place to positive propaganda’, China Copyright and Media, 25 November. Available online http://chinacopyrightandmedia.wordpress.com/1989/ 11/25/persisting-in-the-principle-of-giving-first-place-to-positive-propaganda/ (retrieved 6 May 2014). Liebman, B. (2006) ‘Innovation through intimidation: an empirical account of defamation litigation in China,’ Harvard International Law Journal 47(1): 33–177. Lin, P. (1990) ‘Between theory and practice: the possibility of a right to free speech in the People’s Republic of China’, Journal of Chinese Law 4: 257–76. Liu, X. (2004) ‘Corruption lingers in the shadows of the Chinese media’, China Perspectives 54: 45–8. Mao, Z. (1940) ‘On new democracy’, in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Maoist Documentation Project. Available online www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_26.htm (retrieved 18 August 2012). People’s Republic of China (1994) ‘Advertising Law of the People’s Republic of China’, Invest in China. Available online www.fdi.gov.cn/pub/FDI_EN/Laws/law_en_info.jsp?docid = 50868 (retrieved 9 August 2012). –––– (1997a) ‘Constitution of the People’s Republic of China’, People’s Daily Online. Available online http://english.people.com.cn/constitution/constitution.html (retrieved 20 August 2012). –––– (1997b) ‘Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China’, China.org.cn. Available online www.china.org.cn/english/government/207320.htm (retrieved 9 August 2012). Perry, E. (2008) ‘The Chinese conceptions of “rights”: from Mencius to Mao and now’, Perspectives on Politics 6(1): 37–50. SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film and Television) (2007) ‘Notice concerning strengthening mass-participation selection-type radio and television activity management’, China Copyright and Media, 20 September. Available online https://chinacopyrightandmedia.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/ management-regulations-concerning-further-standardizing-mass-participation-selection-type-radio-andtelevision-activities-and-programmes/ (retrieved 6 May 2014). –––– (2009) ‘Radio and television advertising broadcast management rules’ China Copyright and Media, 10 September. Available online https://chinacopyrightandmedia.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/radio-andtelevision-advertising-broadcast-management-rules/ (retrieved 6 May 2014). –––– (2011) ‘Notice concerning the nationwide television drama production filing announcement for March 2011’, China Copyright and Media, 29 March. Available online https://chinacopyrightand media.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/notice-concerning-the-nationwide-television-drama-shootingfiling-announcement-for-march-2011/ (retrieved 6 May 2014). Shirk, S. (ed.) (2011) Changing Media, Changing China, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sun, Y. (2012) ‘Chairman Mao laughed loudly in 1958: when we are reviled for being Qin Shihuangs, we acknowledge categorically’ (1958 nian Mao zhuxhi daxiao: Ma women shi Qinshihuang, women yigai chengren), People.com.cn, 5 March. Available online http://history.people.com.cn/GB/205396/ 17294309.html (retrieved 9 August 2012, in Chinese). Supreme People’s Court of the PRC (1986) ‘General principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China’, Supreme People’s Court of the PRC. Available online http://en.chinacourt.org/public/ detail.php?id=2696 (retrieved 9 August 2012). 62

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–––– (1993) ‘Supreme People’s Court explanation concerning some questions in the trial of cases involving the right of reputation’, China Copyright and Media, 7 August. Available online https://china copyrightandmedia.wordpress.com/1993/08/07/interpretation-concerning-some-questions-in-hearingreputation-rights-cases/ (retrieved 6 May 2014). –––– (1998) ‘Supreme People’s Court interpretation concerning some questions in the trial of cases involving the right to reputation’ (Zuigao renmin fayuan guanyu shenli mingyuquan anjian ruogan wenti de jieshi), official document (in Chinese). –––– (2003) ‘Laws and regulations: Anti Unfair Competition Law of the People’s Republic of China’, Supreme People’s Court of the PRC, 22 September. Available online http://en.chinacourt.org/public/ detail.php?id=3306 (retrieved 9 August 2012). SZNS News (2011) ‘The party committee of Tencent Corporation is established’ (Tengxun gongsi dangwei chengli), Shenzhen Nanshan, 18 July. Available online www.sznsnews.com/content/2011–07/18/ content_5849316.htm (retrieved 24 August 2012, in Chinese). Vogel, E. (2011) Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Von Senger, H. (2012) ‘Wert in China’, in Ivo de Gennaro (ed.), Value: Sources and Readings on a Key Concept of the Globalised World, Leiden: Brill: 399–414. Xinhua (undated) ‘CV of Cai Wu’ (Cai Wu jianli), Xinhua News. Available online http://news.xinhuanet. com/ziliao/2005–8/19/content_3374695.htm (retrieved 10 October 2011, in Chinese). –––– (2011) ‘CV of Cai Fuchao’ (Cai Fuchao jianli), Xinhua News, 31 March. Available online http://news.xinhuanet.com/ziliao/2011–03/31/c_121253787.htm (retrieved 10 October 2011, in Chinese). –––– (2012) ‘Youku files unfair competition lawsuit against Tudou’, Xinhua English News, 2 February. Available online http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012–02/02/c_131388705.htm (retrieved 27 July 2012). Zhang, X. (2011) The Transformation of Political Communication in China: From Propaganda to Hegemony, Abingdon: World Scientific. Zhao, Y.Z. (2008) Communication in China: Political Economy, Power and Conflict, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Zhao, Z. (1987) ‘Report at the thirteenth congress of the Chinese Communist Party’ (Zai Zhongguo gongchandang dishisanci quanguo daibiao dahui de baogao’, CCP People’s Congress Database, 25 October. Available online http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64168/64566/65447/4526368.html (retrieved 6 May 2014, in Chinese).

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Part II

Journalism, press freedom and social mobilisation

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4 Western missionaries and origins of the modern Chinese press Yuntao Zhang

China can lay claim to being the oldest print civilisation in the world. However a modern culture of journalism and publishing was in fact a relatively late arrival, coinciding with the import of modern printing technology from the west. For over a thousand years, Chinese journalism was dominated by the official gazette called DiBao (Peking Gazette). This organ of the imperial state comprised edicts, news of government appointments and court affairs, and served a small privileged readership. It was not until 1815 that what could be considered the first modern periodical (though not strictly speaking a Chinese publication) was to appear in China (Zhang 2007: 12). This was the work of two British missionaries, Robert Morrison and William Milne, and it marked the beginnings of a process, spanning the nineteenth century, in which a group of predominantly British and American Protestant missionaries pursued a strategy of evangelism centred on the development of journalism, publishing and printing enterprises in China. This chapter aims to provide a short outline of this process and some reflections on its wider cultural consequences. The work of the Protestant ‘missionary journalists’ quickly grew from an exclusive focus on religious affairs to embrace some of the key ideas and themes of what would now be understood as western secular modernity; and indeed this was a key feature of their strategy. The missionaries understood scientific–technical progress, along with liberal civic culture, to be the gifts of Christian enlightenment, and promoted these in the attempt to convince the Chinese of the wider virtues of conversion to the Christian faith. Though, in the short term at least, this indirect evangelical strategy was to have limited success,1 the missionaries can be seen as the agents of the cultural transmission of western modernity across a wider front. At the same time as introducing the techniques and practices of modern western journalism, the missionary press was to stimulate ‘indigenous’ Chinese journalism. The longer term consequence of this press was helping to promote political reform which fundamentally altered the face of Chinese society. This was part of a wider and complicated story of the impact of missionary activity in China, and in the space available here a number of restrictions must be imposed on the discussion.2 First, I will focus almost exclusively on the activities of the Protestant missionaries. Catholic missionaries, particularly Jesuits, had been a dominant presence in China for over 200 years before the arrival of the Protestants.3 But over the course of the nineteenth century the Protestants’ China mission was to outperform the Catholic one in several respects. One of 67

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the most significant of these was in respect of their deployment and development of journalism as a tool of evangelism. Moreover, even among the Protestants, my focus will be on a relatively small group. The earliest Protestants involved in printing and publishing enterprises – Robert Morrison, Walter Medhurst and others – maintained a fairly narrow traditional programme of evangelisation through religious publications. The influential Protestant journalists of the late nineteenth century whose publications we explore here (figures such as Young Allen, Timothy Richard and Calvin Mateer) were by contrast in the main from the more ‘liberal wing’ of the Protestant mission in the sense of being less driven by the desire simply to convert (Varg 1965).4 Rather, they were devoted to the wider aim of building modern education in China and enlightening the educated Chinese through the increasingly secular content of their publications. This was a small group: in Cohen’s words, Protestant journalists concerned with broader social change constituted only a ‘tiny fraction of the Protestant missionary community’ (Cohen 1995: 555–6). Nevertheless, this ‘tiny fraction’, expressing their spirituality via a progressive rational–intellectual and social–developmental mission, had an enormous social, political and cultural impact towards the end of the nineteenth century. This chapter traces this influence by focusing on the case of the Chinese Global Magazine and Review of the Times (Wanguo Gongbao),5 the most influential Protestant periodical in the nineteenth century, and assesses its considerable impact on Chinese scholars and how it gave rise to modern Chinese ‘elite’ journalism.6 Finally, by way of qualification, it is worth mentioning the significance of what Paul Cohen (1974: 197) has called, ‘the polarity between littoral and hinterland’ in nineteenth-century China. Increased western influence, and missionary influence in particular, reached the east and south coastal treaty ports after 1842 following China’s defeat by the British in the Opium War, and it was thus Canton, Ningbo, Xiamen, Hong Kong and, after 1860, Shanghai that became the centres of the missionary publication in China. All this is in fairly stark contrast with the much slower pace of change in the hinterland. Indeed, Cohen (1974: 198–9) does not exaggerate in stating that modern Chinese history consisted of ‘two largely separate and distinct cultural environments’. The pioneering Chinese reform journalists, such as Wang Tao, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, were very much influenced by the missionary publications, in other words by the ‘littoral’ cultural environment. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, and especially after China’s disastrous defeat in the Sino-Japanese War, Chinese reform journalists, no longer restricted to the treaty ports, came to embrace western learning in earnest. This is the period on which the discussion chiefly focuses: the time at which the influence of missionary newspapers such as Wanguo Gongbao (1874–83) reached its peak. Chinese scholar-journalists across the country became most vigorous, first in their emulation and then in their distinctive appropriation of the legacy of the missionaries.

The development of Wanguo Gongbao Chinese missionary publishing may be traced to 1815, the year in which Robert Morrison7 and William Milne from the London Missionary Society established the China Monthly Magazine. This, at least, is the standard view, first proposed by Gongzhen Ge in his early account of the history of Chinese journalism (Ge 1935: 67), and thereafter frequently endorsed (Fang 1997; H. Huang 2001; T. Huang 1930; Zeng 1977). However, since China Monthly Magazine was actually published in Malacca, it may be more strictly correct to cite the journal East West Monthly Magazine edited by Karl Friedrich August Gutzlaff in Canton in 1833. However, these origins are of less consequence than the period of expansion from the 1840s to the 1890s, during which western missionaries established around 170 newspapers and periodicals, accounting for 95 per 68

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cent of the total press in China (Fang 1991: 18). Among all these publications, Wanguo Gongbao stood out as the most influential (Zhu 1998: 2). Its dynamic founder and editor, the American Methodist Young Allen,8 presided over its transformation from a predominantly religious organ with the appropriate title Church News to a much broader interest journal bearing the titles Global Magazine and Review of the Times, from the amalgam of which the Chinese title Wanguo Gongbao eventually derived. In 1868, Church News was established in Shanghai as an unofficial organ serving the Protestant churches in China, but within six years it was transformed into a general news magazine. In 1874 it was renamed the Chinese Global Magazine, with the self-conscious aim of reaching out to the Chinese literati. Following a period of suspension between 1883 and 1889, it reappeared as the official organ of the Society for the Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge among the Chinese (SDK)9 and with the new title, A Review of the Times. This publishing history might seem to reflect a gradual shift in editorial policy from an orientation towards religious affairs to a policy of more oblique evangelism through general education. In fact the shift of focus was much more rapid. Like most of the liberal Protestant missionaries of that time, Allen regarded the propagation of western science and material progress as intrinsic to the project of Christian evangelism. So, as Adrian Bennett notes, even in the early days of Church News there had begun a shift in the balance of content in favour of news, scientific material and commentary. By volume three, religious coverage had already declined from 48 per cent to a mere 18 per cent and secular news coverage and criticism and commentary had risen proportionately. As Bennett says, it had become, in effect ‘a weekly newsmagazine covering a variety of subjects with only a comparatively small percentage dealing with religion’ (Bennett 1983: 112). So the trajectory for Wanguo Gongbao was clear from its inception. After 1889 Wanguo Gongbao carried not only growing amounts of news, both domestic and international, but a comprehensive body of western knowledge designed to enlighten the Chinese, in the first instance through the educated elite (Xiong 1995: 395). In the following section we explore this secular–modern content in more detail.

An emphasis on science and technology According to Cohen (1995: 578), during the nineteenth century ‘Protestants produced more books on science and mathematics than on all other non-religious subjects combined’. Western science indeed had a presence in the missionary journals from the early days of the China Monthly Magazine, in which knowledge of western astronomy was advocated by the missionaries in order to counter Chinese superstition. This was greatly expanded in Church News, and following this in Wanguo Gongbao whose first pages were often devoted to scientific articles and/or illustrations covering a wide range of subjects from practical knowledge to disciplines such as chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, botany, geography, medicine and agriculture (Bennett 1983: 189–94). The articles generally had a clear practical and educational function: ‘advice was given on how to purify water; prescriptions for some diseases were offered such as those dealing with intestinal parasites’ (Bennett 1983: 193). In addition, many of the fashionable inventions and technological developments at that time were introduced. For instance in 1874, Wanguo Gongbao published a seven-part essay on the telegraph covering its history and commercial and industrial applications, along with more technical aspects (Bennett 1983: 190). More significantly, beyond offering basic scientific knowledge Wanguo Gongbao advocated a set of strategies – the development of railways, coal mines, the telegraph and so on – needed to industrialise China. For instance, it tirelessly promoted the way in which railway transport would benefit China. In 1889, a series of essays appeared to introduce how the railway works 69

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and to demonstrate its benefits, such as reducing travel costs, boosting travel and business, with figures drawn from British and American sources. Thus modern science and technology was packaged together with religion as representing the fruits of western civilisation.

The move towards social and political criticism In addition to the promotion of western science and technology, Wanguo Gongbao addressed social and political problems in China and offered opinions as to their solution. During the 1870s and 1880s, Wanguo Gongbao gradually but decisively moved to becoming an organ of social and political discussion and critique. At the core of its concerns during this time were the traditional education and examination systems. In volumes 653–6 (1881), Calvin Wilson Mateer wrote a celebrated article, ‘On school reform’. He pointed out three serious problems of Chinese education: first, that an unquestioning respect for the classics was stifling progressive scholarship; second, that the sole purpose of schooling – to gain an official position – undermined the profound significance of learning; and third, that a psychological resistance to western learning, for example of machine manufacturing, still prevented the educated Chinese from broadening their outlook (S. Wang 1998: 20–1). Young Allen had also written articles criticising the Chinese educational system. As early as 1875, Allen accused the practice of the ‘eight-legged essay’10 of blinding Chinese scholars to new knowledge and world progress, thus contributing to the stagnation of society (Wanguo Gongbao, vol. 358, 1875). In a later article (Wanguo Gongbao, vol. 704, 1882), Allen accused the classicsdominated Chinese curriculum of jeopardising social development. He suggested that schools should adopt western-style curricula, and include subjects such as astronomy, geography, physics, agriculture, mathematics, chemistry and medical studies (S. Wang 1998: 19–20). In 1881, Young Allen took the more radical step of setting up the Sino-Anglo College in Shanghai to teach this western curriculum, with Chinese learning playing only a minor role. This established a trend that proved to be increasingly popular with the Chinese. By 1890 there were 16,836 Chinese attending the growing number of missionary-run schools across the country (Xiong 1995: 290–1). Several of today’s prominent Chinese universities, such as Peking University (i.e. Beijing University) and Nanjing University, originated from the missionary colleges of that time. Thus the missionaries undoubtedly played a crucial role in modernising the Chinese educational system, and campaigning through journals like Wanguo Gongbao was a significant aspect of this. Following China’s disastrous failure in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, the issue of educational reform was overtaken by the ensuing political crisis. In Wanguo Gongbao Timothy Richard, Gilbert Reid and Young Allen all wrote pieces condemning the corrupt imperial bureaucracy. Among them, Allen’s was the most vehement (vols. 82–7, 1895–96). He accused the authorities of being totally irresponsible and leaving the people in misery. Levels of corruption were so severe, Allen noted, that the military expenditure went into the private pockets of officers dealing with the arms trade. He pointed out that China’s shattering defeat was unavoidable given such ridiculous tactics as the use of coal powder for explosives or soy beans as bullets, but he stated that the politicians who conducted these outrageous crimes were the ones who appeared in the official DiBao and were given public acclaim. Allen went so far as to use the words ‘arrogant, ignorant, untrustworthy, brutal, greedy and passive’ to describe the weaknesses of the educated Chinese and the ruling class. These criticisms struck a deep chord with the leading reform-oriented scholars like Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao and Tan Shitong, who used them to arouse public concern about the national crisis and to appeal for political reform. 70

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Building on this criticism, the missionaries began to suggest a programme of comprehensive political reform. Rather than revolution, the missionaries were in favour of evolutionary reform strategies.11 Timothy Richard was personally involved in the Reform Movement of 1895–98. In his autobiography, Richard records his frequent meetings with reformist political figures in Peking (i.e. Beijing) including the Chinese Prime Minister, Weng Tonghe, who even invited him to write a brief statement of what was most needed in China in the way of reform. Richard (1916: 256) laid out a scheme with four vital requirements: ‘educational reform, economic reform, internal and international peace, and spiritual regeneration’. In the event, Prime Minister Weng did not mention the proposal in his diary, implying his possible disagreement and the suppression of the proposal in the imperial court. However, Richard’s reform scheme was published in Wanguo Gongbao with the title of ‘New policy’ in vol. 87 (1896). Reading Kang Youwei’s policy proposal to the emperor during the Reform Movement, Richard noted the remarkable similarity with his own plan (Zhu and Long 2000: 190). To fully grasp the strategy of the missionaries in their increasing engagement with social and political issues, it is useful to emphasise the target readership of SDK publishing, particularly under the leadership of Timothy Richard. Richard was convinced that promoting western learning through publications was the most effective way of influencing the Chinese. In his account, two groups of readership were the main target: first, participants in the civil examination across the country who had reached one million in total by the 1890s. The local missionaries could attend the examination centres to hand out free copies of SDK publications. Second, the potential regular readership could reach 44,000 if all levels of officials, gentry scholars and a small number of their family members are included (Jiang 1988: 34). As the 1894 seventh annual report of SDK (Chuban Shiliao 1989) claims, to influence these educated Chinese also meant influencing the rest of the Chinese population who respected and followed the leading class. As the SDK had such a specific focus on inspiring the Chinese literati, it is not surprising to see its organ Wanguo Gongbao organising writing contests to encourage Chinese scholars to understand and absorb western solutions to China’s problems. In these contests prizes were offered for the best essays on specified titles, such as ‘The comparison of science in the west and in China’ or ‘The advantages which would accrue if China would introduce machinery for the preparation of tea and the reeling of silk, so as better to compete with foreign countries’. These titles obviously mirrored the missionaries’ solution to China’s problems, i.e. industrialisation, modernisation and westernisation. Chinese scholars were encouraged to learn from the west, think like the west and speak like the west. One of the prize-winners was Kang Youwei who as we shall see was to become one of the leading scholars in the later Reform Movement. In the context of the growing national crisis, namely China’s disastrous defeat by the Japanese navy in 1895, Wanguo Gonbao’s influence was also marked by its publication, in serialised form, of two historical works: a translation of the British historian Robert Mackenzie’s History of the Nineteenth Century and A History of the Sino-Japanese War, a compilation of foreign-language news reports and comments edited by Young Allen (Xiong 1995: 56; Zhou 1995: 5). Though neither of these would have been considered particularly distinguished works for a western readership – for example, R.G. Collingwood described Mackenzie’s history as ‘among the most unsavoury relics of third rate historical work’ (Collingwood 1967: 145) – the bold narrative of progress they contained proved enormously popular with the educated Chinese seeking a way forward. This indeed represented the peak of Wanguo Gongbao’s influence, with its readership including the emperor himself along with ministers and ordinary gentry scholars. In one month in 1895, demand was so great that a second edition had to be printed, and by 1898 its print run had increased from 1,000 to 40,000, ahead of all other periodicals of the time (Ye 1996). 71

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The income of the SDK increased 20 times from 1893 to 1898. As Wanguo Gongbao penetrated throughout China, Young Allen’s Chinese name, Lin Lezhi, became extremely well known. It was during this time of national crisis and the increasing political influence of Wanguo Gongbao that the contributions of the Chinese scholars themselves began to increase. According to Xiong (1995: 415), in addition to the missionaries, over 500 Chinese writers from over 50 cities contributed to Wanguo Gongbao, among whom were leading politicians, diplomats and scholars, such as Guo Songtao, Wang Tao, Zheng Guanying, Sun Wen (i.e. Sun Zhongshan or Sun Yat-sen), Xue Fucheng and Kang Youwei. Many of these Chinese contributors soon began to set up their own publications to promote social and political reform. It is to this pivotal point for the emergence of Chinese elite journalism in the late nineteenth century, bearing the unmistakable influences of Wanguo Gongbao in both practical and intellectual perspectives, that we now turn.

Wang Tao and the XunHuan Daily Wang Tao was among the most celebrated Chinese scholars of the nineteenth century. An accomplished classical scholar, in 1849 he joined the London Missionary Society Press as a translator and amanuensis. It was this experience of the Protestant missionary circle and his involvement with missionary publishing that equipped Wang Tao, ahead of most of his fellow Chinese, with an alternative set of values and views of the world to traditional Chinese ones. Under the influence of western missionaries, but with his own particular sense of social responsibility, Wang Tao transformed himself from a classical scholar into a modern intellectual and in 1874 founded The XunHuan Daily which was to become the leading newspaper in the first wave of Chinese-run press (Huang 2001: 38). Despite being a baptised Christian Wang Tao did not use the newspaper to promote religious ideas. Rather, he declared that the purpose of the XunHuan Daily was to help solve the problems of China by learning from the west. The newspaper rapidly built a reputation for its incisive editorials which appeared in almost every issue (Ding 1997: 245). One of the most insightful and radical Chinese scholars of the time, Wang Tao criticised the Qing government’s ‘Self-strengthening Movement’ (Ziqiang yundong) as a superficial response to the crisis: adopting western military technology but failing to engage with the necessary training to independently master the technology. For Wang Tao, the only solution to rescue China from its national crisis was to reform its core institutions, specifically the civil examination system, the army, schools and the law. Wang Tao condemned the ‘eight-legged essay’ that formed the basis of civil service examinations and suggested its replacement by a combination of Chinese and western subjects which would be linked to curricular reform in schools (W. Wang 1958: 41–5). Here the influence of the western missionaries was evident, as it was in Wang Tao’s promotion of industrialisation and foreign trade. Apart from his comments on international relations concerning China, Wang Tao also wrote in XunHuan Daily about social issues such as flooding, famine and gambling (Ding 1997: 245–8). On the basis of this work, historians of Chinese journalism have often named Wang Tao as the first leading modern Chinese political columnist (Fang 1997: 473–9).

The new generation of reformers and the emergence of independent Chinese elite journalism Although individual reformers close to the missionary circle around Wanguo Gongbao remained active past the turn of the century, it was a younger generation of reformers beginning in the 72

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1890s that were to constitute the most important group in the establishment of an independent press. Among these, Kang Youwei (1858–1927) and Liang Qichao (1873–1929) were perhaps the most significant figures. Unlike Wang Tao who mixed with the missionaries from an early stage, Kang began as an isolated reader of Wanguo Gongbao, maintaining that ‘he owed his conversion to reform chiefly to the writings of two missionaries, Rev. Timothy Richard and Dr Young Allen’ (Candler 1931: 174–5). Chen (1962: 75–6) also suggests that Wanguo Gongbao played an important role in transforming Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao from ‘old-style scholar-literati’ to political activists who promoted reform through journalism. In March 1895, Kang and Liang left Canton for Peking to attend the triennial metropolitan examinations. In April, the disastrous news of China’s defeat by Japan and the Treaty of Shimonoseki arrived in Peking. As Japan had long been despised by the Chinese as an inferior culture, this defeat naturally aroused the patriotic fury of the literati assembled at Peking for the examination. Kang and Liang drew up a 10,000-word petition and collected the signatures of 1,200 provincial graduates to protest against the peace treaty and request institutional reform. This event has generally been regarded as the first ‘mass political movement’ in modern China (Hsu 1990: 367). Following this demonstration, Kang Youwei and other leading reformists began work to influence imperial officialdom and win the support of the gentry literati at large. They adopted a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, they began to organise study societies among the educated elite across the country. On the other, they published newspapers to promote their reform schemes and to lobby ‘for greater communication between the throne and the literati’ (Liu 1968: 177). Newspapers and periodicals were considered as vitally important in the creation of informed opinion and an atmosphere of reform. This was, as Chang (1971: 149) suggests, perhaps ‘the most important institutional innovation’ in the late Qing Dynasty. Indeed, if Wang Tao’s XunHuan Daily represents the first formal break with the official gazette the DiBao, Kang and Liang’s journalistic practice arguably produced a more profound institutional break. In August 1895, the first reformist newspaper was set up in Peking. Significantly, though for the historian rather confusingly, for the first three months of its life it shared the same name as the periodical operated by the missionaries in Shanghai, Wanguo Gongbao. Kang Youwei personally contributed funds towards its publication. Timothy Richard (1916: 54) wrote the following about the newspaper: The Peking Gazette [DiBao], the organ of the Government, had been for a thousand years the sole publication in the capital, but now, for the first time in China’s history, there appeared a new paper, independent of the Government, though having its secret support. This was issued by the Reform Society.12 Richard considered that the Chinese had adopted the name of Wanguo Gongbao because of ‘the timidity of the Reform Society at this period’ (1916: 54). They knew that the Wanguo Gongbao of the SDK ‘had been in circulation for many years amongst the leading officials without any opposition’ (Richard 1916: 54). Richard also pointed out that the Chinese Wanguo Gongbao first consisted mainly of reprints from the western Wanguo Gongbao. In his view, the only difference was that the western Wanguo Gongbao was printed in metallic type in Shanghai, whilst the Chinese one was printed from the wooden type used in the publication of the government official gazette. Thus Richard claimed that in outward appearance the Chinese Wanguo Gongbao 73

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resembled the government’s official organ, ‘whilst in contents it was introducing western ideas propagated by the SDK’ (1916: 54). Indeed, many of the contents of Wanguo Gongbao under the editorship of Liang Qichao and Mai Menghua were simply reprints of those originally published in the SDK’s Wanguo Gongbao, for example articles ‘On western schools’, ‘On western newspapers’, ‘On railways’, ‘The importance of the postal system’, ‘On modern agriculture’ and ‘On currency’ (Fang 1997: 543). Following the formal establishment of the study society Qingxue Hui in November 1895, the Chinese changed the periodical’s name to World Report (Zhongwai Jiwen), but the influence of the SDK’s Wanguo Gongbao continued, as it did in other reformist newspapers. Despite a hesitant start and the short life of some titles,13 new Chinese newspapers and periodicals began to flourish throughout the country during the Reform Movement years of 1895–98. Among these, Shiwu Bao was one of the earliest and most important. Established in August 1896 in the British settlement of Shanghai, it was published every ten days and each issue contained between 20 and 30 pages of miscellaneous content. The similarities with Wanguo Gongbao are worth noting. Shiwu Bao modelled its format on the SDK’s Wanguo Gongbao. Starting with comment on current affairs and reform campaigns, the news section followed. This, like the SDK publication, consisted of domestic news (mostly a selection from the official Peking Gazette) and international news translated from foreign newspapers and classified in relation to the main western powers. However the similarities were not simply a matter of layout; Shiwu Bao demonstrated the same focus of political concerns. The considerable amount of international news in Shiwu Bao reflected the eagerness of the Chinese scholars to understand the international world dominated by western powers. Not only the form, but also the themes of Shiwu Bao’s editorial comments, such as the urging of economic reform and school modernisation, resembled those of Wanguo Gongbao. For example, Shiwu Bao treated the issue of railways particularly seriously. It serialised the translation of the London Railway Company Regulations over 12 issues from 19 August to 15 December 1896. In this it was clearly influenced by the tireless advocacy of railways by Wanguo Gongbao throughout its campaign for industrialisation in China. In another example, Wanguo Gongbao’s anti-foot binding campaign was also taken up in Shiwu Bao (vols. 38 and 40, 1897). However despite its many debts to Wanguo Gongbao, Shiwu Bao was distinguished by its original editorials, chiefly written by Liang Qichao. Liang’s writings on the reform campaign echoed the opinions and attitudes of many Chinese scholars and so attracted a large readership. After half a year, the circulation of Shiwu Bao had reached 7,000. A year later, a circulation of 17,000 copies at one point made Shiwu Bao the best-selling periodical in China (Fang 1997: 559). As a principal organ of the Reform Movement, Shiwu Bao set a trend, stimulating more Chinese scholars into organisational and subsequently publishing activities. According to Fang (1997: 539), from 1895 to 1898 there appeared at least 100 Chinese newspapers and magazines, most of which were established by the reform-oriented scholars and gentry officials. These publications now extended to many centres outside of the south-eastern coastal areas. For example, Yu Bao (1897) in Chongqing, Shuxue Bao (1898) in Chengdu, Guowen Bao (1897) in Tianjing and Xiangxue Xin Bao (1897) in Changsha. They reflected the whole range of political attitudes to reform and even included the first women’s newspaper in Chinese history, Nüxue Bao (1898), which advocated broad social reform alongside women’s emancipation. This remarkable increase continued into the twentieth century, so by 1911, 700–800 Chinese newspapers and periodicals had emerged (Britton 1933: 81).14 With the rise of independent newspapers and periodicals, study societies also saw a rapid growth. From 1895 to 1900, 73 study societies were organised by gentry scholars (E. Wang 2003: 31). The reform scholars thus established themselves as the leading force for social and cultural transformation in early modern China. 74

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Conclusion In just under 30 years from the publication of the SDK’s Wanguo Gongbao to Shiwu Bao, the Chinese press had entered fully into the modern era of journalism. However an important qualification must be added. Many of the early independent Chinese periodicals, while having far-reaching social and political impact, were in fact short-lived. This was undoubtedly because of a hostile political environment in which the institution of a free press had failed to be constitutionalised. The missionaries had the advantage of publishing independently of control by the Qing government. In fact, many missionary publications, such as Wanguo Gongbao, were published inside the foreign settlement in Shanghai which had its own independent governing council called the Shanghai Municipal Council (Hawks Pott 1928: 64).15 It was partly due to this that the missionary publications such as Wanguo Gongbao were able to become an arena for social and political criticism. Nevertheless, the press freedom enjoyed by the missionaries was highly conditional and not, in fact, legally constitutionalised. The missionary press were tolerated and allowed to develop in China only because the Qing government had been defeated in the war against the Anglo-French invasion and forced to recognise the treaties of Tianjing in the 1860s. The western missionaries were thereafter allowed to travel throughout China. In this sense, it might be said that the missionary press flourished on the back of western gunboat diplomacy: without the success of the western military invasion, its enormous impact in China would have been quite difficult to achieve. Living in the Shanghai foreign settlement qualified the missionaries even more as a privileged social group in China. So the freedom the missionary press had achieved, to some extent, was given rather than struggled for, imported rather than driven by an inner force. It is not only these historical circumstances that explain the peculiar and frail nature of this free press, but also the cultural agenda of the missionaries. Their ultimate religious purpose and the package of instrumental modernity that contained it did not cherish the essential idea of liberty of the press at its core. As the case study of Wanguo Gongbao has demonstrated, this periodical carried a great deal of social and political criticism and propagated the democratic policies of western nations. It did little, however, to stress the key liberal concepts that were formative in the idea of the press as the Fourth Estate (Briggs and Burke 2002: 192). Although the constitutional democracy and freedom of the press were formally legalised in the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China in 1911, it was short-lived. As the Republic fell into the control of warlords, censorship quickly returned, in some cases with the application of extreme force. In 1926, two well-known journalists, Shao Piaoping and Lin Baishui, were executed without trial in Peking by the warlord government. Both the Nationalist Party (i.e. Kuomintang or KMT) in the 1930s and 1940s, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after 1949 established autocratic or totalitarian systems; but, of course, the most severe political control and censorship of journalism was during the era of Communist China. Chu Anping, the ‘Fabian Confucianist’, was an eminent journalist under both the Nationalist and Communist regimes. Unfortunately, his prediction, made in 1947 before the Communists took power, proved to be true: To be honest, under the Nationalists our fight for freedom is really over the question of ‘how much freedom’. If the Communists come to power, the question is going to be ‘will we have freedom at all?’. (Lee 2001: 240) 75

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According to an estimate by Chang and Halliday (2005), well over 70 million Chinese, including Chu Anping, perished under Mao’s rule during peacetime after 1949. This still fails to appear in any Chinese journalistic publication. In other words, from this study we have learned that Chinese intellectuals have been seeking a free press in turbulent times for over 100 years. However for Chinese journalists the liberty of the press has so far remained an unrealised aspiration.

Notes 1 Although the number of Chinese Protestant converts remained limited in the nineteenth century, the long-term influence of the Protestants cannot, of course, be dismissed in accounting for an estimated 35 million practising Protestants in China today. The Christian revival in China has been remarkable after the repression of Mao’s era (Lim 2004). 2 I explore these issues in more detail in my book The Origins of the Modern Chinese Press (Zhang 2007). 3 Catholic (Jesuit) missionaries had been in China from the end of the sixteenth century and dominated the Christian presence up to the end of the eighteenth century (Mungello 1999). Although the Jesuits, including famous figures like Matteo Ricci, established the first cultural links between China and Europe (Gallagher 1953; Spence 1985), there is no evidence to suggest that they published periodicals in China using European printing techniques. Their limited number of publications of Christian reading and scientific works were printed with traditional Chinese woodblock or wood types (Su 2000: 79). 4 Wylie (1967) lists 31 Protestant missionary societies engaged in publishing in China up to 1867. These publications were dominated by Christian content with a small proportion of general knowledge. Among them the London Missionary Society Press was the most productive due to the provision of printing machines by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1847 (Su 2000: 231). Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Society for the Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge among the Chinese (SDK), though not exclusively a missionary organisation, as we shall see became one of the most influential publishing enterprises in China (see n. 9 below). 5 Wanguo Gongbao (1874–83) was later compiled and edited by Taiwan Huawen Press in 1968. 6 We may distinguish two lines of development in journalism in nineteenth-century China: one led by the missionaries that later inspired the Chinese educated elite; the other, a commercial-oriented enterprise established by the western business circle. The term ‘elite’ is used here to distinguish the former, serious, politically oriented press from the latter popular, commercial press. 7 Landing in Canton in 1807, Robert Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to arrive in China. 8 Young Allen was funded by the American Methodist Church (South), but this was interrupted for nearly five years due to the American Civil War (Bennett 1983: 22). As a result, Allen was obliged to take a number of jobs simply to support himself. He taught in Shanghai Tongwen Guan, a staterun language training college with a mathematics and science programme; worked as a translator for Shanghai Municipal Council, joined the Translation Bureau of the Kiangnan Arsenal and worked as editor of Shanghai Xinbao, a commercial newspaper. All these experiences brought him into close contact not only with the Qing government but also with wider Chinese society and were undoubtedly influential in shaping his pragmatic missionary strategy, expressed in the stress on education and journalism (Liang 1978: 10–11). 9 The SDK was established in 1887 by a group of western expatriates including missionaries, businessmen and councillors in Shanghai. Its name was changed to the Christian Literature Society at the beginning of the twentieth century (Liang 1978: 89–90). 10 The ‘eight-legged essay’ (Bagu wen) was a formalised but increasingly meaningless exercise at the core of much of the mid- and late-Qing prose writing; but mastering its form was essential to success in the government examinations (Lee 2002: 147). 11 Young Allen wrote in Wanguo Gongbao vol. 84 (1895) criticising the emergent revolution in south China led by Sun Zhongshan (i.e. Sun Yat-sen) who went on to found the Republic of China in 1911. This stands in notable contrast to his and other missionaries’ support for the Reform Movement by Kang and Liang during 1895–98. 12 Reform Society here refers to the Qingxue Hui (Study Society for National Strengthening) which was formally established in November 1895. 76

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13 The journal Qiangxue Bao, set up in Shanghai by Kang Youwei and other reformists, only lasted for two weeks (three issues) due to a hostile political environment, and World Report was closed down after just one month (18 issues). 14 The original copies of the majority of the early modern newspapers can be accessed in the Chinese National Library in Beijing, Beijing University Library, Beijing Normal University Library, Fudan University Library in Shanghai and Shanghai Library. Wanguo Gonbao cited in this chapter was edited and compiled by Taiwan Huawen Press in 1968. 15 After the Nanjing Treaty was signed in 1842, the British government built the first foreign settlement in Shanghai. Soon the French and American governments followed suit. The majority of the Protestants involved in journalism and publishing lived in the British and American settlement which was called the International Settlement (Hawks Pott 1928: 10–13 and 64–6).

References Bennett, A. (1983) Missionary Journalism in China: Young J. Allen and His Magazine 1860–1883, Athens: University of Georgia Press. Briggs, A. and Burke, P. (2002) A Social History of the Media, Cambridge: Polity. Britton, R.S. (1933) The Chinese Periodical Press 1800–1912, Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh. Candler, W. (1931) Young J. Allen: The Man Who Seeded China, Nashville, TN: Cokesbury Press. Chang, H. (1971) Liang Qichao and Intellectual Transition in China 1890–1907, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chang, J. and Halliday, J. (2005) Mao: The Unknown Story, London: Vintage Books. Chen, C.Y. (1962) ‘Liang Chi-chao’s “missionary education”: a case study of missionary influence on the reformers’, Papers on China vol. 16, Cambridge, MA: East Asian Research Centre, Harvard University (informal collection of papers). Chuban Shiliao (1989) ‘The society for the diffusion of Christian and general knowledge among the Chinese, seventh annual report 1894’, Studies in Publishing History (February): 72–6. Cohen, P. (1974) ‘Littoral and hinterland in nineteenth century China: the “Christian” reformers’, in J.K. Fairbank (ed.), The Missionary Enterprise in China and America, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 197–225. –––– (1995) ‘Christian missions and their impact to 1900’, in J.K. Fairbank (ed.), The Cambridge History of China vol. 10, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 543–90. Collingwood, R.G. (1967) The Idea of History, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ding, F. (ed.) (1997) The Development of Chinese News Editorials (Xinwen pinglun xue), Shanghai: Fudan University Press (in Chinese). Fang, H. (1991) A History of Early Modern Chinese Journalism (Zhongguo jindai baokan shi), Taiyuan: Shanxi Education Press (in Chinese). –––– (1997) A History of Chinese Journalism (Zhongguo xinwen shiye tongshi), Beijing: Renmin University Press (in Chinese). Gallagher, L. (1953) China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci 1595–1610, New York: Random House. Ge, G. (1935) A History of Chinese Newspapers (Zhongguo baoxue shi), Shanghai: Commercial Press (in Chinese). Hawks Pott, F.L. (1928) A Short History of Shanghai, Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh. Hsu, I. (1990) The Rise of Modern China, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Huang, H. (2001) A History of Chinese Journalism (Zhongguo xinwen shiye fazhan shi), Shanghai: Fudan University Press (in Chinese). Huang, T. (1930) A History of Chinese Journalism (Zhongguo xinwen shiye), Shanghai: Lianhe Press (in Chinese). Jiang, W. (1988) ‘What is SDK as an organisation?’ (Guangxuehui shi zhenyang de yige jigou?), Studies in Publishing History (Chuban Shiliao) February: 32–7 (in Chinese). Lee, C.C. (2001) ‘Servants of the state or the market? Media and journalists in China’, in J. Tunstall (ed.), Media Occupations and Professions, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 240–61. Lee, L.O.F. (2002) ‘Literary trends: the quest for modernity 1895–1927’, in M. Goldman and L.O.F. Lee (eds), An Intellectual History of Modern China, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 142–95. Liang, Y. (1978) Young Allen and Wanguo Gongbao (Linlezhi zaihua shiye yu wanguo gongbao), Hong Kong: Chinese University Press (in Chinese). 77

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Lim, L. (2004) ‘Three Chinese Christians jailed’, BBC News, 6 August. Available online www.bbc.co.uk/ world/asia-pacific/3541932.stm (retrieved 31 July 2006). Liu, K. (1968) ‘Nineteenth-century China: the disintegration of the old order and the impact of the west’, in P.T. Ho and T. Tsou (eds), China in Crisis vol. 1, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 93–178. Mungello, D. (1999) The Great Encounter of China and the West 1500–1800, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Richard, T. (1916) Forty-Five Years in China, London: T. Fisher Unwin. Spence, J. (1985) The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Su, J. (2000) Robert Morrison and Chinese Printing and Publication (Malixun yu zhongwen yinshua chuban), Taipei: Xuesheng Press (in Chinese). Varg, P. (1965) ‘A survey of changing mission goals and methods’, in J.G. Lutz (ed.), Christian Missions in China: Evangelists of What? Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1–10. Wang, E. (2003) Studies on the History of Modern Chinese Thought (Zhongguo jindai shixiangshi lun), Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian Press (in Chinese). Wang, S. (1998) The Westerners and the Hundred Day Reform Movement (Wairen yu wuxu bianfa), Shanghai: Shanghai Shudian Press (in Chinese). Wang, W. (1958) ‘Wang Tao’s thought’ (Wang Tao de shixiang), in Y. Feng (ed.), Essays on the History of Modern Chinese Thought (Zhongguo jindai sixiangshi lunwen ji), Shanghai: Jin-min Press, 36–50 (in Chinese). Wylie, A. (1967) Memorials of Protestant Missionaries to the Chinese, Taipei: Ch’eng-wen Publishing (original edition published by Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1867). Xiong, Y. (1995) The Dissemination of Western Learning and the Late Qing Society (Xixue dongjian yu wanqin shehui), Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Press (in Chinese). Ye, Z. (1996) ‘A study of SDK’ (Guangxuehui chutan), Studies in Publishing History (Chubanshi yanjiu) vol. 4: 91–126 (in Chinese). Zeng, X.B. (1977) A History of Chinese Journalism (Zhongguo xinwen shi), Taipei: School of Journalism, National Chengchi University (in Chinese). Zhang, X.T. (2007) The Origins of the Modern Chinese Press: The Influence of the Protestant Missionary Press in Late Qing China, London: Routledge. Zhao, Y. (1998) Media, Market and Democracy in China, Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Zhou, Z. (1995) ‘The translation of western works and its cultural influence in late Qing China’ (Wanqing xishu zhongyi jidui zhongguo wenhua de yingxiang), Studies in Publishing History (Chubanshi Yanjiu) vol. 3: 1–29 (in Chinese). Zhu, W. (ed.) (1998) Anthology of Wanguo Gongbao (Wanguo gongbao wenxuan), Beijing: Sanlian Shudian (in Chinese). Zhu, W. and Long, Y.T. (eds) (2000) Anthology of Reformist Literature in the late Qing (Weixing jiumenglu), Beijing: Sanlian Shudian (in Chinese).

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5 Setting the press boundaries The case of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group Chujie Chen

‘Nanfang’ is not merely a geographical concept, but also a spiritual concept, a word full of warmth and power. X.F. Yang (2012: 31) We don’t have a press law, and the lines are very unclear. If you don’t test them you have no way of knowing where they are. Moreover, the line’s scope has been increasingly narrowed these years . . . Chang Ping, quoted in Ming Pao Daily (2011: P07)

No news media would exceed the boundaries of autonomy permissible to the media owners (Altschull 1995). While the legitimate sphere for media deviance is usually clear in democratic societies (Hallin 1986), the tolerated lines for media supervision are essentially vague in contemporary China. In the Maoist era, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) monolithically fed the news media and predominantly dictated media content. However, with accelerated media commercialisation, the intertwining of ideology, capital and underdeveloped professionalism has complicated the determinants of the press boundaries in post-Maoist China. Under ambiguous official lines and assertive political control, the Chinese press has experienced progress and setbacks. On the one hand, the propaganda apparatus has generally relied on guidelines, shifting instructions and ad-hoc punishment to manage the news media. On the other hand, Chinese journalists have constantly tried to test and push the boundaries of the permissible, as Chang Ping – a former renowned journalist of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group – said in an interview quoted above. Among the 39 Chinese press groups, the Nanfang Media Group (Nanfang baoye chuanmei jituan) has been deemed the most progressive. It was originally named the Nanfang Daily Press Group in 1998 and later the Nanfang Media Group in 2005 since the group ran a multimedia business. Overall, until 2012 the Nanfang Media Group (or Nanfang for short) owned 12 newspapers, 9 magazines, 5 websites and 1 publishing house (see Table 5.1 for details).1 Among Nanfang’s subsidiary papers, Nanfang Weekend (shortened to NW, Nanfang zhoumo in Chinese pinyin and Southern Weekend in English) and Nanfang Metropolis Daily (shortened to NMD, Nanfang dushi bao in Chinese pinyin or Southern Metropolis Daily in English) are the most outspoken. 79

Chujie Chen Table 5.1 Constituents of the Nanfang Media Group, 20122 Year established

Note

Nanfang Daily

1949

Provincial Party organ

Nanfang Rural Daily

1963

Daily subsidiary specialising in rural issues

Nanfang Weekend

1984

Weekly subsidiary specialising in investigative reporting, commentary, etc.

Nanfang Metropolis Daily

1997

Metropolitan subsidiary well known for investigative reporting, commentary, entertainment news, etc.

Before conglomeration

After conglomeration (18 May 1998) By Nanfang Daily City Pictorial

1999

Magazine, targeting middle-class readers

Nanfang Monthly

2007

Magazine, collaborating with the Guangdong provincial government

Nanfang Legal Daily

2011

Collaborating with Guangdong Public Security Bureau, and distributed within the public security system

ManGazine (Mingpai)

2003

Fashion magazine, targeting middle-class male audiences

Nanfang People’s Weekly

2004

Targeting white-collar workers and university students

2003

Cross-regional joint venture with the Guangming Daily Press Group, transferred to Beijing municipal government in 2011

By Nanfang Weekend

By Nanfang Metropolis Daily New Beijing News (Xin jing bao) NMD Weekly (Nandu zhoukan)

2006

Weekly subsidiary targeting middle-class readers

Trend Weekly (Fengshang zhoubao)

2006

Weekly subsidiary targeting readers interested in fashion

Yunnan Information Daily

2007

Cross-regional joint venture with Yunnan Publishing Group, market-oriented metropolitan paper

Jianghuai Morning Post

2012

Cross-regional joint venture with Hefei Press Group, market-oriented metropolitan paper

21st Century Global Herald

2002

Targeting readers interested in international topics and political affairs until 2003

21st Century Business Review

2004

Magazine, targeting commercial elites

Money Weekly (Licai zhoubao)

2007

Subsidiary weekly targeting readers interested in economic investments, the stock market, etc.

By 21st Century Business Herald

Note: For simplicity, other unimportant publications, the websites, the publishing house and other non-news business affiliated with Nanfang are not presented.

80

Setting the press boundaries

Why does this research focus on the Nanfang newspapers? First, Nanfang has stood at the national forefront of news commentary and investigative reporting, exposing official malfeasance and advocating liberal ideas since the 1990s (Cho 2007; de Burgh 2003; Lee et al. 2007; Zhang 2006). Second, journalists consider NW and NMD inspiring and as setting the trend for progressive journalism. A survey conducted in the early 2000s showed that the young, reformminded Chinese journalists looked up to the NW for journalistic models (Pan and Chan 2003: 649–82). Coming after NW, NMD has led the rise of Chinese metropolitan newspapers, with its investigative reporting and critical commentaries followed by local rivals and national peers.3 Third, the progress and setbacks experienced by Nanfang journalists provides a valuable research site for examining how news media and external power holders relate to each other.4 This research is concerned with the dialectic relationship between political–economic constraints and journalistic agency that contribute to the transformation of journalism. We should ask what kind of factors gave rise to the outspokenness of the Nanfang subsidiary papers and how their journalists pushed the limits of the permissible. Though much attention has been paid to the Nanfang newspapers such as NW and NMD, relatively few consider Nanfang as a whole and the intra-organisational relations within the group. This chapter will synthesise existing studies on journalistic practices at Nanfang and its maverick subsidiary papers (i.e. NW and NMD) in particular. Overall, this chapter attempts to examine: (1) the political–economic settings where Nanfang is located; (2) the relationship between the parent newspaper Nanfang Daily and its subsidiaries in terms of organisational culture, division of labour and the flow of human resources; (3) the strategic rituals used by the press to cope with or even bypass the severe restrictions imposed by power holders; and (4) the implications of strategic rituals for media autonomy.

Local political economy and press diversity Media performance is subject not only to national but also local economic and political power. In the reform era, press competition in Guangzhou has been the fiercest in China, portrayed as a ‘Three Kingdoms War’ (Liu 2002: 22–7; Yuan 2009). Scholars usually attribute diverse and progressive press performance in Guangzhou to the city being China’s front for ‘reformand-opening’ and also to the impact of Hong Kong (Latham 2000; Y. Yang 2008). Hong Kong’s impact on Guangzhou’s reform-and-opening should not be ignored, but we should note that geographically Shenzhen is much closer than Guangzhou to Hong Kong. However, Shenzhen’s press is not as progressive as the Guangzhou press. The singular power structure and the monopoly of a singular press group have tended to dominate the Shenzhen press, with its journalists being economically privileged and increasingly apolitical (Lee et al. 2006: 600). The power structure of society fundamentally determines the press boundaries. In Guangzhou, plurality of power originates from the discrepancies between the centre and the province, and between the province and the municipality. This plurality, in turn, enhances media autonomy (Lee et al. 2007). In retrospect Guangdong’s native reformists and open-minded officials enjoyed remarkable autonomy in policy making and implementation from the 1980s to the 1990s. The Guangdong provincial government and Nanfang coexisted symbiotically. On the one hand, the existence of a strong native leadership committed to reform-and-opening, and the abundant resources Guangdong had accumulated amidst the reform processes made it a heavyweight in China’s political economy (see Cheung 1994). This set of circumstances provided the general political–economic context for Nanfang. On the other hand, the reformist officials also needed the provincial party organ Nanfang Daily to articulate their reformist discourse and to promote ‘thought emancipation’ to defend the province’s interests. Huang Hao, the 81

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former propaganda chief of Guangdong (1989–93) and a former member of Nanfang Daily’s editorial board, publicly defended Guangdong’s flexible leadership style (more details in Huang 2008: 40–1). It was in the late 1980s and the early 1990s that NW began to rise as a nationally influential newspaper. As a strategy, the NW seldom published critical reports against Guangdong’s provincial officials or power holders (Zuo 2008: 63). Guangdong provincial officials perceived NW as such a cultural landmark that they would make it even more influential rather than hinder its expansion (Zuo 2008: 71). In fact, some former reform-minded officials of Guangdong such as Lin Ruo, Ding Xiling, Chen Yueping, Huang Hao, among others, used to be key leaders of Nanfang Daily (see Fan 2005: 329). Until the early 2000s, the Guangdong Provincial Propaganda Department (GPPD) rarely pressured Nanfang’s newspapers directly or strictly executed commands from the Central Propaganda Department (CPD); rather, the GPPD usually softened the pressure from the centre (Zuo 2008: 74). One example of the NW in crisis in 1993 is illustrative. On 30 July 1993, the NW published a murder story concerning the public security force in what was called ‘B city’ for anonymity (Nanfang Weekend 1993a: 05), but it was later proved that the story, contributed by an external writer, was fabricated. After verification with the NW editors, the National Public Security Ministry complained to the CPD. The central propaganda officials used this incident as a pretext to shut down the NW, since previously the propaganda officials had been irritated by the NW but found no justified reason to punish it. Fortunately, old and high-ranking officials in Guangdong defended the NW and supported the then incumbent provincial party chief Xie Fei in his bargaining with the CPD. The Guangdong officials indignantly claimed that ‘when we better our economy, they [i.e. the central officials] mocked us Guangdong as cultural dessert. Now we have a national renowned newspaper, but they turned to terminate its life. We must not compromise any longer!’ (Zuo 2012). Finally the NW published an apology and a selfcriticism on the cover page (Nanfang Weekend 1993b: 01). Yet, the support of the Guangdong officials for Nanfang was hardly institutionalised and was vulnerable to the changing central–local power relations as embodied in the appointment of top provincial officials. The situation has significantly changed since the centrally appointed, non-local conservative Li Changchun assumed the post of Guangdong’s party secretary in 1998. The power of proNanfang officials has been further weakened after Lin Ruo and Wu Nansheng retreated from all official position in 2004. Fan Yijin, former head of Nanfang (2002–6), frankly stated that during his term the support from provincial officials was relatively less and weaker than it was during his predecessors’ terms (Xu and Zhang 2009: 26–9). The local power seems to be increasingly subdued to the central party-state and hardly defends local media autonomy which might easily be interpreted as opposing the centre’s ideological line. These changing central–local5 and state–press relations demonstrate that although marketdriven press competition in an open-minded locality serves to free the press from ossified party doctrine and to cultivate news professionalism, once the newspapers driven by market logic may ‘threaten to deviate from the state’s orbit, the state is determined to pull it back to its fold’ (Lee et al. 2007: 24). Lee et al. (2007) coined the term ‘party–market corporatism’ to ‘explain the interlocking of the state and capital in China on the one hand and the management of the state–media–capital tripartite relationship on the other’ (p. 24). It is the mechanisms of party–market corporatism that set the general framework within which the news media can behave. The political and economic goals of party-state (and perhaps the news organisation) override the journalists’ professional pursuit (Lee et al. 2007). As long as consensus within the power structure is high, the autonomy of local news media, whose legitimacy rely on market recognition, will be substantially suppressed. 82

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However, in identical external political–economic circumstances, the Guangzhou press display significant variations. Comparatively speaking, each of the three press conglomerates has a competitive advantage over the other; to wit, the Guangzhou Daily Press Group is the major outlet of local affairs that native Guangzhou residents prefer while the Yangcheng Evening News Press Group is considered a supplier of cultural information for people in Guangdong (Lee et al. 2007). By comparison, the Nanfang Media Group plays a leading role in investigative and critical reporting of local and national issues. Each group’s party organ and subsidiary newspapers face cut-throat competition not only in the headquarter city Guangzhou, but also in other wealthy Pearl River Delta cities. To win readers and advertisers, each media group’s daily papers compete for news sources by rewarding people who provide leads for news (Huang 2004: 73–4). They also compete in news reporting by monitoring other Guangzhou-based dailies and then organising internal meetings every day to summarise each other’s strengths and shortcomings (Y. Yang 2008: 87).

Organisational culture of Nanfang: being innovative, inclusive, conscientious, and excellent Compared with the other two press groups in Guangzhou catering to soft news, the Nanfang newspapers display a more progressive style of news operation, particularly when it comes to its politically peripheral subsidiaries. Other than differences in hierarchical positions and market identification, this is mainly due to the organisational culture of Nanfang as a whole and the sub-organisational culture of NW and NMD in particular that emphasises journalistic professionalism and provides institutional space for professional autonomy. Organisational culture refers to a composite of values, beliefs, norms, history, heroes, models, ceremonies, etc. that provide a collective identity and defines appropriate journalism behaviours for journalists (Bantz 1985; Manzella 1996: 287–307). It is ‘powerfully reinforced by the professionalisation of key operators in the organisation’ who set norms of appropriate behaviour and create incentives for organisations to conform to a common ideal (Allison and Zelikow 1999: 155). Fan Yijin (2005: 314 and 2009: 12) generalised Nanfang’s culture as deeply rooted and inherited from generation to generation. Zuo Fang, a founding editor of NW, acknowledged that former editor-in-chief Huang Wenyu6 significantly influenced how he chose to manage the newspaper: ‘We may leave some truths untold, but never will we tell lies’ (Zuo 2008: 56). Nanfang journalists have inherited this legacy and reiterate its principles (seen especially in the work of Jiang Yiping, Cheng Yizhong and Zhuang Shenzhi). The organisational culture of Nanfang is described as ‘innovation, inclusiveness, conscientiousness, and excellence’ (chuangxin, baorong, dandang, zhuoyue) (C. Wang 2009: 31–8; X. Yang 2009); and a popular perception within the Guangzhou press circle illustrates the culture of the three media groups: The Guangzhou Daily Media Group is run by businesspeople (shangren banbao), Yangcheng Evening News Group by intellectuals (wenren banbao) and Nanfang by news professionals (baoren banbao). Some of our interviewees, who worked at a subsidiary paper of Yangcheng Evening News before they moved to Nanfang, said that news professionalism and social responsibility received more emphasis at the latter. Moreover, Nanfang provided a broader platform for young journalists to put their ideas into practice (personal communications, 15 June 2013 and 17 September 2013). In the late 1990s, both NW and NMD recruited a number of liberal freelance reporters and provided them with institutional support. Many of these journalists later became leaders or renowned journalists on China’s market-oriented publications. As a result, Nanfang earned the nickname the Huangpu Military Academy7 for the Chinese press.8 83

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The Nanfang leadership’s solid support to its young, ambitious, and marketisation-savvy newsworkers was partly the by-product of Nanfang Daily’s multi-business investment failure in the 1980s to mid-1990s, and fierce competition with the two other press groups in Guangzhou. In the early to mid-1990s, Nanfang Daily became trapped by severe financial losses (c. US$16.3 million) because of unsuccessful investment in non-news businesses such as real estate and manufacturing (Yuan 2009: 8–12). These investment decisions were made and exercised solely by the parent newspaper. Learning its lesson, Nanfang’s leadership finally decided to focus on the core news business and granted its subsidiary papers more autonomy, thus making the subsidiary newspapers competitive and influential. By contrast, the leadership of the Guangzhou Daily and the Yangcheng Evening News exercised a firm grasp, and their subsidiary papers were just a minor component of the operation. As described by its journalists, leaders of the Nanfang newspapers did not look like media ‘bureaucrats’ but like professional newspapermen respecting rank-and-file journalists (X.Q. Li 2005; Times Messenger Daily 2005; Zhu 2009: 160–6); and this style of leadership has been praised (Fu 2009: 88–91; B. Yang 2009: 143–7; Zhou 2009: 155–9). Journalists in media groups in Shanghai and Shenzhen were highly constrained due to the economic and political contexts in which they worked, and their bureaucratic organisational arrangements (e.g. Lee et al. 2006 and 2007). While media conglomeration in these two cities has actually consolidated the media monopoly rather than promoted diverse competition, ‘Guangzhou’s media offer contending perspectives, within limits, through intense market competition and role differentiation’ (Lee et al. 2007: 38). To some extent, the Nanfang organisational atmosphere is relatively antibureaucratic when compared with other media groups in China. The most highlighted of Nanfang’s organisational norms focuses on how the leaders tried their best to soften political pressure from the party-state, particularly when Li Mengyu and Fan Yijin served as head (Cho 2007: 253; Fan 2005; X.Q. Li 2005). The Nanfang subsidiaries, first NW and then NMD, frequently published sensitive stories that other newspapers would not touch at all. By boldly exposing HIV/AIDS problems in the Henan Province, and the abuse of power by, and corruption of, governmental officials among others, NW received high praise among Chinese journalists as a ‘media exemplar’ (Pan and Chan 2003). NMD’s exposure of the Sun Zhigang incident (which will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter) and its adherence to the truth during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 made it the benchmark of the newly established metropolitan papers (P. Pan 2008: 235–68).This compelling coverage could not be made without support from Nanfang’s leadership vis-à-vis the propaganda department. This organisational level of breathing space for media autonomy, in turn, empowers the subordinate journalists to focus on professional practice and strengthens their professional sense of accomplishment. Each subsidiary newspaper also has specific characteristics amid everyday practices. As a daily paper employing more than 6,000 staff, NMD operates like a ‘news factory’ and its journalists work under the pressure of daily deadlines (Zhang 2007). By comparison, as a weekly paper employing around 170 staff (Y.B. Zhong 2009), NW values small-team work and its journalists work like freelancers. The NW and NMD also have something in common, i.e. a liberal and democratic newsroom culture structured around offline/online debates about news operations during editorial meetings and regular special workshops (Zuo 2012; Y.B. Zhong 2009: 30; Zhang 2006). Most of the subsidiary papers’ journalists were young, from rural areas of central or west China and driven by journalism ideals (Qian 2008: 233; Times Messenger Daily 2005; Tong 2011). Moreover, they emphasise news professionalism, as represented through their learning from foreign models, especially CBS’s 60 Minutes, the New York Times and the Washington Post (Qian 2008; Shen and Zhang 2009; Zhang 2007). 84

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Organisational division of labour for setting the press boundaries Like other Chinese press groups, Nanfang’s parent newspaper is politically central but often financially marginal, whereas the subsidiary papers are politically peripheral yet financially lucrative (Lee 2000: 288–336; 2010: 29–46). Li Mengyu – Nanfang Daily’s former president (1996–2001) in charge of establishing the Nanfang Daily Press Group – claimed that the relationship between the parent paper and its subsidiaries must be addressed appropriately in order to effectively run a press group (Li 2001: 278–81). In essence, it is the problem of how to resolve the tension between the party-state’s demands, the market’s needs, and the logic of the news organisation. Such tensions are reconciled by ideological and economic divisions of labour, and the management of human resources within the group.

Economy of the editorial division of labour Driven by market competition, the party organ developed offspring publications matching market segmentation, which in turn stimulated media conglomeration. Media conglomeration further necessitated the editorial division of labour corresponding to each newspaper’s market position. Overall, Nanfang Daily is defined as the Guangdong provincial government’s mouthpiece and assumes the obligation of guiding public opinion and supervising its subsidiary papers. Nanfang Daily claims itself as Guangdong’s mainstream political and economic paper for civil servants, government leaders, managers, intellectuals and commercial elites, i.e. a group of elites impacting on or making policies (X. Yang 2004). In addition to hidden subsidies such as subscriptions from government offices (Lee et al. 2006: 581–602), Nanfang Daily’s revenue relies mainly on advertisements from the local government and from the commercial sector (personal communication, 12 December 2012). The second-level of Nanfang newspapers mainly include NW, NMD and 21st Century Business Herald. These newspapers and their affiliated publications target differentiated audiences, i.e. NW for the intellectual elites nationwide, NMD for young, educated urban residents in the Pearl River Delta cities and 21st Century Business Herald for national white-collar workers and economic elites. This structural arrangement serves to simultaneously absorb political pressure and maximise economic interests (Lee et al. 2006: 581–602). Admittedly, this pattern should not be viewed as an intentional outcome driven by the media professionals, nor as a natural outcome of commercialisation and marketisation. Rather, it was an unintended consequence through the evolving party–press interaction. The NMD and 21st Century Business Herald were established not only because Nanfang journalists were sensitive to changes in the media market, but also because NW was so greatly constrained that the Nanfang journalists had to shift to other emerging fields to broaden the media space. Consciously or unconsciously, the Nanfang journalists grasped the opportunities provided by media marketisation and conglomeration to create more specialised subsidiary publications to expand their ‘territory’, enlarge their economic interests and promote media professionalism. The editorial division of labour has become diffused and has reduced the economic risks associated with a single parent newspaper. After the investment in businesses other than news failed, Nanfang Daily gave more autonomy to its subsidiary newspapers to run marketisation operations. By establishing multiple newspapers targeting different markets, the group began to earn substantial income. The business revenue of Nanfang increased from a low level of profits in 1998 (Fan 2005: 237) to RMB 3.66 billion (c. US$60 million) in 2010 (X. Yang 2012: 17–32). Economic success in turn makes it possible for Nanfang to invest more in serious news production. 85

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The flow of human resources We must also consider the flow of human resources between the parent newspaper and its subsidiaries, and among the subsidiary papers. Given different markets and different sources of organisational legitimacy, the Nanfang leadership assigned its more open-minded, adventurous journalists to operate the highly marketised subsidiaries (Fan 2005). Thus, there is a vertical flow of work from the media group and the parent newspaper to the subsidiaries (Yin and Wang 2007: 123–33). For example, experienced editors and journalists Zuo Fang, Guan Zhendong, Guan Jian, Cheng Yizhong, Shen Hao, Zhu Defu and many others all moved from Nanfang Daily to NW or NMD. There is also horizontal movement, with reporters and editors moving between different subsidiary papers. For example, the NW’s former editors Shen Hao, Liu Zhouwei and others left NW to establish 21st Century Business Herald in 2001; Xu Lie, Yang Zi and Wan Jingbo left NW to create Nanfang People’s Weekly in 2004; Yu Huafeng, Chen Zhaohua, Nan Xianghong, etc. moved from NW to NMD; Fu Jianfeng, Bao Xiaodong, etc. shifted from NMD to NW. The horizontal flow of journalists among Nanfang’s subsidiary papers seems to have strengthened a collective identity that is committed to news professionalism and morale. In a protest against the GPPD’s censorship of NW’s New Year special issue in 2013, many former and current Nanfang journalists gathered online and offline to support their NW colleagues (South China Morning Post, 11 and 12 January 2013).

Politics of the editorial division of labour The second aspect is the division of power relations as demonstrated through the personnel management structure. Nanfang’s managing body was a 17-member management committee, which was appointed by the Provincial Organisation Department of Guangdong. These members were identical to those of Nanfang’s party committee, and overlapped with those of Nanfang’s editorial committee.9 According to the principle of ‘rigidly holding the power of personnel appointment’ (X. Yang 2012: 17–32), none of these committee members was selected from the subsidiary newspapers; rather, all of them came from the parent newspaper or the media group and were privileged over the management of the subsidiary papers. Yet, this power structure does not mean the media group can either completely subdue or arbitrarily intervene in the subsidiary newspapers’ everyday operation. In Fan Yijin’s accounts, the relationship between the group and the subsidiaries should be as emotionally close as an ‘interest community’ (Fan 2005: 275). Moreover, the media group should help the subsidiary papers survive particularly during the early stages of their operation (Fan 2005: 136). Yang Xingfeng, successor to Fan Yijin, deemed the parent newspaper a ‘huge umbrella’, claiming that ‘some offspring newspapers would have died more than one-hundred times without the shield of the group’ (A. Shi 2004: 9). Following Soloski (1989: 217), we should argue that by offering political protection to subordinate papers, the media group succeeded in maintaining the loyalty of its professionals without having to share power with them. However, the space for Nanfang to negotiate with the party-state depends on the level of power holders who issue instructions, and the degree to which the subsidiary papers transgress the official boundaries of acceptability. If commands come from higher-level power holders, such as the CPD or provincial leaders, and the newspaper touches a highly sensitive topic, the media group will not have sufficient room to negotiate with the party-state. One example is the closure of 21st Century Global Herald (21CGH hereafter). The 21CGH, initially focusing on international journalism, was established by 21st Century Business Herald on 31 May 2002. 86

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Around the time of the sixteenth national congress of the CCP, a period of power transition between Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, many Chinese journalists and intellectuals anticipated a round of substantive political reform and tried to press the new national leadership for change. The 21CGH shifted from international reporting to national politics as its slogan ‘witness the political civilisation of China’ illustrated (F. Shi 2008). On 3 March 2003, the 21CGH interviewed Li Rui, a former personal secretary to Mao Zedong, and published three articles that criticised Mao Zedong for building a cult of personality and Deng Xiaoping for failing to promote further political reforms. Li Rui’s identical opinions had been published in Yanhuang Chunqiu, an outspoken magazine and received no punishment. However, in contrast, the 21CGH was forced to shut down ten days after publication (Pomfret 2003; F. Shi 2008). The reason for this difference is that the 21CGH’s interview touched a very sensitive issue concerning political system reform and the newspaper was not influential enough to bear the pressure from above.

The periphery-to-centre back-nurture Organisational studies show that innovation usually occurs at the periphery rather than at the centre of an organisation (Turow 1982: 107–29). This means the politically marginal news organisations or units are faster in implementing unconventional reforms than the established ones (Liang 2012: 450–66). In the course of media commercialisation, Nanfang Daily has learned a lot from its subsidiaries about marketisation operation, organisational reconstitution and news processing and editing (X. Yang 2004). The NW and NMD were initially defined as an extension of Nanfang Daily to improve communication between the party and the mass. In 1997, Nanfang Daily claimed that NMD must undertake the ‘family mission’ of accumulating valuable experience in advertising competition in Guangzhou (Nanfang Metropolis Daily 2004: 14–16). Nanfang’s leadership acknowledged that the party organ was unfamiliar with marketisation and should learn from its subsidiary newspapers’ successful practices (X. Yang 2004). To cultivate ‘effective target markets’ Nanfang Daily, from 2002 to 2012, initiated a series of projects ‘to remake the party organ’ based on the NMD’s successful experience (C. Wang, 2007: 14–21; X. Yang 2004). These ongoing projects included setting up a new multimedia desk and a news desk to connect journalists’ work with each other, creating a special Pearl River Delta segment in order to obtain urban advertising revenue, opening six market-driven supplements in areas of investment (i.e. IT, tourism, automobiles, health, career, and the computer, communications and consumer electronics (3C) industry), adding a commentary page, as well as launching an in-depth news page and online news page. Because of these projects, Nanfang Daily has become more financially independent and profitable: its circulation grew from 750,000 to 950,000, and its advertising revenue from less than RMB 80 million (c. US$12.97 million) to more than RMB 300 million (c. US$48.65 million) (X. Yang 2012: 17–32). As a result, the parent newspaper has been less dependent on its highly lucrative subsidiary papers. Partly due to external pressure and partly due to changing internal political–economic relationships, the media group has since 2008 exerted increasingly stronger control over its subsidiaries.

Setting the press boundaries from the periphery It is common for the market-oriented Chinese press to show more aggressiveness in pushing and testing the boundaries. The subsidiary newspapers, being politically marginal, have greater leeway and take less risk to test new ideas by ways of developing strategic rituals. This section concentrates on journalistic deviance by the NW and NMD. 87

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We should note that journalists on neither NW nor NMD were particularly outspoken or critical, but in their early phase acted more like tabloids. Designated as a weekend supplement to Nanfang Daily, NW was dedicated to capturing readers through publishing news about celebrities, literary works and social problems. Similarly, NMD concentrated on social and human interest news stories (e.g. crimes, murder, sex, etc.) and entertainment. Gradually, these two papers have cultivated a professional culture and a liberal editorial orientation, playing leading roles in setting the boundaries of what is politically permissible (Hong 2005; Zhang 2006; Zuo 2008). From the perspective of both Nanfang’s management and its journalists, investigative reporting and commentaries are vital and competitive products (W. Li 2005: 59–60; X. Yang 2004 and 2009; Zhang 2006).We should argue that the processes of setting the press boundaries have followed an ad hoc, incremental, contested and even unintended pattern.

Strategic rituals We use the term ‘strategic rituals’ (Tuchman 1972: 660–79) in a positive tone in the Chinese media contexts. Strategic rituals refer to preventive tactics and peculiar ways that ‘media organisations routinize their news work in order to credibly meet extraordinary political pressure and to uphold their own limited legitimacy’ (Lee 2000: 317). We do not mean to exaggerate the power of strategic rituals. However deviant or aggressive, the Chinese press have to behave within the system of party–market corporatism. Zuo Fang divides ‘telling the truth’ into two categories: truth of the hard taboo (e.g. issue of political democracy, the party’s ideology and rule, religion, etc.); and truth of the soft taboo (Zuo 2008: 64). In this way Zuo indicates the bounded rationality of pushing press boundaries in China. ‘Regarding the soft taboo, we also need to grasp the limits. It doesn’t mean the more you push the limits the better it is for your newspaper’ (Zuo 2008: 63). Zuo Fang’s pragmatic approach towards media supervision by government is not uncommon among Chinese journalists. Drawing on completed research and published materials, we summarise the most common strategic rituals used by the Nanfang journalists. It should be noted that these strategic rituals might change in tandem with external social and political changes. •

Cross-regional supervision: The first strategy refers to the so-called ‘cross-regional supervision’ (Y. Wang 2009: 137–86), that is, the practice of news media from one locality exposing negative stories about a remote jurisdiction. As Zuo Fang (2008: 63) stated, ‘We conducted “cross-regional” supervision rather than local investigation, i.e. we seldom criticised the Guangdong provincial officials.’ The NW won its national fame because of its commitment to cross-regional supervision in the 1990s when other newspapers still paid primary attention to local issues.

One example of the NW’s cross-regional reporting was a series of news stories in 2001 about the Hunan criminal gang leader Zhang Jun who killed 22 people, wounded 20 more and robbed banks and jewellery stores across central China. Rather than simply describing his crimes, NW reporters travelled to Zhang’s home village to investigate the social and economic settings in which the Zhang Jun crime gang lived. The NW’s reports suggested poverty and the lack of economic opportunities due to local corruption, and concluded that these factors contributed to the crimes – that there was a causal link between Zhang Jun’s criminal activities and social problems. The two reports, i.e. ‘Reflection on the Zhang Jun case’ (Nanfang Weekend 20 April 2001) and ‘Re-reflection on the Zhang Jun case’ (Nanfang Weekend 27 April 2001), criticised the conditions inside labour camps which only further incited crimes. Not surprisingly the Hunan 88

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Provincial Party chief accused NW of painting a ‘negative portrait of China’s socialist campaign’ and ‘completely wiping out all the hard work by the Hunan government to raise the people’s living standards’ (Ming Pao Daily 2001: A12). In addition, propaganda officials from other provinces joined together and asked the CPD to punish the NW. Subsequently in May 2001, the NW’s deputy editor-in-chief Chen Mingyang, executive deputy editor-in-chief Qian Gang, news desk director Chang Ping and the cover page editor Shen Hao were all pressured to leave the newspapers (Chen 2013; Ming Pao Daily 2011: P07). •

Strategic placement of words in headlines and pages: The second strategy is that journalists can play tricks with news headlines and page placement to soften the blow of exposés and sensitive stories. Although a sensational title might attract readers, it risks irritating power holders and might incur political trouble.

Zuo Fang’s remarks vividly demonstrate this commonly adopted strategy: ‘In terms of the arrangement of title, we assign an ordinary title to sensitive topics and a sensational title to a non-sensitive topic. If you assign a sensational title to a sensitive topic, then you will probably make trouble. With respect to the placement of pages, we arrange sensitive topics on the obscure pages rather than on the front page’ (Zuo 2008: 64). Also, research has found that NMD’s journalists frequently ruminated over the equivocal phrases and words that appeared in rules and regulations issued by the party-state, and tried to spot useful loopholes (Shen and Zhang 2009). Wang Jun, a senior editor of NMD, said that ‘a ban does not mean the media cannot touch the news event at all. It only means we should be cautious about reporting it . . . Even when the propaganda department has issued a ban on a news event, we can still find a way to report on it through tricky means’ (quoted in Tong 2011: 151). However, the space for journalists to bypass the news ban is in flux, determined predominantly by the socio-political situation, and the degree of organisational self-censorship. Wang Jun would have to modify her words in 2013 when official control of media became more subtle and tight. During my field research at the NMD in the summer of 2013, the NMD simply avoided touching sensitive issues before or when there was a news ban. •

Objectivity and professionalism: The third strategy adopted by NW and NMD refers to objectivity and media professionalism – in the sense of objective and balanced reporting. Jiang and Xu (2008: 157–64) observed that, from 2002 to 2007, the percentage of NW’s negative reports dropped significantly, and the topics covered shifted from social problems and official corruption to news about politics and the economy. In addition, the news stories appeared to be more professional rather than sensational, using balanced sources and objective description.

In fact, the more sensitive the issue, the more objective and balanced the news story. One example is the NMD’s exposure of Sun Zhigang’s death. Sun Zhigang, a new college graduate in Guangzhou, was hired by a graphic design company in early 2003. On 17 March 2003, Sun was arrested on the street by the Guangzhou police because he had forgotten to carry his identity card and a temporal residence permit. He was taken to a detention centre and was declared dead three days later. The story was first revealed online by an internet forum user and the NMD reporter happened to read it, and two NMD reporters investigated Sun’s death. After collecting evidence, the two reporters confirmed that Sun was beaten to death, but because Sun’s story was connected to Guangzhou’s public security enforcement system, NMD was very cautious about covering the story, following the norms of factual accuracy and objectivity. 89

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The two reporters were required by their editor to get every detail verified and complete the story before the news ban. They moved quickly to interview Sun’s friends, employers and relatives as well as medical and legal experts. As a final step, they contacted the officials and the police because the latter might call the provincial propaganda department and squash the story (P. Pan 2004). The report delivered two clear facts – Sun was dead and was beaten to death – and asked two simple questions: (1) should Sun Zhigang have been detained? and (2) who beat Sun Zhigang to death? There was no sensational, subjective judgement throughout the narrative, even though the reporters were personally indignant at Sun’s tragedy (Nanfang Metropolis Daily 2004: 185). This evidence-based and balanced exposé provoked national shock online and offline and finally, when legal scholars and intellectuals appealed to the national congress, the story promoted the abolition of forced detention and the repatriation system (P. Pan 2008: 238–47). •

Use of columnist opinions: The fourth strategy adopted by the Nanfang subsidiary papers is to use opinion columns as alternatives to editorials to express concern about public issues. As this is associated with the editorial division of labour, the risk coefficient is lower for opinion columns than for editorials when articulating a newspaper’s position on the same subject, particularly when the journalists are uncertain about the potential risk.

One NMD column about China’s AIDS activist, Gao Yaojie, illustrates the detour from opinion column to editorial to articulate the newspaper’s position. The mainland Chinese media did not cover Gao Yaojie’s release from house arrest in Henan Province in February 2007, nor her preparation for a trip to the United States to accept the Vital Voices Global Women’s Leadership Award. The NMD’s editorial desk discussed the story and decided to test the government’s limit and encourage further media coverage by first publishing a column (it was too risky to carry an editorial on this event without formal media coverage) (J. Zhao 2008: 42–3). Entitled ‘Gao Yaojie’s being obstructed in reaching the USA to receive prize causes worry’, the column criticised Henan’s local officials and called for greater openness of information about AIDS and other public issues. As a strategy, the NMD editorial praised two top-ranking health officials who visited Gao Yaojie before her departure to the USA. Moreover, the commentary ended with an abstraction of the party’s top policy of constructing a ‘harmonious society’: If our local and regional leaders could, like Deputy Minister [of Ministry of Health] Wang, benefit from the true words of Gao Yaojie and make relevant policies based on real information through investigation and research, we will be able not only to prevent disasters arising from AIDS and other forms of epidemic disease, but also will have greater hope of building an ideally harmonious society. (Nanfang Metropolis Daily 2007: A02) Two weeks later, the NMD Weekly covered Gao Yaojie’s story, making it a hot public subject online. So the NMD editorial desk quickly grasped this opportunity to compose an editorial titled ‘Gao Yaojie, honour belongs to people who speak the truth’ on 20 March 2007 (J. Zhao, 2008: 42–3). •

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Appropriation of official discourse to frame the media’s discourse: Due to hierarchical gaps among different government positions, particularly with respect to central–local governmental relations, the news media enjoy a certain leeway in appropriating statements by national leaders or contained in national documents to pressure local government and officials. The media may ‘selectively quote paramount leaders of China as a framework within which to

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chastise the current policy’ (Lee 2000: 320). In February 2007, the fifteenth anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour (nanxun) that relaunched China’s economic reform in 1992, the majority of the Chinese press kept silent while NMD decided not to. From 18 January to 29 January 2007, under the heading ‘The Chinese road’ (zhongguo daolu), NMD published a series of bold editorials and commentaries to commemorate Deng’s talk. A commentary contributed by historian Yuan Weishi called for political reform by praising Deng Xiaoping’s vision and courage: The greatest task Xiaoping left to subsequent generations is the political system reform. As early as in 1986 he said: ‘Now each time we take a step forward in our economic reform, we feel deeply the necessity of political system reform’ . . . Reform calls for studying the vision and courage of Deng Xiaoping in those years. The heart of reform is pushing forward with a system of constitutional governance. (Nanfang Metropolis Daily, 29 January 2007: A02) By quoting Deng’s original words, this column appeals to the leadership to suppress leftist elements within their ranks and to further propel political reform. This strategy of editorial practice, summarised as ‘anti the flag by waving the flag’ (dazhe hongqi fan hongqi), is commonly deployed by Chinese journalists. The NW identified the collapse of a middle school in the Sichuan earthquake as a construction problem and used remarks of an expert in the Ministry of Construction as a justification (Nanfang Weekend 2008), thus providing another example of this strategic ritual. •

Situational use of different narrative forms: Last but not least, journalists set the press boundaries through using different narrative forms (i.e. general news, investigative reporting, feature stories, commentaries, etc.) to shift emphasis and report viewpoints. Different topics fit different narrative forms. This is partly if not completely because of the way propaganda directives vary their treatment of news. Some bans apply solely to news, whereas others apply to commentary, and vice versa; still others command all kinds of news and commentary to keep silent.

In addition to the appropriation of official discourse, the Nanfang journalists also utilised different narrative forms to cope with sensitive issues under shifting political situations. An illustrative example is the NMD’s coverage of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In the early days after the catastrophe, all NMD’s news stories focused on the disaster, the national leaders’ response and the rescue. NMD’s report was the first – on the second day – to reveal the problems of the collapsed school buildings, criticising them as examples of shabby work. After around ten days, more in-depth reporting was published, including the effects of the official rescue, the reasons why schools collapsed, the distribution of disaster relief materials, and the interaction between government and non-government organisations (see Nan 2009). A special series published from 21 May to 22 May 2008, under the title ‘The student martyr’ (xue shang), presented the stories in a neutral, fact-based and case-by-case style rather than providing a panoramic review of the disaster which might irritate the party-state. However, on 24 May NMD journalists were ordered to terminate their investigative-style coverage of the earthquake. As a result, the reporters turned to writing feature stories that focused on the social and emotional effects of the earthquake (see Nan 2009: 197–221); that is, they shifted their focus to the soft aspects of the disaster. Although it was too difficult for investigative reporting to touch issues about the quality of the collapsed school buildings, on 27 May 2008 the NMD editorial page continued to articulate its concerns. 91

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Organisational control and negotiation in flux The degree to which the subsidiary newspapers transgress the press boundaries is subject to the external power structure and internal organisational negotiation. Given the changing nature of external pressure and internal negotiation, the processes of setting the press boundaries are bound to be contested, uneven and uncertain. The media group’s leadership has to manage and balance both external and internal pressure at all times. Undoubtedly, the propaganda officials keep a close watch on the press group and command the group’s management team to toe the official line. In 2000, for instance, the GPPD urged Nanfang to ‘rectify’ its journalistic operations and to keep in mind the orthodox principles of Marxist journalism, largely because both NW and NMD published a number of negative reports about food safety, official corruption and public security, and were accused of having wrongly guided public opinion. Responding to the political situation, Nanfang organised seven workshops on Marxist journalism for senior editors and reporters, stressing that the news workers should abide by the party’s propaganda discipline and correctly direct public opinion (Fan 2001). Both NW and NMD promised that they would allocate more space to positive reporting and make political performance an essential criterion of assessing on an annual basis each subsidiary paper’s leadership (Y.S. Zhong 2001: 112). It followed that when external political pressure intensified, the media group would have to let its subsidiary newspapers reduce temporarily its negative reporting, keep a low profile and seek an appropriate opportunity to stage a comeback. The external political situation has worsened for Nanfang since the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the Beijing Olympic Games (Hou 2012). Leftists have accused Nanfang, and NW and NMD in particular, of being ‘traitor media’ (hanjian meiti) servicing western anti-Chinese forces. This ideological encounter has posed a dilemma for the Nanfang leadership and has restricted the newspapers’ liberal position. In other words, the organisational legitimacy of the Nanfang press has been threatened in the context of China’s ideological cleavages. In addition, the central and provincial propaganda departments have tried to send propaganda officials such as Wang Chunfu, Zhang Dongming, Yang Jian and Mo Gaoyi to act as the head of Nanfang or to directly supervise the group’s subsidiary papers. In Fan Yijin’s and Yang Xingfang’s early terms as editors, the majority of Nanfang’s managers were journalists, enabling them to encourage a sense of professionalism throughout their reporting staff. The convention that Nanfang’s leaders are selected from within the media group has been subverted since Yang Jian was appointed the group’s party chief (in May 2012),10 and Zhang Dongming as editor-in-chief (in 2011) and as Nanfang Daily’s president (in 2013). Yang concurrently held the post of deputy chief of the GPPD, and Zhang was previously the GPPD news bureau director. In short, the newly appointed heads of Nanfang are propaganda officials and the majority within Nanfang’s leadership are not drawn from inside the group.11 Consequently, the autonomy of Nanfang’s subsidiary newspapers has been steadily restricted. Since 2008, the Nanfang management committee has (wittingly or unwittingly) intervened in the operation of its subsidiary papers, primarily through assigning its relatively conservative committee members to lead NMD in late 2008 and NW in 2010. Since the committee members are selected and appointed by the provincial party-state, it goes without saying that the propaganda department can more easily and efficiently control Nanfang and its maverick subsidiaries. Outspoken journalists such as Chang Ping and Xiao Shu resigned in early 2011 and this was seen as a symbol that the Nanfang leaders would no longer protect news workers in the subordinate press (Chen 2013; Hou 2012). In addition to changes in external political pressure, we should also observe the culture of self-censorship at Nanfang. After the Sichuan earthquake Nanfang set up a review group to 92

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censor pages in its newspapers that may cause trouble (e.g. the investigative reporting page and the editorial page) (Guan 2013; Hou 2012; Zou 2012: 177–84). Zeng Li, Nanfang’s censor in charge of reviewing NW’s news stories, revealed that after Tuo Zhen was assigned the post of Guangdong’s propaganda chief, news bans arrived more frequently and some were even specific to the Nanfang newspapers (Guan 2013). The GPPD ordered NW journalists to submit their proposals for stories for pre-publication review. At least 1,034 NW stories were amended or killed in 2012 (Guan 2013; Qian 2013). After the Beijing 21 July rainstorm disaster in 2011, an eight-page special issue of NW was withdrawn, while stories about officials who died amidst fighting the flood remained. Four pages of NMD’s investigative reporting were also killed. By contrast, the New Beijing News delivered a 22-page special issue containing commentary and investigative reporting on the seventh day of the disaster. The Nanfang journalists suspected that they had been isolated for special treatment by the CPD, and that censorship throughout the organisation had been reinforced (Hou 2012). Hard-line political interference in the news production of Nanfang’s subsidiary papers might trigger unexpected protests from rank-and-file journalists. In January 2013, the NW’s New Year special issue had to undergo five rounds of official censorship before publication. Moreover, NW was forced to publish an approved lead commentary, and its original editorial entitled ‘Chinese dream, constitutionalist dream’ was modified as ‘We are closer than ever before to our dream’, with no mention of constitutionalism. The most unbearable aspect for the NW journalists was that the lead commentary contained a factual error which was discovered by readers online. Believing this censored special issue and its mistaken lead commentary humiliated their professional dignity, the NW’s journalists threatened to go on strike. The protest soon became a national event and provoked the publication online and offline of a petition in support. The crisis ended when propaganda officials agreed to stop pre-publication censorship, and the NW journalists returned to regular work (Qian 2013; J. Shi 2013: EDT4; Wong and Ansfield 2013).12

Conclusion and discussion It is possible to argue that Nanfang, driven by intensified press competition in Guangzhou, has created an institutional space within which its subsidiary newspapers can develop and innovate to deviate from the orthodox party news paradigm. The political and economic division of labour amid media conglomeration served to reconcile the tensions between the party line, market logic and media professionalism. The organisational division of labour in turn gave rise to diversified practices among Nanfang’s maverick subsidiaries. As market-oriented newspapers, the NW and NMD have to push the permissible limits within structural constraints as a way to establish media credibility, thus securing their economic interests. These newspapers’ outspokenness stems not only from severe press competition, but also from the journalistic legacy and culture of Nanfang, as well as aspirations to professionalism. However, given the structural and ideological ambiguities, setting the press boundaries is inevitably opportunistic, situational, non-linear and in flux. We should term this phenomenon ‘established media boundaryspanning’. Under authoritarian control, the news media can by no means publicly challenge the political establishment, although they might have latent effects on society. The enabling (and disabling) factors affecting Nanfang’s maverick subordinate papers to span media boundaries can be analysed as follows: first, the gaps between political hierarchies and centre–local power elites offer a sphere of legitimate controversy. A group of strong reformist officials once helped shape Nanfang’s aggressive style of reporting to voice opinions about market 93

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economy, political liberalisation and social pluralisation. When Nanfang’s subsidiary newspapers ran into political trouble, these open-minded officials were able to defend Nanfang. Yet, once these officials all retired from the political stage, such opportunities disappeared. As the political climate changes, so does Nanfang’s journalistic performance. Second, the role of the media group’s leadership also matters. Although the external social–political climate fundamentally determines media boundaries, how the media group leadership responds to external pressures structures how well the subsidiary papers play the watchdog role. Holding other variables constant, the more conservative the media group leadership, the less likely can the subsidiary papers push the permissible limits, and vice versa. The limited space for media to span boundaries will decrease as the conservative media group leadership hold strict control over the subsidiary papers’ leaders, damaging the morale of journalists. Third, the symbolic and implicit power of organisational norms committed to telling the truth and media professionalism is a persistent imperative motivating the Nanfang journalists to push the limits. The journalistic ethos internalised by Nanfang journalists cannot be easily suppressed and eliminated, but can be reactivated when political pressure is relaxed. Last, but not least, we must consider a group of journalists who, although fragile, value professional autonomy over bureaucratic goals and constitute the dominant force in embedding progressive practices. Groups of Nanfang journalists come and go, with the fluctuation in morale. Morale can be high when the leaders dare to undertake risk and support journalists to employ strategic rituals that successfully lead to an expanding media space. By contrast, organisational moods will be low when journalists have to compromise to follow strict control, but crude control will only provide open conflicts, as demonstrated by the NW journalists’ struggle against pre-publication censorship. While many view Nanfang as the liberal–progressive camp of the Chinese media, scholars from the critical left assert that Nanfang have a class bias that is dominated by the logic of capital and the interests of the rising middle class, and thus transforms the social relations in Chinese society (e.g. Zhao and Xing 2012). However their critical analysis tends to overestimate the power of Nanfang and simplify the complexity of the state–market–press tripartite relationship that can be collaborative or oppositional. Without romanticising nor underestimating the influence of Nanfang, we can conclude that the dominant power restricting the Chinese media such as Nanfang from working according to professional practices is the party-state rather than the market. In short, the party-state defines media boundaries, and the market–capital complex is secondary. The variety of political and economic pressures – some of which are uneven and contradictory – trigger different media reactions. At different times the Chinese press will be bold or tame, public-spirited or self-serving, but when a journalist or a news organisation breaches the boundary of the permissible at a particular moment, ‘other competitors are bound to pick it up and expand it’ (Lee 2000: 323). Viewing the interaction between journalist agency and party–market structure in a broader sense, it is arguable that political pressure can be negotiated and compromised on a post hoc and case-by-case basis. Journalist autonomy depends on the agency–structure interaction. For individual journalists, the newspaper is the structure; for subsidiary newspapers, the media group is the structure, while the party–market corporatist institution is the larger structure for media groups. Control over media can be strengthened or softened as gaps between agency and structure widen. Thus, the meso-level structure play a significant moderating role. From this perspective, it remains uncertain to what extent the Nanfang press will become docile to the power centre, or resume its once outspoken status. 94

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Notes 1 Available online at the Nanfang Media Group website, www.nfmedia.com/ (accessed 15 November 2012, in Chinese). 2 Please note that Nanfang Media Group and the Hefei Press Group terminated their cooperation of jointly running Jianghuai Morning Post in January 2014. Therefore the Jianghuai Morning Post no longer belongs to the Nanfang Media Group. 3 In Guangdong, Guangzhou Daily, Information Times, New Express Daily, Sunshine Daily, etc. are the examples that followed the NMD to set up pages for in-depth news and commentaries (H. Li 2006: 40–2; W. Li 2006). Outside Guangdong, newspapers such as Chengdu Commercial Daily, Huashang Morning Post and Xiaoxiang Morning Post all consulted directors of the in-depth journalism desk of NMD in 2006 before running their own investigative reporting teams. See H. Lu (2007: 34), Qian (2008: 121) and Tong (2011). 4 Because it publishes sensitive news stories or commentaries, a number of Nanfang’s chief editors, senior editors and veteran journalists (including Jiang Yiping, Qian Gang, Chen Mingyang, Cheng Yizhong, Chang Ping, Xiang Xi, Yu Chen, etc.) were pressured to resign, dismissed by government or even set up by officials (also see Hugo de Burgh, Chapter 6 in this volume). 5 For control and request for autonomy between central and local governments, see Chung (2003: 46–75). 6 Huang Wenyu was former editor-in-chief of Nanfang Daily in the 1950s to 1960s and deputy chief of the GPPD in the 1980s. In 1957, amid the peak of the anti-rightist movement, Huang Wenyu received instruction to establish Yangcheng Evening News following the journalistic principles different from the orthodox party organ paradigm. See Zuo Fang (2008 and 2012). 7 Huangpu Military Academy was the Kuomintang (i.e. the Nationalists) Army Officer Academy, launched by Sun Yat-sen in 1924. It produced many prestigious commanders who fought in many of China’s conflicts in the twentieth century, notably the Northern Expedition, the second Sino-Japanese war and the Chinese civil war. 8 For instance, Zhu Defu was reporter of NW and later was editor-in-chief of a Beijing metropolitan daily Jinghua Times (Jinghua Shibao); Lu Hui previously was head of the in-depth news desk of NMD and currently deputy editor-in-chief of a news weekly Vista (Kan Tianxia); Yang Bin was NMD’s senior editor and later became vice-chief executive officer of a Chinese portal website Netease; Gong Xiaoyue was editor of NMD and later became editor-in-chief of Xiaoxiang Morning Post (Xiaoxiang Chenbao), and so forth. See http://media.sohu.com/s2013/jyptx_zt/index.shtml for more information (accessed 30 September 2013, in Chinese). 9 Available online at the Nanfang Media Group website: http://news.nfmedia.com/jtjj/jtjj.htm (accessed 15 December 2012, in Chinese). 10 Yang Jian was succeeded by Mo Gaoyi in May 2013. 11 Jiang Yiping’s retirement in advance before the legal due date was regarded as a further symbol of Nanfang’s increasingly limited media autonomy, see http://media.sohu.com/s2013/jyptx_zt/ index.shtml (accessed 30 September 2013, in Chinese). 12 On 2 January 2013, editors of NW were off from work after finishing the proof-reading of the New Year greeting editorial to be published the next day. However, Tuo Zhen, the head of GPPD, called up the NW’s editor-in-chief and instructed him to revise the editorial. The printed editorial fundamentally differed from the original one compiled by the NW journalist. On 4 January, the NW journalists exposed the incident through Sina Weibo which shocked the national public. In subsequent days, the NW journalists’ struggle was supported by Chinese liberal scholars, university students and even celebrities in the Greater China area. In order to calm down the protests, the Guangdong propaganda officials agreed to loosen controls over the NW. The NW returned to regular publication on 10 January 2013. See Qian (2013); Wong and Ansfield (2013); and J. Shi (2013: EDT4).

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6 Chinese investigative journalism in the twenty-first century Hugo de Burgh

Characteristics and techniques The term investigative journalism was originally applied to a phenomenon of particularly detailed, sometimes revelatory and perhaps subversive reports by English and American journalists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the expression ‘muckrakers’ was also used. There was a largely unspoken assumption that this category of journalism was not necessarily covering events and activities on the generally recognised agenda, but finding out that which was hidden from the public. It was an epiphenomenon of relatively open societies and in particular of the Anglo-American societies, in which journalists were expected to challenge authority and its definitions of what mattered. Thus the early heroes of investigative journalism are William Cobbett, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair and W.T. Stead, for example, and the iconic examples are William Russell’s Crimean War dispatches, Winston Churchill’s 1930s exposure of German rearmament, the Sunday Times’s nailing of responsibility for the Thalidomide scandal, the uncovering of the corruption of urban planning in 1970s England, Seymour Hersh’s reports of atrocities in Vietnam and his exposure of torture in Iraq in 2003.1 Since then, there have been many more examples, with perhaps Politkovskaya’s reports from Chechnya, Saviano’s examination of Naples gangsters, and the Daily Telegraph’s revelation of corruption in the British parliament standing out as particularly notable (Hope 2009). China, too, in the first half of the twentieth century had its investigators, of whom the best known are Shao Piaoping and Liu Binyan, although the latter was obliged to disguise much of his work as literature.2 Much investigative journalism today is prosaic – because there is so much of it. Hardly a day goes by without the UK’s Daily Mail carrying out an investigation (de Burgh 2008), but not many will be on a large scale. Chinese equivalents are equally variable. Rather than trying to define investigative journalism by its motivations and heroics, it is therefore reasonable to define investigative journalism in China according to its method of approach and by the techniques associated with it, techniques that are not necessarily peculiar to investigative journalism, but which are characteristic of them. Some investigative journalists reject the very category, claiming that all journalism is or ought to be investigative, in the sense that checking and digging are intrinsic to good journalism. In general, however, Chinese investigative 100

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journalists are expected to display specific characteristics. They should be revelatory (provide new information, i.e. qishi xing, and expose hidden things, that is, jiefa xing); accusatory of bad people/organisations (qianze xing), and moralistic (implying that journalists apply higher moral standards, i.e. shuojiao xing); and, finally, willing to take risks (fengxian xing). The particular skills and techniques employed vary enormously. They include: routine deskwork and the examination of official documents and files; identifying, analysing and evaluating evidence; and research conducted through impersonation or infiltration. Techniques for demonstrating the nefarious activity under investigation include: sting, dramatisation, reconstruction, secret filming and door-stepping. In China today, as in anglophone countries, a great deal of this has existed since the 1990s.

China in the twenty-first century3 I have identified elsewhere, for a western audience, the re-emergence of investigative journalism in China (de Burgh 2003a: 801–20). By 2003, the scope was already wide and the techniques were sophisticated. It attracted huge audiences because the phenomenon was still exciting, but China changes very quickly. Today the investigative approach is mainstream in all branches of the media and has been stimulated, challenged and ruffled by revelation and criticism on the internet. Audiences for the leading television shows of this kind are smaller because the number of vehicles is so great. In the 1980s, the first post-1978 investigations were published by newspapers in the south. By the late 1990s, not only was China Central Television (CCTV), then China’s most influential medium, launching several programmes with the authority to be critical and investigative, but there were now many regional vehicles for this kind of journalism. Well-established national newspapers such as China Youth Daily (Zhongguo qingnian bao) and China Economic Times (Zhongguo jingji shibao), magazines such as Sanlian Life Weekly (Sanlian shenghuo zhoukan) and Finance (Caijing), and provincial newspapers with national reach such as Southern Weekend (Nanfang zhoumo), Southern Metropolis Daily (Nanfang dushi bao) and Yangcheng Evening News (Yangcheng wanbao), were all in the business. A study conducted in 2002 found that: Across the generations and regardless of the medium within which they work, Chinese journalists do at present have a passion for that journalism which scrutinises authority and delves into the failings of society. They call it ‘investigative journalism’ and they admire it even if they themselves do not practise it. Asked to describe the journalism they most admired, all of 39 interviewees cited an investigative programme, or a print publication best known for its investigations, as their ‘models’. They believe in ‘reports that put things right’, programmes that ‘reflect what people really think and care about’ and are ‘controversial’. As to those famous vehicles of investigative journalism, Southern Weekend, Tell It Like It Is and Focal Point, ‘every journalist wants to work with them, every journalist wants to be like their journalists’. (de Burgh 2003b: 183) A later article examined CCTV’s News Probe (Xinwen diaocha): The audience, says Editor Zhang Jie, was originally expected to consist of intellectuals, but he and his team rapidly realised that they had a huge following among the peasants and migrant workers. Large numbers of them call in with harrowing tales of exploitation, 101

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expropriation and corruption. All the calls are logged and the tales told are poured over for possible programme stories. Brutality by policemen; a lottery scam; ‘special’ taxes imposed by officials; the cutting down of trees belonging to the local community by officials; miscarriages of justice in the local courts; malpractice among registration officials, leading to speculation in connection with residency and marriage procedures; overcharging by public utilities; underpayment of peasants for use of their assets; expropriation of public buildings in Peking [Beijing]; substitution at court when the accused are powerful people; theft of burial plots and arable land – these are just a few of the reports received and carefully recorded by News Probe’s telephonists . . . They literally come from all over the country, from Xinjiang in the northwest to Shenzhen in the south, Heilongjiang in the northeast to Hainan at the southernmost tip of China. (de Burgh and Xin 2006: 1027) To assist in assessing in professional terms what was being produced, two established British commissioning editors of investigative journalism were asked to comment on several of News Probe’s productions, translated into English especially for them. The reactions of the then editor of BBC Panorama and the then commissioning editor for C4 Dispatches were reported thus: The ability of the Chinese journalists to probe in the way they do in the programmes selected filled the UK editors with admiration. Chinese journalists may be avoiding the biggest sharks of all, but they are putting terror into the hearts of some powerful local despots in ways of which the cynosures of Anglophone investigative journalism, such as Ida Tarbell, W. T. Stead, Seymour Hersh or Paul Foot, would be proud, thought the UK editors. There is a fundamental difference in approach between News Probe and Dispatches, according to Kevin Sutcliffe [Senior Commissioning Editor, Channel 4 Television]. Whereas Dispatches journalists usually start with an issue – poor nursing in the health service, the quality of meat used in restaurants and cafeterias, let’s say – and then seek out particular instances of the points they want to make, the News Probe stories seen by him concentrate entirely on the dissection of a specific instance of abuse or corruption or management failure. The British journalists will have in their sights those ultimately responsible, high officials, business leaders or politicians, and will attempt to nail them, whereas the Chinese will content themselves with exposing the instance and, aside from summaries at the end in which they urge government departments to pay attention to the findings and not make mistakes in future, will not generalise out. (de Burgh and Xin 2006: 1029) Ten years later timeblogging and social media have emerged. According to Zhan Jiang, China’s best known observer of investigative journalism, ‘more and more reporters’ have been engaged in the writing of exposés (jiehei baodao); ‘more and more media’ have been engaged in the publishing of exposés; more and more first-rate reports and regular columns on investigative reporting have appeared; investigative reports in China are showing an increasing degree of professionalism; investigative reporters are receiving more attention and respect by general society.4 They reveal wrong, especially by those in positions of responsibility, create examples of good or bad practice, and may instigate legislation. According to Haiying Wang (2010), a former practitioner, there are eight leading vehicles of investigative journalism (see Table 6.1). What do these vehicles investigate? The answer is most things. The environment gets special prominence, but malfeasance by local authorities 102

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Table 6.1 Main vehicles of investigative journalism in China and their mottoes Vehicle

Parent company

Launch

Slogan

Southern Weekend (Nanfang zhoumo)

Nanfang Group

1984

The best investigation is in-depth!

Focal Point (Jiaodian fangtan)

CCTV

1994

Truth speaks out

Freezing Point (Bing dian)

China Youth Daily

1995

Speak for the disadvantaged

News Probe (Xinwen diaocha)

CCTV

1996

In pursuit of justice

Southern Metropolis Daily (Nanfang dushi bao)

Nanfang Group

1997

Voice of the citizenry

Finance (Caijing)

Stock Exchange Executive Council

1998

Independent standpoint, exclusive coverage, and unique perspective

China News Weekly (Xinwen zhoukan)

Chinese News Agency

2000

Progress with China

Beijing News (Beijing xinwen bao)

Guangming Group

2003

Responsible reporting

Source: Adapted, with kind permission of the Reuters Institute, from Haiyan Wang (2010) Investigative Journalism and Political Power in China (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press).

and businesses, social injustice and health issues probably top the list. Examination cheating, student suicide, hospital failures, police brutality, tallymen (loan sharks), extortion and polluted food are staples, just as they are in the UK. Before assessing what this might indicate about Chinese society or Chinese journalists, the type of reports being produced as investigative journalism in China today will first be examined. A group of Chinese journalism students in the UK were asked informally to state which investigations had most impressed them (or which they remembered), and synopses are provided in the note5 of those to which they referred in order to illustrate the kind of material now being produced. Three specific investigations are mentioned here because they are particularly notable for various reasons. 1 Shanxi vaccines After many months of often difficult research Wang Keqin reported in the China Economic Times of March 2010, how negligently stored and distributed vaccines had resulted in the deaths of at least four children and damage to at least 74 others. The vaccines had been left unrefrigerated. The Shanxi Center for Disease Control entrusted vaccine manufacture and distribution throughout the province to a businessman who . . . paid 3.8 million Yuan to the Center for Disease Control in exchange for exclusive rights to the sale and distribution of vaccines in Shanxi Province. The businessman made a great deal of money from the project, yet during this time many vaccine stocks in Shanxi were damaged by heat exposure. Vaccines that were harmful and should have been immediately destroyed were instead administered to children throughout the province. (Qian 2010) 103

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Wang Keqin’s investigative report comprehensively documented the terrible effects of the vaccines, and the report provoked widespread concern and anger (Garnaut 2010). Shortly afterwards, the editor of China Economic Times, Bao Yueyang, was relieved of his post. Although official sources stated that his dismissal was an unrelated coincidence, this was not generally believed. The main outcome of the report was the curtailment of an editor’s career. 2 Anyuanding’s black jails Although petitioning central government is a frequently exercised Chinese right, it is one which infuriates some local officials because they are disciplined if too many petitioners register complaints against them. According to reporters from Caijing magazine and the Southern Metropolis Daily, published in September 2010, the Anyuanding Security Company ran illegal detention centres in Beijing, which were very profitable and employed 3,000 ‘interceptors’ who kidnapped petitioners arriving in the capital to register grievances. These unfortunate people were incarcerated for up to a month until shipped back home, often suffering abuse or worse in the meantime. The company was paid up to RMB 300 (c. US$48.10) per person per day for ‘taking care’ of petitioners until they could be escorted home by police. In an immediate response to the publication, Beijing City Public Security Bureau arrested two of Anyuanding’s executives and charged them with ‘illegally detaining people and illegally operating a business’ (Southern City Daily September 2010). 3 Red Cross in the pillory On 6 August 2011 a report for CCTV’s News Probe began: Guo Meimei, a 20-year-old girl, posted pictures of herself on Sina Weibo showing off her expensive car and handbags and claiming to be the Commercial General Manager of the Red Cross, the country’s largest charity. The pictures circulated widely and triggered public accusations against the Red Cross. The key question to be answered by this charity was: did Guo’s wealth have any connection to the Red Cross and was the charity funding her lavish lifestyle? This programme is a retroactive investigation, in which the reporters try to find out what really happened after netizens had claimed to have uncovered wicked doings at the Red Cross, China’s largest charity. The Red Cross had come under ferocious attack and been plunged into an unprecedented crisis of trust in 2011 after Guo Meimei claimed to work at the charity, while posting pictures of herself on Sina Weibo and boasting about her wealth and the expensive goods she owned. But was the assumption that Guo had got this money dishonestly from her supposed employers true? On 3 July 2011 shortly after Guo advertised herself, Weng Tao, the head of China Red Cross Bo’ai Asset Management Ltd, a commercial company with a cooperative relationship with the Red Cross which also organises charity activities on its behalf, blogged on Sina Weibo that Guo was Wang Jun’s new girlfriend. Wang Jun was a director of the Bo’ai company and blogs claimed that Guo’s expensive goods were presents from him. However, two days later Guo claimed on Weibo that her boyfriend was not Wang Jun but another. News Probe interviewed Weng Tao in order to discover whether Guo had any connection to the Red Cross. Weng insisted that Guo was neither on staff at Bo’ai nor at the Red Cross, that her luxuries had been personal gifts from her lover Wang Jun, and that there was no link between the companies and Guo. 104

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Thereafter Guo revealed to the reporter that Wang Jun was in fact her foster father and she did own both of the expensive cars with which she had been photographed, one of which was a present from her foster father and the other from her mother. Guo admitted that everything that had happened was a consequence of her showing off and she now denied any link to the Red Cross. A police investigation thereafter confirmed Guo’s statement to the reporter as true. At the end of the investigation, the reporter established the following: (a) Wang Jun had resigned from his job, but not because he himself had been accused of peculation – the accusations on social media were unfounded – but because his relationship with Guo and her behaviour had brought into disrepute both the Red Cross and Bo’ai company. (b) The veracity and details of Guo Meimei’s supposed connections to the Red Cross had been largely ignored by the netizen public, for which her self-promotion was a catalyst triggering a vicious campaign against the Red Cross, accusing it of corruption and supposed misspent donations in the past. (c) Although relevant matters had been ignored, Guo Meimei suffered a massive ‘human flesh search’ (Renrou sousuo),6 in attempts to dig out any sensational details about her and the sources of her wealth. The programme defined this as a violation of privacy. (d) The scandal has had an impact on donations for the Red Cross. Many potential donors now fear that their donated money will be misused and have cancelled their giving. This programme was not an investigation of the Red Cross, but of the way netizens, stimulated by Guo’s exhibitionism, attacked the Red Cross and destroyed its reputation unjustifiably, through smears and accusations without evidence. There have been other post-hoc investigations in recent years on News Probe, notably one about the corruption scandals in football which had, prior to the programme, been dealt with in a high-profile trial which resulted in several football officials going to prison.

Ups and downs A close watcher of investigative journalism in China, Zhan Jiang, has identified seven movements or stages in investigative journalism so far in the twenty-first century.7 The fortunes of Zhan’s object of study change almost from year to year according, it would seem, to the political situation. Up to 2002 there was a ‘brilliant’ period: for example, Focus Reports revealed a coalmine disaster in Guangxi, and the collusion between mine owners and local officials; Caijing revealed ‘shady deals’ in the stock market; and China Economic Times disclosed the monopoly and corruption of Beijing’s taxi industry. During 2003–4, three Southern City Daily editors were imprisoned, and yet the authorities allowed themselves to be influenced by the reporting of the Sun Zhigang case. Sun Zhigang was a young migrant who died in custody and whose case was taken up posthumously but with such fervour and general outcry that the government abolished the Custody and Repatriation Ordinance under which the police had been required to detain persons unable to show a valid residence permit, something which they often did, in unacceptable conditions. The Ordinance was replaced by the Measures for Assisting Vagrants with No Means of Support, a considerably more humane response to the problem (also see Chen, Chapter 5 in this volume). Xinhua News Agency, the authorities’ approved conduit of information, revealed a series of accidents in the manufacture of traditional medicine. Yet, in 2004, the Central Propaganda 105

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Department (CPD) prohibited the media from undertaking investigations in regions other than their own. The ability to do this had heretofore been essential to journalists’ ability to investigate at all, as it was generally regarded as problematic to report on home-town issues. To get round this, journalists had operated a swap system, by which they took tips from colleagues in distant provinces, and in return helped those same colleagues to publish locally. That year saw serious difficulties for several leading journalists. Two editors from Beijing News were sacked, as was an associate editor of Southern City Daily (de Burgh 2011: 35). It was the year of the Freezing Point closure8 and the dismissal of its editor and associate editor.9 During 2005, there were some high-profile investigations of corrupt officials, and celebrated reporter Wang Keqin exposed violent clashes between peasants and factory management in Hebei, as well as the extent of the AIDS scandal in a Hebei city. Nevertheless, according to Zhan, it was becoming much more dangerous to investigate and much more difficult to report. By 2006, only Caijing continued to investigate, and Southern Weekend compensated for its lack of investigations by expanding its opinion pages. However, by 2007–8 the situation had improved, both because the regulations on crossprovincial reporting were not enforced, and also because the Freedom of Information Act had been passed.10 Moreover, the internet was starting to function as a constant reproach to the mainstream media and as a stimulus to them to report on what was becoming impossible to ignore. Caijing continued to produce good stories, hiding behind its identity as an economics and finance magazine. Its report, ‘To whom does Shandong Energy Group belong?’, revealed a huge case of corruption, while Fu Zhenzhong of Henan TV’s City Channel exposed The evil road of ‘the Black Men’ (see note 5 for further details). In 2008 investigative journalism was overshadowed by the major events of that year – the Olympics, the Tibetan riots and the Sichuan earthquake – but in December 2009 the editor of Southern Weekend was demoted, soon after he had obtained an exclusive interview with US President Obama. The following year saw editors revitalised. In March 2010, 13 Chinese newspapers published a joint editorial, calling for reform and the eventual abolition of the household registration system. It was removed from websites, and authorities reportedly issued stern warnings to the paper which had initiated the project. Two months later the editor-in-chief of China Economic Times was demoted to a lesser role after defending Wang Keqin’s report linking wrongly stored vaccines to children’s deaths. Caijing.com revealed that the governor of Hubei had snatched away a digital recording pen from a Beijing Times journalist when she was trying to note what he was saying during a session of the National People’s Congress. Li Chengpeng published a book exposing corruption in the soccer establishment (Li 2011). The biggest development, however, was that the internet, and Weibo in particular, were now driving investigative journalism. More and more revelations of official corruption and incompetence were emerging; the journalist’s job was to try to keep abreast of the sources which were now multitudinous.

Investigative journalism and the China Project Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had insisted from the start that the media were to be its mouthpiece, and that there was no room in China for media workers to exercise their own judgements in selecting or interpreting events, even in the desperate years of the 1950s and 1960s this view was not completely without challenge. Liu Binyan disguised investigative or critical journalism as literary essays (baogao wenxue) and, in the aftermath of the Great Leap 106

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Forward, President Liu Shaoqi lent his prestige to the calls for the media to be sufficiently independent to give warning when matters were going wrong (de Burgh 2003b: 47–8). In the 1980s, as China reacted against the Cultural Revolution, journalists were emboldened to speak up for the media which would provide genuine information and positive criticism. This found favour with those leaders in the CCP who regarded the lack of media freedom to report truth, rather than repeat propaganda, as a factor in the disastrous Mao years. The media in Guangdong were particularly vigorous, but arguably have not yet recovered their 1980s sprightliness since being suppressed in 1989. Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of the economy and opening up to the outside world were understood to require or include an opening up of minds too, and journalists seized the opportunities provided by tolerant local officials, notably in Shenzhen. In 1987 Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang, in his report to party congress, made much of the expression ‘supervision by public opinion’ (yulun jiandu). By this, he meant that the media should exercise oversight over public officials; keep the people informed of what is going on; and reflect debates among the citizenry. Although Zhao was dismissed on account of his behaviour over the student demonstrations of 1989, subsequent leaders have continued to use the expression, while somewhat backtracking on Zhao’s rather radical assumption that most of the supervision by public opinion was to be focused on government misdemeanours, and that the initiative lay with journalists. Jiang Zemin thought that supervision by public opinion should only be exercised under the leadership of the party, although his prime minister, Zhu Rongji, seemed to go even further than Zhao and see the news media as a ‘mouthpiece of the people’. In 1996, CCTV launched investigative programmes that very rapidly attracted huge audiences and provided the model for other media throughout China, widely disseminating a long-unseen kind of journalism. Their introduction was initiated, or at least approved, by the then head of the Central Propaganda Department, Ding Guangen. In the early years of its life, the most vigorous vehicle for investigative journalism, News Probe, was regularly visited by national leaders and received their endorsement, encouragement and imprimatur (de Burgh 2003b: 25). Also in the 1990s, the government introduced ‘open government’ programmes and had officials examine foreign examples, with a view to China creating its own equivalent of Freedom of Information legislation, something which it indeed did in 2007. In his first live public address after acceding to the leading government and party positions in 2002, Hu Jintao inaugurated his ‘Scientific Development Perspective’. This manifesto differed from previous ones by Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping in two respects: it mentioned the word ‘democracy’ many times, and it particularly emphasised social justice and fairness. President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao were breaking with recent preoccupations by acknowledging the concerns about the expanding gap between rich and poor, and the fact that the welfare of the citizenry had been placed low down on the list of priorities during the preceding period, when economic development and marketisation had mattered above all. In time, accountability, transparency and the roles of the media in improving government would become constant themes. The first practical step was taken in 2002, when the government introduced a briefing and spokesperson system, by which all government departments at all levels were expected to appoint, from their career officials, people who would become specialists in dealing with the media and with public requests for information and comment from their organisations. The system of public spokespersons is now well organised, and they receive extensive training in their domestic responsibilities and functions by Tsinghua University School of Communications, and in their understanding of and skills for dealing with the international media by the University of Westminster’s China Media Centre (CMC). In 2003 Hu Jintao called on the media to be more realistic, to find out what was really happening (Tian 2003; Salmon 2011). However, while investigative reports into social issues 107

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and corruption might be encouraged, there was to be no further discussion of political reform. In 2004 a spate of officially inspired articles reaffirmed the government’s commitment to supervision by public opinion as a tool for weeding out corruption, but by 2007 Hu Jintao’s work report to the seventeenth party congress would stress that supervision by public opinion was part of the official apparatus for monitoring society, and is not independent. In an editorial in 2009 the People’s Daily Online stated: ‘[The] Government must lead the way in establishing respect for the media’s right to investigate and [the] right to conduct interviews’ (2 August 2009). Local propaganda officials, supervising the local media, pay close attention to the latest formulations of their leaders. According to a senior decision maker in the Hangzhou Press Office, interviewed in 2010, he and his colleagues were struck by the emphasis placed upon accountability and transparency at the seventeenth party conference of 2007. President Hu wanted ‘to guarantee that the powers vested in us by the people be used to the benefit of the people; to guarantee that powers are exercised correctly, authority should be exercised in the open’. Because the people have ‘the right to be informed, the right to take part, the right to express opinion and the right to supervise, we need decision-making and implementation to be public, accountable and credible’ (de Burgh and Mi 2012: 1017). It was important to have efficacious mechanisms of discipline and inspection able to deliver. Our informant’s understanding was that investigative journalism was just such a mechanism. In summary, while the principle of supervision by public opinion has become well established, its meaning is interpreted differently by different people at different times. Moreover, what seems like casuistry or even malevolence to anglophone observers, does not seem even remotely inconsistent in China: In the eyes of the régime, there is no contradiction between asserting those rights and maintaining that it is the duty of journalists to serve the party, to obey the instructions of the Party Propaganda Department. All in all, the concept of ‘rights’ [that] the Chinese government is using is one that perfectly well allows them to have an action plan to improve the protection of these rights, without intending in any way to weaken the party’s monopolistic grip on power. (Earp 2012) The project on which the country is engaged, in the view of its leaders and probably a very great proportion of the population, is making of China a relatively wealthy and influential nation once again; all institutions and operations in China are judged by their contribution to this ambition. Implicitly, investigative journalism is a tool of those leading it. Journalists do not strike out on a limb or claim unique status; they too serve the project.

Troubles The perennial problem is that while the most senior leaders declare support for journalism in their speeches, and legislation even puts right on their side, the endeavours of journalists can conflict with the interests, or dignity, of important people. There are some excellent cases in English that illustrate these matters well. For example, Investigative Journalism in China: Eight Cases in Chinese Watchdog Journalism (Bandurski and Hala 2010) details the struggle of several journalists to reveal the true scale of the Henan blood-selling scandal. While national leaders’ pronouncements frame journalists as allies in the battle against corruption, this comes up against local interests claimed to be those of the party; and, after all, Chinese officials and journalists 108

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have been brought up to believe over several generations that journalists are either the mouthpiece of the party or its enemy, that there is no such thing as impartiality. In his novel about an investigative journalist who uncovers official corruption, author Gao He has the journalist at one point deny the very idea of professional independence, in terms reminiscent of Noam Chomsky’s scepticism: Editor: Don’t for the life of you bring up press freedom, I want to vomit when I hear those words, they’re so fraudulent. You tell me, where is there such a thing as press freedom? The USA? Reporter: Screw US press freedom. The US media just take their cue from big business. Big business is their daddy and mummy and sustenance, they are just the throat and tongue of different corporates, just spokesmen. Americans themselves know their press freedom’s a fraud. (Gao 2006: 47) In the novel The Woman in the Government Office, the author has been realistic about the journalist’s family and network (Gao 2006). The protagonist is closely related to several locally important officials and is dating the estranged wife of the very official he is investigating for peculation and worse. The close interrelationships between journalists, officials of the propaganda system and local government are also brought out very clearly in the popular fictional Notes from the Civil Service, volume 3 (Xiaoqiao Laoshu 2010). The power of networks and personal relationships to stymie investigation is not the only trouble besetting Chinese investigators. Journalists today rarely suffer violence in AngloAmerica, but that is certainly not the case in many, if not most, other countries. Politkovskaya was murdered and Saviano lives in hiding. Chinese journalists risk being roughed up, or worse.11 They have no independent professional organisations to defend them, and no press law to give them rights; the very definition of ‘journalist’ is problematic, since for the party the press are officials, while for others they are subversives who, if not to be bought off by bribery, are fair game.

What has investigative journalism done for China? In a number of cases, a clear connection between investigative journalism and policy has been traceable, the best known of which is the Sun Zhigang case.12 As a result of critical reporting, ministers have resigned or been dismissed (e.g. the Minister of Health during the SARS revelations),13 though many would claim too few. It can be argued, however, that investigative journalists have had a certain profound influence on society, though not always directly on policy. They have brought into the public sphere a sceptical, revelatory approach, exposing to public view not only evils of which they could only guess, but how society works; subjected powerful people to criticism and accusation; used a rational, evidential style, rather than a literary one; and espoused impartiality (pingheng baodao), or at least detachment; and they have introduced techniques previously only associated with police officers, in order to write their stories and excite interest. The effects specific to the profession may have been equally far-reaching. It is now possible to be a journalist ‘outside the system’, and understandably people with an investigative yen find ‘outside the system’ more attractive than ‘inside the system’, even though they will lack the job security and perks of being in effect a civil servant. The approach taken by investigative journalism 109

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has highlighted the contradictions between the media as CCP mouthpiece and the media professionals who exercise their own judgement. Journalists required to consider evidence eschew ideology and polemic, and consider that they are writing for people of different interests, formation and prejudices, and should be encouraging them to think for themselves, not telling them what to think.

What does investigative journalism tell us about society? In the anglophone world journalism became professionalised in the nineteenth century, and over the twentieth century specialists were increasingly differentiated into categories. With more media, the number of different specialities of journalism has increased, although many nevertheless continue to try to work over a variety of topics, from industry to environment, to education to science, medicine and military, and they work in multiple media as a matter of course. Investigations were initially thought of as reports in depth, such as the remarkable revelations by Tarbell, Sinclair and Stead, referred to previously, or those requiring particular expertise, such as those by Churchill in the 1930s or members of the Thalidomide team in the 1960s. It would appear that the rather exciting idea of the investigative journalist, of someone really very special, a kind of crusader, became fashionable after the Watergate investigation was made into a film, All the President’s Men, in 1976, one of many literary or filmic portrayals of investigative journalists as a (frequently lone) hero, driven by the urge to right wrong and generally be the scourge of the powerful. Because of the adversarial approach favoured by anglophone journalists, there has been an assumption that the only proper investigative journalism is that carried out in a spirit of hostility to the establishment and of scepticism towards government and all its works. It appears that a similar process may be taking place in China, only faster, of course, because of the rapidity with which China has jumped from Maoism into the modern world, and which is complicated by the far more varied media scene of the twenty-first century. To some extent this may be occurring because foreign models have become more easily accessible as members of all professions scour the world for ideas that may help China to innovate and progress. It is not only Chinese businesspeople, students and officials who have gone out in possibly the greatest exercise in learning ever undertaken by one society, but also many media workers, decision makers and journalists, at all levels. Central government has driven this, with a central government office, the Waizhuanju, enabling the process. In 2007 the CPD began to promote understanding of the western media in order to prepare for the 2008 Olympics, and authorised the training of media handlers and public spokespersons to this effect. Soon afterwards, China was extending the reach of its media abroad, and continued very much the same policy of learning how journalism was conducted elsewhere. Not only have teams of media people gone abroad to study, but seminars and workshops specifically aimed at developing investigative journalism have been held in China.14 Specialisation is occurring and those most avid to develop their specialism are possibly now the environment correspondents, a recent phenomenon (de Burgh 2011: 37–9). In the UK, the CMC of the University of Westminster has been commissioned by the Chinese government to teach journalists and officials about western journalism, and has been introducing broadcast producers and production specialists to light entertainment and reality show production. This has led several Chinese broadcasters to buy and adapt UK-originated formats for transmission in China, a process impacting on the professional knowledge and skills of many in television production in China. The consequences of this process are not yet fully understood. All in all, media workers are being introduced not only to new skills and techniques, but also to new concepts of their work and roles. 110

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In each of these instances it is the Chinese government or the CCP that has promoted investigative journalism,15 and this is not surprising in a country where most media are ultimately owned by the state, yet it stands in contrast with other countries where politicians customarily loathe investigative journalism even if they pay lip service to its social role. How can we explain this? Possibly by interpreting political encouragement as the accommodation to pressure, or the desire to develop tools in the political struggle. However, it seems that the more likely explanation is that public-spirited officials actually do see investigative journalism as a responsibility at least as important as the party’s Discipline and Inspection Commission or other agents of surveillance. In other words, investigative journalism is an arm of the establishment that can be used to keep those with power under scrutiny, and perhaps scare others into honesty. Thus the relationship between investigative journalists and the ‘good’ officials will be a close one; there will doubtless also be the kind of unhealthy relationships that were exposed in the UK during the hacking scandal.16 However, those journalists who concur in the party’s job description for them are likely to have a more cooperative relationship with their employers, based on common ideals and the belief that journalists are valued colleagues of the leadership. Another powerful influence upon the trajectory of investigative journalism is the internet, and more specifically blogs and social media. Investigative journalists have usually, in launching investigations, sourced from leads provided by other media. In the 1980s, as a young reporter on an investigative television show, my fellow reporter and I would scour the newspapers for leads and longed for tips by telephone. When in 2005 I attended an editorial meeting at News Probe, although the programme received thousands of calls and emails, the team still scoured the newspapers and magazines for ideas (de Burgh and Xin 2006). Today all conventional media very much take account of the bloggers and tweeters who thus help to set the media agenda. During the Xiamen Paraxylene Plant Case, netizens mobilised public opinion against a proposed development and stopped it.17 The conventional media picked up the story only when it was clear that it could not be hidden. Familiar around the world is the Chongqing Nailhouse Case, in which a family of victims of urban development held out over three years for greater compensation for the loss of their home. A picture of their house, sticking up like a nail in a cleared building site, was posted on the Web and moved millions of netizens before becoming an icon all over the world (also see Hsiao-wen Lee, Chapter 7 in this volume). In the Shanxi Brick Kilns Case, netizens exposed the collusion of civil servants and police with employers to exploit and enslave child workers in brick-making (see note 5 in this chapter).

Conclusions Investigative journalism in China is an established part of public life, but its role appears to have changed over the first decade of the twenty-first century. For the most interesting revelations, people look to the internet, but for careful dissection of issues and problems, it is the investigative programmes, articles and books that do the topics justice. Journalists in many countries are part of the establishment, even when they think they are not, but also have the role of keeping a check on members of the political class. This sometimes brings about conflict, because political leaders do not like the interference they advocate for their rivals. There are investigative journalists in many countries who pit themselves against the consensus and the desires of the powerful; they are few, and they get into trouble. The trouble for such investigators as the American Seymour Hersh or Australia’s John Pilger is not as rough as it can be for a Chinese journalist, but then the societies are different. 111

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In China the relationship between investigative journalism and authority suffers from mood swings, so that in one year an editor may be disciplined for what in another year he might be praised. This is not an exclusively Chinese phenomenon; the relationships between politicians and journalists are subject to instability in many countries, with transformations that may seem erratic when the politics, personalities and interests behind them are not understood. Advocates of revolution in China have tended to interpret the differing periods as ‘open’ or ‘repressive’ and see them as skirmishes in some long battle between the forces of ‘progress’ (good) and ‘reaction’ (evil), although the evidence for this is thin. It is equally possible that they simply reflect the normal condition of the relationship between people whose function in society is to govern and build, and people whose function is to examine and evaluate. Those journalists who perceive that anglophone journalists have more scope and more power than those in their home country feel badly treated, and want the working conditions that they admire abroad. New media have provided investigators, both professional and amateur, with new tools for research and dissemination, which makes it easier for journalists to do their research, but also offers them the power to circumvent the limitations intended by authority. They can pressure their editors to publish what is already on the Web and their editors must make the case to those in authority over them. Clashes are inevitable as authority comes to terms with the limitations on its power to suppress. A student keen to work as an investigative journalist in China once asked the British journalist who had just won the Orwell Prize how she could work as one in her home country, the presumption being that the barriers were too great. He replied: You know here looking at what people don’t want you to see can cause you trouble too, but you do the best you can in the circumstances of your culture and politics. There are many good journalists in China, be one of them. Never sacrifice your professional standards, but adapt, do what you can.18 The risks are greater in China, but innumerable people are practising investigative journalism and some in authority are finding ways of supporting them.

Notes 1 William Cobbett (1763–1835), the earliest English investigative journalist, exposed peculation in the army in America; Ida Tarbell (1857–1944) investigated the Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company; Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) is particularly remembered for exposing the US meat packing industry; W.T. Stead (1849–1912) was editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and first reported underage prostitution. William Russell (1820–1907) wrote Crimean War dispatches which changed war reporting forever by showing the ordinary soldiers’ side of the story; Winston Churchill (1874–1965) exposed the 1930s German rearmament which earned him the grudging admiration of his political colleagues who eventually realised that only he could lead world resistance to Hitler; the Sunday Times in the 1970s nailed responsibility for the Thalidomide scandal on the Distillers Company whose drug had caused thousands of babies to be born with often terrible defects; Ray Fitzwalter uncovered the corruption of urban planning in 1970s England and the responsibility of an architect called Poulson who was imprisoned as a result; Seymour Hersh’s reports of atrocities in Vietnam and his exposure of torture in Iraq in 2003 place him (born 1937) as one of the most distinguished as well as longest lasting of investigative journalists. These cases are described in greater detail in de Burgh (2008). 2 Shao Piaoping (1884–1926), an enterprising publisher and journalist, was eventually executed following his constant criticism of corruption in government; and Liu Binyan (1925–2005) was a much persecuted journalist greatly admired during the transitory periods of the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s when he was able to publish his coruscating exposes of corruption. For further details, please see de Burgh (2003b). 3 An abbreviated version of this section is included in de Burgh’s China’s Media (2014). 112

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4 Zhan Jiang, discussions with the author, January 2013 in Beijing. 5 Synopses of selected recent investigations: (1) Demolition in the public interest? Residents in a suburb of Changshu, Jiangsu Province, have just discovered that their right to the land on which their houses are built will be revoked within 15 days and their properties will be demolished. Yet the 800 or more houses have not been up for longer than ten years. The reason? So-called ‘public interest’, or rather the creation of a commercial and leisure centre (Southern Weekend 2010a; New Probe 28 August 2010; Xinhua 2010). (2) A new generation of peasants An in-depth examination of new forces at work in peasant society. Unlike traditional city immigrants, the present generation of young peasants has been keen to get into the city. And they will not return, because they lack many of the skills required of traditional peasants. Over the Spring Festival of 2011, over half of Foxconn employees (overwhelmingly from the rural areas) chose to stay away from their homes in the countryside. Their attitudes are very different from traditional city immigrants (News Probe 12 February 2011). (3) The pain of Poyang Lake The water level of China’s largest freshwater lake, Poyang, has dropped to the lowest point in history, triggering a drought warning. This poses a threat to the water supply of Duchang County’s 120,000 residents. Visitors find a parched lake-bed, dead snails and clams, and fishing ships that had run aground (News Probe 25 June 2011; CCTV English 2012). (4) Local officials whose demolition caused death all still hold their positions According to the writer, local officials privately boasted at the time about the forced evictions and even about self-immolation. Neither this nor the deaths consequent on their actions will have the slightest impact on their careers. An extensive investigation in Southern Weekend confirms this (Southern Weekend 2010a). (5) Journalists lurk in Foxconn, exposing the puzzle of suicide of employees In May 2010, seven young Chinese workers producing Apple iPads for consumers across the globe took their own lives, prompting an investigation into working conditions at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen. A Southern Weekend intern took a job in Foxconn for 28 days in order to investigate (Southern Weekend 2010b; Chamberlain 2011). (6) Who is in charge of the Henan Soong Ching-ling Foundation? A scandal-ridden regional charity organisation, the Henan Soong Ching-ling Foundation, is accused of spending a huge amount of money on illegal lending and other investments. In memory of Soong Ching-ling (i.e. Mandame Sun Yat-sen, 1893–1981), a non-governmental institution bearing her name was established on 29 May 1982 to promote the welfare of children in poor areas (Southern Weekend 2011). (7) An investigation of eight uncharitable lies by Lu Junqing and World Eminent Chinese Business Associations (WECBA) In 2011 China was hit by a second charity-related scandal, as questions swirled around the China–Africa Project ‘Hope’, founded jointly by the China Youth Development Foundation of the Chinese Communist Youth League and the WECBA, a group linked to billionaire Lu Junqing, and registered only as a private company in Hong Kong. Reporters from Southern Metropolis Daily carried out an investigation and discovered much evidence of fraudulent practice in the association’s everyday operations (Southern Metropolis Daily 2011; Bandurski 2011). (8) Evil road of ‘The Black Men’ In May 2007, 400 parents in Henan started an online campaign appealing for public help to find their missing children. In the same month, Henan TV’s Metro Channel journalist Fu Zhenzhong began to investigate at train and bus stations with a secret camera. He found that as many as 1,000 children had been kidnapped in Henan and sold as slaves to work in the brickworks of neighbouring Shanxi province. On 19 May Henan Television broadcast this news story, and then the illegal brick kiln scandal hit the headlines and attracted the attention of the country’s leaders. The government finally stepped in to rescue the enslaved labourers and arrested the illegal kiln bosses (Beijing Review 2007; Chen 2007). 6 ‘Flesh search’ describes a process by which netizens hound an individual, searching for and sharing any information they can glean, crowd sourcing often with the intention of destroying the target’s standing. 7 The examples cited here are taken from Zhan Jiang, with whom the author had an extensive discussion on 12 January 2013, and who subsequently sent me his lecture notes. 113

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8 Bing dian (Freezing Point), the weekly supplement of Zhongguo Qingnianbao (China Youth Daily) was closed down after it featured a reinterpretation of nineteenth-century Anglo-Chinese history (Tsai 2010: 224–33). 9 Y. Lu’s personal communication to Hugo de Burgh and Xin Xin in Beijing 2004. Lu Yuegang is a leading investigative journalist who is widely remembered for a very remarkable investigation of how political power was mobilised to cover up an appalling case of maltreatment of a wife. This is effectively retold in Bandurski and Hala (2010). 10 For a fuller description of how China came to develop and implement freedom of information, or the legal enablement by which government bodies are obliged to provide information and which is often referred to as ‘open government’, see Mair (2012). 11 Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya was a distinguished Russian reporter who exposed the savagery of the Russian pacification of Chechnya (BBC News 2006). Roberto Saviano wrote an exposure of organised crime in Naples, made into a film, called Gomorrah. He lives in hiding under police protection. See: The Independent (2006), ‘Man who took on the mafia: the truth about Italy’s gangsters’ (www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/man-who-took-on-the-mafia-the-truth-about-italysgangsters-420427.html [Accessed 3 March 2013]). 12 The best known example of posts on the Web mobilising opinion is that of Sun Zhigang, a young migrant who died in custody and whose case was taken up posthumously, but with such fervour and general outcry that the government abolished the Custody and Repatriation Ordinance. This case is often interpreted as an example of government’s rapid reaction to issues broached on the internet, as well as of its relationship with editors (see de Burgh 2014 and Chen, Chapter 5 in this volume). 13 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is an acute form of pneumonia that was thought by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be spreading in China in 2003. The first cases of SARS were seemingly detected in China as early as November 2002, but the government failed to inform the WHO. When SARS spread to other countries, the WHO was furious. In late April 2003, the government admitted that the number of SARS cases had been greatly under-reported and apologised, although many believed it had only done so after a Chinese doctor had acted as whistleblower and revealed the extent of the disease through the Hong Kong media. Later, relatively full coverage of both an avian flu outbreak and the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 suggested to observers that the government had learned from the experience of handling SARS that suppressing such reports is selfdefeating, because the information eventually emerges anyway, and the failure to report it adequately from the start earned widespread disapprobation for China (de Burgh 2014: 24). 14 Workshops have been held at Fudan University, Shanghai. The CMC of the University of Westminster, UK, has held them at Dahe Daily and Henan TV, in Zhengzhou, with The Guardian’s Nick Davies and BBC’s Paul Kenyon; CMC has also held them at CCTV, with BBC’s Steve Hewlett and Channel 4’s Kevin Sutcliffe. 15 The promotion of investigative journalism on television and the creation of the leading television vehicles in the 1990s is usually attributed to Ding Guang’gen, the head of the CPD. 16 The revelation, over 2011–12, that British journalists had hacked into private phone messages, bribed police and manipulated politicians, became a major scandal leading to calls for more regulation of the media (Mair 2012). 17 With the ‘Xiamen Paraxylene Plant’ case, netizens used social media to mobilise public opinion against a proposed development and stopped it. Because of their success it is possible that people affected by such proposals in future may be consulted and their permission sought (de Burgh and Zeng 2012: 1004–23). 18 Peter Hitchens, winner of the 2010 Orwell Prize for Journalism, at the reception following the awards ceremony, in conversation with a group of Westminster MA Journalism students.

References Bandurski, D. (2011) ‘Eight uncharitable lies by the WECBA’, China Media Project, 22 August. Available online http://cmp.hku.hk/2011/08/22/15082/ (retrieved 3 March 2013). Bandurski, D. and Hala, M. (2010) Investigative Journalism in China: Eight Cases in Chinese Watchdog Journalism, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. BBC News (2006) ‘Chechen War reporter found dead’, BBC News, 7 October. Available online http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5416218.stm (retrieved 3 March 2013). 114

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Beijing Review (2007) ‘Child labour disgrace’, Beijing Review.com, 6 July. Available online www.bjreview.com.cn/quotes/txt/2007–07/06/content_68382.htm (retrieved 20 February 2013). CCTV English (2012) ‘Poyang Lake water level hits record low’, CCTV.com, 9 January. Available online http://english.cntv.cn/20120109/116464.shtml (retrieved 3 March 2013). Chamberlain, G. (2011) ‘Apple factories accused of exploiting Chinese workers’, The Observer, 30 April. Available online www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/apr/30/apple-chinese-factory-workerssuicides-humiliation (retrieved 3 March 2013). Chen, L. (2007) ‘Fu Zhenzhong: a hero’ (Fu Zhenzhong: danpo zhi mei), Sina News Centre, 21 December. Available online http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-12-21/172514575230.shtml (retrieved 20 February 2013, in Chinese). de Burgh, H. (2003a) ‘Kings without crowns? The re-emergence of investigative journalism in China’, Media, Culture and Society 25(6): 801–20. –––– (2003b) The Chinese Journalist, London: Routledge. –––– (2008) Investigative Journalism, London: Routledge. –––– (2011) ‘Nuevos medios y periodismo de investigación en China: el dragón se mueve’, Infoamérica: Iberoamerican Communication Review 6: 53–60. –––– (2014) China’s Media, New York: Polity. de Burgh, H. and Mi, M. (2012) ‘Responding to an activist public: reconfiguring relationships between authority and media in a Chinese city’, Media Culture & Society 34(8): 1013–27. de Burgh, H. and Xin, X. (2006) ‘News Probe: What does it tell us about Chinese journalism today?’, Medien Journal 30(2–3): 52–66. de Burgh, H. and Zeng R. (2012) ‘Environment correspondents in China in their own words: their perceptions of their role and the possible consequences of their journalism’, Journalism 13(8): 1004–23. Earp, M. (2012) ‘In China, press rights equal press control’, Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 June. Available online http://cpj.org/blog/2012/06/in-china-press-rights-equal-press-control.php (retrieved 27 March 2013). Gao, H. (2006) The Woman in the Government Office (Changwei dayuan li de nüren), Beijing: Zhongguo Youyi (in Chinese). Garnaut, J. (2010) ‘Chinese editor damned for publishing deadly vaccine report’, Sunday Morning Herald, 12 May. Available online www.smh.com.au/world/chinese-editor-damned-for-publishing-deadlyvaccine-report-20100512-uwt5.html#ixzz2MB0Q0qkf (retrieved 11 May 2013). Hope, C. (2009) ‘Britain slips to new low in ranking of most corrupt countries after MPs’ expenses scandal’, The Telegraph, 17 November. Available online www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/ 6589686/Britain-slips-to-new-low-in-ranking-of-most-corrupt-countries-after-MPs-expensesscandal.html (retrieved 3 March 2013). Li, C.P. (2011) Chinese Soccer: The Inside Story, Beijing: Baihuazhou Literature and Art Publishing House (in Chinese). Mair, J. (ed.) (2012) After Leveson? The Future of British Journalism, London: Abramis Academic. News Probe [television] (21 November 2010) ‘Blood shortage’, CCTV. –––– (17 July 2010) ‘Crazy usury’, CCTV. –––– (28 August 2010) ‘Demolition in the public interest?’, CCTV. –––– (20 March 2010) ‘Do we need a law to protect cats?’, CCTV. –––– (25 September 2010) ‘The 277 fake identities’, CCTV. –––– (12 February 2011) ‘A new generation of peasants’, CCTV. –––– (25 June 2011) ‘The pain of Poyang Lake’, CCTV. Qian, G. (2010) ‘We must know more about the Shanxi vaccine scandal’, China Media Project, 26 March. Available online http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/03/26/5270/ (retrieved 11 May 2013). Salmon, N. (2011) ‘Investigating China: what it means to be a journalist in a socialist market economy’, La Vie des idées, 13 December. Available online www.booksandideas.net/IMG/pdf/20111213_ investigating-China.pdf (retrieved 16 July 2013). Southern Metropolis Daily (2011) ‘An investigation of eight lies by Lu Junqing and WECBA’ (Lu junqing ji shijie jiechu huashang xiehui ba da huangyan diaocha), Southern Metropolis Daily, 20 August. Available online http://news.nfmedia.com/nfdsb/content/2011–08/20/content_28626178_2.htm (retrieved 3 March 2013, in Chinese). Southern Weekend (2010a) ‘Local officials whose demolition caused death all still hold their positions’ (Chaichu renming de defang, guanyuan guoran gege haizai), Nanfangdaily.com, 8 April. Available online http://news. nfmedia.com/nfzm/content/2010–04/08/content_10865999.htm (retrieved 3 March 2013, in Chinese). 115

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–––– (2010b) ‘Journalists lurk in Foxconn, exposing the puzzle of suicide of employees’ (Nanfang zhoumo jizhe qianfu fushikang, tanxun baliantiao zisha zhi mi), Nanfangdaily.com, 13 May. Available online http://news.nfmedia.com/nfzm/content/2010–05/13/content_11883979.htm (retrieved 3 March 2013, in Chinese). –––– (2011) ‘Who is charging Henan Soong Ching Ling Foundation?’ (Shui zai kongzhi henan song qingling jijinhui), Infzm.com, 2 September. Available online www.infzm.com/content/62743/ (retrieved 3 March 2013, in Chinese). Tian, H.M. (2003) ‘President Hu encourage reporting to be more realistic’ (Hu Jintao haozhao zhichi xinwen baodao, zhongguo xinwen gaige chunchao lailin), Sina News, 8 April. Available online http://news.sina. com.cn/c/2003-04-08/1730986521.shtml (retrieved 3 March 2013, in Chinese). Tong, J. (2011) Investigative Journalism in China: Journalism, Power, and Society, London: Continuum International. Tsai, M.Y. (2010) Little Study, Big Universe (Xiao shufang, da tiandi), Taipei: Lixu Publishing (in Chinese). Wang, H. (2010) ‘Investigative journalism and political power in China’, RISJ Working Paper Series, University of Oxford. Xiaoqiao Laoshu (2010) Notes from the Civil Service (Guanchang biji), Beijing: Phoenix (in Chinese). Xinhua (2010) ‘Changshu residents learned demolition from a notice on the local official paper’ (Jiangsu changshu jian shangwuqu dengbao chaiqian, beichai xiaoqu jumin buzhiqing), News.cn, 30 August. Available online http://news.xinhuanet.com/house/2010–08/30/c_12496972.htm (retrieved 3 March 2013, in Chinese).

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7 From control to competition A comparative study of the party press and popular press Hsiao-wen Lee

Introduction: transitions of the party press to popular press The media reforms of the mid-1980s through to the 1990s caused Chinese news media to become increasingly more diverse in their function and structure, including a boom in the evening, city and metropolitan newspaper sectors, the expansion of the number of pages and weekend editions, press annexation and conglomeration, and joint-venture press growth (Huang 2001: 435–50). These developments fundamentally changed the face of the newspaper industry in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Generally speaking, newspapers in the PRC act as the mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). By guiding the direction, principle, policy and mission the party organ is a very important platform for the CCP. Various newspapers, in addition to their official propaganda missions, also serve different purposes and audience groups such as labourers, women, youth and the elderly. This chapter looks at how the newspaper industry has changed from being a party and government-led propaganda tool to become a more commercially market-oriented product. This will be achieved by first looking at four key influencing factors: (1) circulation, (2) advertising revenue, (3) distribution and (4) organisation of press groups. Second, the chapter explores how different variables impact on the news media: political control, market competition and professional performance. Then finally through the analysis of four news events during the period between 2005 and 2007, the discussions identify the various ways news coverage has been influenced. This chapter will argue that the popular market-oriented newspapers not only try to touch the party line when doing their reports, but also surrender themselves to wider commercial considerations.

Four influencing factors Circulation Since 1949 the total number of newspapers and their circulation figures have fluctuated. The variations in China’s political and economic environment can be charted in accordance with the 117

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fluctuations in newspaper publication. The lowest figures of newspaper publication occurred during the anti-Rightist movement of 1957, during the economic depression of the early 1960s and again in the Cultural Revolution. The popular press expanded in the post-Cultural Revolution environment of the 1980s when economic reform was the paramount strategy. For example from 1980 to 1985, there were 1,008 newspapers being published in the PRC, but by 1986 that figure increased to nearly 2,200; and these newspapers were offering a far greater diversity in content than had previously been experienced by Chinese readers. By 1986 the combined circulation of the popular press and the party press numbered more than 200 million (Lull 1991: 19). After 2000, there were more than 2,100 newspapers in the Chinese market (Hu 2005). According to official statistics from the General Administration of Press and Publication (2013), there were 1,918 newspapers published in 2012 with an average circulation of 227.62 million.

Advertising revenue When newspapers were seen as predominately propaganda tools, there was no advertising in the newspapers. This situation prevailed until the 1980s when advertising revenue gradually became the most important source of income for newspapers. In the early 1990s, the number of evening newspapers in China increased (Hu 2005). Evening newspapers with their focus on local news, business news, entertainment and sports news were particularly popular (Huang 2001: 435–50; Hu 2005). In 2001, among more than 2,000 newspapers in China, 145 were evening newspapers of which five were in the top ten advertising revenue generators. The total circulation figure from all over the country was around 21 million copies. The other publishing growth area in the 1990s was city or metropolitan newspapers, whose format and target audience are similar to the evening newspapers. For example, the Huaxi Metropolitan enjoyed a good market share in 1995 and acquired advertising revenue of RMB 10 million (c. US$1.6 million) in its first year of operation; by 1999 its revenue had reached RMB 200 million (c. US$32.25 million) (Hu 2005). The commercial success of the Huaxi Metropolitan inspired many cities to also produce a variety of city or metropolitan newspapers. In 1998, there were only 30 city newspapers with a market share of advertising revenue of more than RMB 100 million (c. US$16.12 million). By 2005 the number of city newspapers with similar formats had risen to approximately 500. Due to the highly competitive market seeking the same sources of revenue the problems of product placement and advertising news were increasing. There were too many similar popular newspapers in the same city or province which, according to statistics from Meihua,1 had caused newspaper advertising revenue to decline by 19.20 per cent in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Distribution Since the 1950s newspapers have traditionally been delivered by the post office which allows the Chinese government to control the delivery of information and to ensure that all propaganda is circulated as widely as possible. This system caused many distribution companies of private newspapers a number of problems, and in some cases even failure. Such a system does not work well in the commercial market where morning delivery by postmen cannot be guaranteed, even on the date of publication. Additionally the post office did not have sufficient flexibility to distribute newspapers, as their overriding priority is to deliver the post. In 1985 this led to the Luoyang Daily starting to distribute newspapers through its own system (Hu 2005), allowing for efficiency and a means to keep in touch with their readers. The Luoyang Daily was supported 118

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by the propaganda department of the local government, which allowed a rise in circulation figures. This then prompted many other newspapers to follow the Luoyang Daily’s example and establish their own distribution networks. In 1995 the Huaxi Metropolitan became the first city newspaper to be established and handle its own distribution (Huang 2001: 435–50). This gave every subscriber the possibility of getting their newspaper on time. This system of self-distribution has made the Huaxi Metropolitan a big success in the Sichuan Province newspaper market. From then on, commercial activities and self-distribution became increasingly important tools in market competition. For example, subscribers to newspapers were now rewarded with presents, vouchers or entry to lottery prize draws. The main purpose of these gimmicks was to attract more regular subscribers and readers, and therefore gain a larger percentage of advertising revenue.

Organisation of press groups Since 1949, all media in China have depended on a subsidy or government subscription helping them to serve as party organs. Due to growing financial constraints state subsidies have significantly decreased causing most party newspapers to look for other income from the market. Press or media groups began forming in the late 1990s after the marketisation of China’s media system. The creation of these press groups was primarily financial since the popular press could no longer depend on public money to support their financial needs. In fact the profits of the popular press have now become an important financial resource for the newspaper groups. The popular newspapers focus on articles relating to people’s everyday lives, their leisure and business activities, and differ openly from the party newspapers. Their tone of news coverage tends to take a sentimental approach, a form of popular expression which appeals to readers (Levy 2002: 39–56; Zhao 2002: 111–35). Popular newspapers embrace many formats, including Sunday editions, weekly, evening and metropolitan newspapers, and business, fashion and consumer news, which reflect the economic boom of the 1980s and the 1990s (Hu 2005). As the popular press outsold the party press at newsstands, many party newspapers and official organs began extending the scope of their publications in very different directions (Zha 1995: 107). In other words, they began to also publish these market-oriented popular newspapers. In order to accommodate this phenomenon newspaper groups were established in the late 1990s. On 15 January 1996 the Guangzhou Daily Press Group became the first established newspaper group. Other groups including the Yangcheng Evening Press Group, the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group and the Guangming Daily Press Group were also established soon after. By the end of 2004 there were 43 newspaper groups throughout China; of these 2 belonged to the central government, 23 to provincial governments and 13 to local city governments. These press groups were primarily based on a parent (party) newspaper, which then developed or merged with others. For example, the Guangzhou Daily was the party organ of the Guangzhou city government, but it also collaborated with other official departments and merged with other newspapers to create various publications, such as the Guangzhou Teenager News, Football News, Guangzhou Business News, Guangzhou Daily Weekend and the Guangzhou Daily Sunday News. In short, the structure and function of the newspaper industry have moved towards a very diverse, commercial and competitive landscape after the media reforms of the mid-1980s. Meanwhile the government authorities still maintain ideological control using many different methods. In order to appeal to the largest number of readers, the popular newspapers try to publish political and economic news from a rather personal angle and ‘soften’ hard news reports (Zhao 1998). In other words, the popular newspapers face challenges from both political control and market competition. 119

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Control, competition and professional performance in the popular press Although the market-oriented popular newspapers are a big success, commercialisation can be seen as another tool for the authorities to exercise their influences under the political and media structures of the PRC. Therefore political control, market competition and professional performance are the three main considerations which have an impact on the coverage of the popular press (Zhou 2009: 129–36). In order to gain insight into how these three elements intervene in news coverage and the news media institution, four themes will be discussed: (1) strict censorship in sensitive news, (2) ‘normal gap’ competition, (3) political intervention in sensitive news and (4) ‘disaster’s paradox’.

Strict censorship in sensitive news ‘Censorship’ is not an official term used in China. Instead, there are many different layers of political power and administration to achieve the same aim. To understand how this is achieved it is necessary to study a variety of different cases. It is difficult to draw a single general conclusion which applies under all conditions, such as public opinion supervision or supervision by the press. Only by deep investigation into specific cases can an observer see how the political power exercises censorship. However, because of increasing competition and the shrinking share of advertising revenue, the newspaper market has already compromised and become much more market driven. This section discusses the role of the regulatory body and the tools of management. The most important political authority in the context of the press is the Central Propaganda Department (CPD) which controls the media system. The CPD is in turn overseen by the party’s Political Bureau and its standing committee, the principal coordinator of the media. The CPD’s primary function is to mobilise public opinion behind party policies and to promote the party’s legitimacy and its official ideologies (also see Creemers, Chapter 3 in this volume). Under the CPD, there are two main regulatory bodies: the General Administration of Press and Publication of China, and the Ministry of Information Industry of China. These bodies manage their regulatory functions using a variety of management tools. Examples include control of ownership, the registration of all publications, the area and method of distribution, and control of editorial staff. Moreover, there are three main approaches to manage content: prohibition in advance of publication, self-censorship and punishment after publication. These approaches can result in journalists or editors being sent to prison, editorial staff being rotated, the closure of newspapers, the taking over of ownership or simply deleting and changing content. When a critical report exposes the problems of a national enterprise, company or a public official without permission, the journalist or newspaper may face threats or intimidation.

‘Normal gap’ competition Normal gap competition means that the party press and popular press have different target audiences and editing policies. In other words, there is a difference in the news coverage offered by each type. The party newspapers serve as the mouthpiece of the government while the popular newspapers are more reader-oriented and contain more diverse content. For example, the ‘city newspaper paid close attention to different service-oriented news and information regarding urban residents’ everyday life’ (Huang 2001: 439). But the ‘evening newspaper is the supplement of the morning party organs by providing readers with soft news and entertainment’ (Huang 2001: 439). 120

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However, some newspapers also publish watchdog reports to attract more readers and practise journalistic professionalism. Watchdog reporting in China is referred to as ‘supervision by public opinion’ or ‘media supervision’ (yulun jiandu, also see de Burgh, Chapter 6 in this volume). The purpose of media supervision is to ‘constitute one of a number of mechanisms by which the central government can monitor local government corruption and abuse of power’ (Cho 2010: 169). Nevertheless, due to protectionism, local newspapers cannot perform as watchdogs of the local administration. This very often results in cross-regional media supervision (yidi jiandu) (inter-regional supervision or extra-regional media supervision) driving an expansion of watchdog reporting (Cho 2010; also see Chen, Chapter 5 in this volume). Hence some important but sensitive local news events cannot appear in the local newspaper. However, cross-regional media can still report sensitive news events, an important professional function of the news media which allows popular newspapers to conduct supervised investigative reporting.

Political intervention in sensitive news The government plays three roles in the media industry: owner, administrator and news subject. Once a sensitive news event occurs in an area that is under the administration of the owner, intervention is quick. The ownership of newspapers is quite complicated since every level of government has its own official organs. The Chinese system of government is divided into four levels: national or central (zhongyang), provincial and autonomous regions (sheng), prefectural cities (shi) and county-level cities (xian) (also see Rawnsley and Feng, Chapter 18 in this volume). Different organisations within the party also have their own mouthpiece. There are three types of ownership: the official organ (official mouthpiece), the cross-regional ownership and independent ownership. Traditionally, most newspapers are official organs used mainly for propaganda, but because they now need to be largely self-financing, they also develop offspring newspapers to include more community and entertainment news, as well as advertising. Cross-regional ownership means different press groups collaborate to create a new newspaper, such as the Beijing News, a tabloid co-created by the Southern Media Group and the Guangming Daily Press Group in 2003. However, in 2011, the Beijing Municipal Administration of Propaganda took over the Beijing News. The Yunnan Information Daily, an example of an independent newspaper, was relaunched in 2007 as a lifestyle publication by the Southern Media Group and the Yunnan Publishing Company. The Yunnan Publishing Company originally belonged to the propaganda department of the Yunnan Provincial Government, but is now classed as an independent enterprise. Another example is a city newspaper in Kunming, the Living News, that is owned by the Yunnan Disabled People’s Association and enjoys wide circulation around Yunnan Province. Additionally different categories of newspapers can also have different ownership. The main categories are national, specialised professional and industry newspapers (devoted to a particular sector of economic production), evening or metropolitan, digest, interest-group, lifestyle and military papers (Latham 2007).These are under the ownership of the central government, local government or different party organisations ranging from various labour unions to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, the government still maintains ideological control, hence the description ‘one head with many mouths’ (Wu 2000: 61).

‘Disaster’s paradox’ China’s media system is moving from political totalitarianism to a market authoritarianism system (Winfield and Peng 2005: 255–70); but while the economic system has changed, the political 121

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system remains essentially intact. The above discussion of political intervention in popular newspapers is also joined by commercial considerations. The main function of popular newspapers in China is to generate more profits for the press group. However, the popular newspaper can be part of the same press group as a party newspaper that is controlled by the government. The popular newspapers face the dilemma of how to fulfil the expectations of the government while also keeping their readers happy so they come back to buy another paper the next day (Latham 2007). Hence, news coverage of sensitive or disaster news events can be challenging as sometimes the obstruction is from political prohibition, but might also be linked to commercial considerations. Therefore I term the dilemma ‘disaster’s paradox’ – while sensationalism may appeal to readers, how far will the journalists be allowed to push the political, social and cultural boundaries by the newspapers and the authorities before it is deemed unacceptable? Moreover, why do certain disasters receive little media attention? Market-driven journalism finds or creates the readers’ demand (Denton 1993). From creation to market, there are four important considerations, namely product, price, promotion and place. When a story becomes news product, considerations of professionalism and ethics are relegated to a lower position. However, commercialism and professionalism are not always in opposition. Market-driven newspapers always look to maximise profits and, if professionalism can attract more readers and therefore make profits, market-driven newspapers can also follow professionalism principles (So 1997: 215–33). The situation for popular newspapers in China is particularly complicated, as they face demands from three areas: political intervention, market competition and professional performance. The next section will focus on a number of case studies to illustrate this complexity and how these differing demands are resolved. I select four news events during the period between 2005 and 2007. The comparative case studies will offer us an insight into how the party press and popular press may perform differently in their news coverage under different circumstances. I will then cross-reference the four case studies with the four variables discussed in this section – strict censorship in sensitive news, normal gap competition, political intervention in sensitive news and disaster’s paradox – in the conclusion.

Case studies from newspapers in Beijing The media market in Beijing is competitive, with dozens of newspapers vying for readers. Almost every administrative institution – central government, local governments, and the central and local units of the CCP – has its own newspapers or press group. Therefore, an analysis of news coverage in Beijing provides a broad view of national, local and cross-regional media events.

Selected newspapers In 2012, there were seven popular newspapers in Beijing, namely the Beijing Evening, Beijing Times, Beijing News, Legal Evening, Beijing Youth Newspaper, The First and Beijing Entertaining Information. These popular newspapers are operating in the most competitive market in China, although there is frequent political interference whenever there are sensitive news stories. The ten selected newspapers included the party newspapers and popular newspapers in the Beijing media market. Five newspapers belonged to the category of the official party press. The other five were categorised as popular press because they appeal to either mass or to fringe audiences. In terms of ownership, People’s Daily is the parent newspaper of Beijing Times, while the parent of Beijing News is Guangming Daily. These four newspapers belong to the central 122

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Table 7.1 Ownership of Beijing newspapers selected for coverage comparison Ownership

Party press People’s Daily Guangming Daily Beijing Daily China Youth Daily Legal Daily Popular press Beijing Times Beijing News Beijing Evening Beijing Youth Daily Legal Evening

CCP

CPD

Beijing government

Beijing Municipal Party Committee’s Communist Youth League

Central Ministry of Justice

Communist Youth League

X X X X X X X X X X

government. Beijing Daily is the parent newspaper of Beijing Evening, and they both belong to the local government of Beijing. Beijing Youth Daily is the parent of Legal Evening, though Beijing Youth Daily is also considered a popular newspaper as it enjoys the biggest adverting revenue in Beijing and was listed on the Hong Kong stock market at the end of 2004. The content of Beijing Youth Daily is very reader-driven and thus extremely popular (Rosen 2000: 152–78). China Youth Daily and Legal Daily are both party newspapers with national influence.

Textual analysis of case studies Four news events from 2005 to 2007 have different significant meanings and were chosen to represent the specific political and economic interests within the party and popular newspapers. The four news events selected will demonstrate how long the life of a news story can last. They will also illustrate different patterns of news reporting strategies and indicate where the political intervention, market competition and professional performance exist. Textual analysis presents the news resources, types and timing of coverage in these ten newspapers. If news resources come from Xinhua News Agency, then that means either the government only allows news media using official press releases to cover this event, or that the newspapers did not investigate this particular news event. The purpose of the textual analysis is not only to compare of the news coverage of the party and the popular newspapers, but also to examine the influences on news coverage under different conditions.

Four selected news stories Case study 1: The Dingzhou incident The central government, in line with the National Policy of Economic Development, planned to build a power station in Hebei Province. Believing that the compensation payments for the 123

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land were too low, the villagers of Dingzhou staged a mass protest over several days at the site where the power station was to be built. On the morning of 11 June 2005, the villagers were attacked by 200–300 masked and armed vigilantes who were intent on removing them. Six villagers died and dozens were injured. The Beijing News broke the story on 13 June with exclusive coverage and dramatic photographs. During the first four days this was the only newspaper to report the event. On 13 June, journalists from the Beijing News interviewed the injured villagers who had also provided the photographs the paper published. During these interviews it transpired that an earlier assault by 20 vigilantes had occurred on 20 April. The villagers had captured and imprisoned one of the attackers in a cave. On 14 June, the Beijing News reported that the Dingzhou mayor and party secretary had been removed from office, and a new mayor had visited the injured villagers in the hospital. The Dingzhou residents refused police requests to evacuate their farmland until they had received reasonable compensation. They also refused to hand over their hostage to the police. The Beijing News reported that the villagers realised that this behaviour was improper, but stressed the villagers did not have any choice and had treated the hostage well, giving him rice and meat at every meal. Once the Beijing News had reported the incident, the local officials were determined to settle the issue quickly. On 15 June, the new local party secretary visited the injured villagers. He said he was willing to help them and also thanked the Beijing News for maintaining its daily coverage. On 16 June, the government sent coroners to Dingzhou. The government promised to help villagers with the wheat harvest and also with financial aid. The government’s response inferred that because of the coverage by the Beijing News, all the villagers’ requests had been fulfilled. Xinhua released the official news story on 19 June, eight days after the incident occurred. Subsequently the Beijing News only published the official reports until November. With the exception of the Beijing News, the popular press either avoided the event altogether (Beijing Times, Beijing Evening) or waited until Xinhua released the official story (Beijing Youth Daily, Legal Evening). The Legal Daily was the only party newspaper to report this event before Xinhua released the official story. The Legal Daily is good at judiciary news and often discusses legal precedents. It was the third paper to report the news and did conduct some interviews in the village. The People’s Daily is the main party newspaper and also released news of this incident, using official sources, namely Xinhua and the law courts. People’s Daily makes no attempt to write reviews or solicit opinion, remaining instead straight, hard and formal. Six months later, the local officials were sentenced and the construction of the electronics factory was suspended. In the meantime, the CPD removed the editor-in-chief and two other senior editors from the Beijing News resulting in several hundred of the paper’s journalists walking out in protest. Soon after, journalists placed in the newspaper a cryptic indication of their feelings: a photograph of a flock of birds flying through a dark sky above the newspaper’s office, with one bird out in front. The image was accompanied by a pointed message: ‘The sky may not be very clear, but they will still fly into the distance with their mission close to their hearts’ (Tryhorn 2005). This case study shows how the popular press use tabloid tactics, such as emotion and drama, to report hard and sensitive news to appeal to the general public; they often eschew critical or rational discourse and analysis. This is a strategy that is inherently provocative to the Chinese authorities as the coverage by the Beijing News focused on the authorities’ use of intimidation and violence against citizens to achieve economic development. 124

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Case study 2: The hardest nail house The phrase ‘nail house’ was reputedly coined by Chinese land developers to refer to properties of owners who for one reason or another do not agree to accept the compensation offered by land developers for vacating their properties. The house is called a ‘nail house’, which is a pun on the Chinese phrase for troublemakers who stand up like nails and refuse to bow down. The controversy of the ‘hardest nail house’ happened in 2004 but was not noticed until 2007. The owner of the nail house is Yang Wu. In early March 2007, a curious netizen (i.e. a person actively involved in online communities) photographed Yang Wu’s house, which is in Chongqing of south-west China, and circulated the picture on the internet. The image soon ignited heated debate. Netizens called it ‘the hardest nail house’ in China and with great rapidity Yang’s house became the most famous ‘nail house’ in the country when South Metropolitan published this photo. Other newspapers followed, and so the story quickly attracted nationwide attention and became front-page news in the popular press. In fact, Yang’s house was scheduled to be removed in 2004. Although the other 280 residents in the neighbourhood agreed to either the cash or relocation compensation offered by the land developer, Yang Wu and his wife, Wu Ping, refused to move because they thought neither offer was acceptable. Despite having their water and electricity cut off the pair continued to live in their two-storey home for a further two years. Land developers in previous disputes only had to wait to wear down the resistance of the nail house owners since few owners have the resources or the stubbornness to resist as long as Yang Wu and Wu Ping. The timing of the story was also fortunate. On 19 March 2007, the National People’s Congress passed a new property law which was seen as a historic breakthrough. For the first time in modern China, the law now protects private, public and collective property equally. As a result ‘the hardest nail house’ was seen as an early test for the new property law which became effective in October 2007. Finally the house was demolished on 2 April because Wang Yu and Wu Ping had agreed to move into another apartment elsewhere in Chongqing after reportedly reaching a deal with the authorities. On 18 March 2007, Beijing Youth Daily was the first of the two popular papers to report this news in Beijing. On 23 March 2007, as the news spread quickly, Beijing Youth Daily’s journalists investigated and reported the more critical points: for example, there had been 40 attempts to reach a settlement between the owner and the land developer. Moreover, Yang Wu had announced that he would die with the demolition of the nail house. This coverage, in comparison with other demonstrations of resistance against land developers, placed emphasis on the rational debates between the owner and the developer, particularly the laws protecting the owners’ rights. The Beijing News also started reporting the ‘nail house’ story on 18 March and, like Beijing Youth Daily, acquired the story from the Chongqing Morning. However, Beijing News chose to focus on Wu Ping’s arguments with the authorities and the land developer and her claim that the authorities did not give her a chance to state her rights until she protested. On 22 March, Beijing News interviewed Wu Ping with the headline: ‘There are too few people like me!’ to indicate Wu Ping did not have a powerful network of backers. Beijing Evening began its coverage on 22 March, five days after Beijing Youth Daily and Beijing News, and maintained coverage for three days. The paper promoted Yang Wu and Wu Ping as famous celebrities and popular heroes of the internet and mass media. At the same time, Beijing Evening managed a fine balancing act as they also promoted the responsible actions by the government and the land developer (i.e. they had respected the owners’ wishes and not demolished the house) in compliance with the new property law. Legal Evening began its coverage on the same day as Beijing Evening and used almost exactly the same strategy for the same duration, 125

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switching from on-the-spot news to the formal Xinhua news to report on the demolition. Beijing Times produced the least coverage, for only two days, and started almost a week after the first coverage by the Beijing Youth Daily and Beijing News. The coverage of this event shows not only the high degree of competition in Beijing’s media market (in the context of the popular press), but also the power of commercial media to appeal to the mass audience through emotive and sensitive strategies when there is no political interference. The tabloids also paid attention to the mass audience by providing daily updates of the fight between the owners, the land developer and the local officials. Initially the owners were anonymous until the general public, through the efforts of the popular press, began to view them as heroes. Beijing Daily did not provide any coverage of the event, instead only publishing an article in which the mayor of Chongqing said the authorities had the ability to manage the situation. The only party press to approach the level of coverage in popular newspapers was the China Youth Daily, which deliberately used its weekly supplementary, the Freezing Point, as a platform to report this news comprehensively over five days. A key difference in the ‘nail house’ coverage compared to the other incidents is that Xinhua did not provide information to the newspapers which reported the incident. A comparison of the level of coverage between the party and the popular press shows a clear and significant line between them. Most of the popular press sided with the ‘nail house’ owners and viewed them as heroes protecting private property against land developers and local authorities. By contrast, the party press used official news to highlight how the authorities would deal with this protest carefully.

Case study 3: Beijing subway line 10 disaster A Beijing subway tunnel being built for the 2008 Olympics collapsed in the morning of 28 March 2007, burying and killing six workers. According to rescuers the contractor tried to conceal the collapse from the authorities by sealing off the site and confiscating the workers’ mobile phones so that nobody could report the disaster. The construction company locked the gate, sealed off the site and ordered everyone to keep quiet. When the police noticed a crowd gathering, they were told that nothing was wrong. For almost eight hours, the Beijing subway disaster was concealed, until finally a labourer managed to call a relative of one of the victims in distant Henan Province, who told the local police. They then notified the Beijing police force. The cover-up was so extensive that it delayed the rescue effort. Rescuers recovered the first body after 50 hours of digging. The last body was found eventually on 10 May. The balance of coverage in this case study between the party and popular press is reversed (the popular press coverage is usually more extensive). Both the Beijing Daily (party press) and Beijing Evening (popular press), representing a local government-owned press group, sourced most of their news from Xinhua. The Beijing Youth Daily (party press) and Legal Evening (popular press), both owned by the local Communist Party, also provide limited coverage. By contrast the central government-owned popular press, Beijing News (belonging to the CPD) and Beijing Times (owned by the CCP) were given ‘free rein’ to compete with each other in their coverage of the disaster. Beijing Times had on-the-spot news for four days from 29 March to 2 April, reporting the event via details provided by workers and witnesses. This coverage included reports about the contractor’s failed attempt to seal off the disaster. There was neither analysis nor any statement from officials or the authorities. Compared with the emotive coverage of Beijing Times, Beijing News chose to report relevant information, such as the visit to the site on 29 March by the mayor of Beijing to take command 126

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of the rescue operation of the buried workers. Beijing News also reported the workers’ accounts of their escape from the tunnel and their opinions as to the cause of the collapse. The following day, Beijing News focused on the plan for the rescue operation rather than criticising the construction company or the authorities. A journalist even went to the tunnel with a rescuer to look at the scene of the collapse. In a review published on 10 May when the last body was found, Beijing News suggested that similar disasters would not be concealed in the future if the media supervised public affairs. In this way the paper emphasised the function of media on the effectiveness of the rescue operation. Beijing Youth Daily, Beijing Evening and Legal Evening all basically followed the official line by using Xinhua news and refraining from the tactics of the popular press. Both the People’s Daily and Beijing Daily were required to follow the official line on a daily basis. Guangming Daily, in providing a steady stream of official news, seemed to be going through the motions, whereas China Youth Daily (one article) and Legal Daily (no articles) provided as little as possible although the disaster happened in Beijing and caused multiple deaths. The disaster of the Beijing subway line 10 happened in a highly visible location in northwest Beijing next to the large industrial and computer technology site of Zhongguan. Thousands of people worked nearby or passed the construction site every day. However, the coverage of this event by the party papers belonging to Beijing governmental organisations was far less than any other newspapers in either category. This case shows that strict censorship wielded by the government and institutions with political power is still effective on all levels of media strata.

Case study 4: Mine disasters Shanxi Province, located in north-eastern China and quite close to Beijing, is colloquially known as the ‘kingdom of coal’ with reputed reserves of 261 billion tons or one-third of the nation’s total. There is a direct correlation between the number of mines and the number of accidents, and Shanxi Province has the most coal mines (counted in hundreds) in China. Shanxi is also gaining a reputation for the increasing frequency of coal mine explosions. On 30 April 2006 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) described China’s coal mines as ‘among the most dangerous in the world – more than 5,000 deaths are reported every year in fires, floods and explosions’ (BBC News 2006). The Chinese government responded by closing down small privately owned coal mines in a concerted attempt to improve safety. Nevertheless the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety (SACMS)2 reported 167 mine disasters with 1,270 fatalities in the PRC in 2007. In this case study two mine disasters in Shanxi, the Linfen and Pu County mine disasters, were selected for analysis. The Linfen mine disaster happened on 28 March 2006 and Pu County (also located in Linfen) occurred on 5 May 2006, and they caused a total of 54 fatalities. Comparing these coal mine disasters with the Dinghzou incident and the Beijing subway disasters, the scale and the number of fatalities are more serious but the media coverage they attracted was very sparse even in the popular press. Mining operations at the Linfen mine were illegal because their safety certifications had expired. When the gas explosion occurred on 28 March 2006, there were 106 miners at the pithead. The safety certificates stipulated that 29 miners could work safely at any one time. According to Xinhua, mining operations at the Pu County coal mine had been formally suspended by SACMS on 29 April 2006 in order to improve the working conditions. The manager of the mine disobeyed the suspension and, on 4 May, asked miners entering the site to work at the pithead. The mine’s safety certificates stipulated a maximum of 44 miners could work safely in the pit at any one time. When the gas explosion occurred there were 125 workers underground. Over the next two days 28 bodies were found, but 61 remained unaccounted 127

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for. According to Xinhua, the main cause of the gas explosion was long working shifts in an unventilated pit leading to a mass accumulation of gas. This ultimately led to the explosion. The Legal Evening was the only popular newspaper not to provide any coverage of the Linfen disaster, whereas the other four publications in the popular press category reported the event, but relied purely on Xinhua-sourced news. There were no further reports or interviews in the popular press, and instead a dependence on straight news and information. Because all the popular newspapers used the same source, Xinhua, the contents of their reports mention the same basic information, instead of offering on-the-spot and investigative journalism that could have provided further analysis. The popular press did not question the local officials, the owners of the mine, safety regulations, the working environment or indeed how the owners of the mines and the relatives coped with the fatalities.

Conclusion This research presents four types of conditions of news coverage of particular events: the case study of Dingzhou showed strict censorship of sensitive news; the ‘hardest nail house’ presented the normal gap competition between the party and the popular newspapers; the Beijing subway disaster reflected political intervention through ownership; and the mine disasters in Shanxi did not receive much coverage by newspapers compared with other news events, although mine disasters are very frequent and used to be reported quite extensively. This reveals a paradox in the news coverage. Strict censorship in sensitive news: Strict censorship was applied to the coverage of the Dingzhou incident of 11 June 2005, and Beijing News was punished by the government for having conducted its own investigation prior to Xinhua’s official coverage. Once Xinhua, the mouthpiece of the government, has expressed the official line, all the newspapers have to follow and use the same news resources. While the Beijing News enjoyed a level of credibility because of its coverage, the official view was that the paper contravened government ‘guidelines’. Normal gap competition: A gap exists between the coverage in the popular and the party press. The key aspect of the gap is ‘competition’ based on two key, interrelated, factors, that is, representing the voice of the public and maintaining audience credibility. The ‘hardest nail house’ is representative of coverage in the popular press which avoided censorship because it was framed by the passing of China’s landmark property act. Coverage in the popular press was highly competitive and brought into the arena all the major players, including the public and local officials. Political intervention in sensitive news: Political intervention, unlike centrally controlled censorship, depends on patterns of press ownership. Political intervention means that sensitive news stories do not receive coverage in popular newspapers as demonstrated by the Beijing subway disaster. Newspapers owned by local governments and local party institutions did not provide

Table 7.2 Different conditions of news coverage and their influential factors

Strict censorship in sensitive news Normal gap competition Political intervention in sensitive news Disaster’s paradox

128

Political intervention

Market competition

Professional performance

Strong Weak Strong Strong

Weak Strong Weak Strong

Strong Strong Weak Weak

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full coverage because of a clear political agenda (the subway was being built for the 2008 Olympic Games). If reported in detail, a disaster of this scale would have sent negative messages about the Beijing municipal government’s capacity at a sensitive time. The two newspapers that provided fuller coverage are both owned by central government institutions, and thus their reportage distanced the central government from the local authorities while enhancing the perception of the former’s credibility. Disaster’s paradox: There is an extreme paradox concerning news coverage of mine disasters in China. Although they cause the deaths of thousands of China’s miners every year, newspapers only go through the motions of providing officially sourced details. This reaction by the papers is a prime example of ‘news fatigue’ about a tragic event that occurs on a daily basis. The ‘news fatigue’ applies not only to the editorial offices, but also to readers. Consequently, unless the numbers of miners killed is counted in hundreds, most newspapers (including the popular press) will use Xinhua’s version, which only requires a small space. The existence of the popular press relies on their ability to balance the opposing ideologies of the ‘free’ market economy on one hand, and abiding by the party line on the other. For commercial reasons, the popular press test the party line to attract more consumer attention, but they will also ignore an event that will not increase sales or is not permitted by political constraints. Therefore, the popular in ‘popular press’ is ambiguous depending on political calculation and commercial necessities. While the Chinese popular press may not go as far as viewing themselves as the mouthpiece of citizens, readers are indeed a much more important factor in their considerations than the party press.

Notes 1 2

Meihua is an information company which undertakes surveys of advertising, rating and news for news media marketing. The website of Meihua is: www.meihua.info/ (in Chinese). The website of the SACMS is: www.chinasafety.gov.cn/newpage/ (in Chinese).

References BBC News (2006) ‘Blast at China coal mine kills 27’, BBC News, 30 April. Available online http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4959254.stm (retrieved 17 May 2014). Cho, L.F. (2010) ‘The origins of investigative journalism: the emergence of China’s watchdog reporting’, in D. Bandurski and M. Hala (eds), Investigative Journalism in China: Eight Cases in Chinese Watchdog Journalism, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Denton, F. (1993) Reinventing the Newspaper: Old Newspaper and New Realities: The Promise of the Marketing of Journalism, Washington, DC: Brookings Institute. General Administration of Press and Publication (2013) ‘Basic situation of the national news publishing industry in 2012’ (2012 nian quanguo xinwen chubanye jiben qingkuang), Press and Publication Information Public Search System, 31 July. Available online www.gapp.gov.cn/govpublic/80/684_2.shtml (retrieved 13 May 2014, in Chinese). Hu, X.R. (2005) The Age of Big Newspapers: The Revolution of the Party Press in 80 Years, 1925–2005 (Da baozhi shidai, dangbao gaige bashi nian), Guangzhou: Southern Press Group (in Chinese). Huang, C. (2001) ‘China’s state-run tabloids: the rise of city newspapers’, International Communication Gazette 63(5): 435–50. Latham, K. (2007) Pop Culture China! Media, Arts and Lifestyle, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Levy, R. (2002) ‘Corruption in popular culture’, in P. Link, R.P. Madsen and P.G. Pickowicz (eds), Popular China: Unofficial Culture in a Globalisation Society, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 39–56. Lull, J. (1991) China Turn On: Television, Reform, and Resistance, London: Routledge. Rosen, S. (2000) ‘Seeking appropriate behaviour under a socialist market economy: an analysis of debates and controversies reported’, in C.C. Lee (ed.), Power, Money, and Media, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 152–78. 129

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So, C.Y.K. (1997) ‘Absolutely market-driving journalism: a case study of Apple Daily’, in J.M. Chan, L. Chu and Z. Pan (eds), Mass Communication and Market Economics, Hong Kong: Lo Fung Learning Society, 215–33. Tryhorn, C. (2005) ‘Beijing journalist stage walkout’, The Guardian, 30 December. Available online www.theguardian.com/media/2005/dec/30/pressandpublishing.china (retrieved 17 May 2014). Winfield, B.H. and Peng, Z. (2005) ‘Market or party control? Chinese media in transition’, International Communication Gazette 67(3): 255–70. Wu, G. (2000) ‘One head, many mouths: diversifying press structures in reform China’, in C.C. Lee (ed.), Power, Money, and Media, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 45–67. Zha, J. (1995) China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture, New York: New Press. Zhao, Y.Z. (1998) Media, Market, and Democracy in China: Between the Party Line and the Bottom Line, Chicago: University of Illinois Press. –––– (2002) ‘The rich, the laid-off, and the criminal in tabloid tales: read all about it!’, in P. Link, R.P. Madsen and P.G. Pickowicz (eds), Popular China: Unofficial Culture in a Globalisation Society, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 111–35. Zhou, Y.H. (2009) ‘From hard control to soft control: the involution of China’s temporary state–journalism relationship’ (Kangzheng yu rulong: Zhongguo xinwenye de shichang hua beilun), Mass Communication Research 100: 101–36 (in Chinese).

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8 Press freedom in Hong Kong Interactions between state, media and society Francis L.F. Lee

Introduction Globalisation, commercialisation and the popularity of social media have made it far more difficult for autocratic regimes to maintain control of communication. How can an authoritarian state control the press under such challenging and transformative conditions? How can the state contain the society’s aspirations for political and communication freedom without resorting to violence and coercion? From the perspective of civil society, how can political and communication freedoms be protected or promoted? These questions are pertinent for media scholars researching political communications in East Asia, particularly China (e.g. Lee et al. 2007: 21–42; Zhao 2008), Singapore (e.g. George 2012) and the focus of this chapter, Hong Kong. Yet Hong Kong is unique in that it does not involve a hitherto docile media system or society struggling for more freedom (as in China and Singapore). Rather, Hong Kong is characterised by a largely free and somewhat daring media system and society being ‘returned’ to an authoritarian regime. The Hong Kong case thus has the potential to add significantly to our understanding of the politics of communication freedom and control. This chapter reviews the politics of press freedom in Hong Kong by focusing on the interaction between the state, the local media and civil society. Without dismissing the importance of structural constraints, the interactional perspective emphasises the capability of actors to influence outcomes – the quality and quantity of press freedom in the present case – through negotiating, contesting and/or collaborating with each other. Each player in the state–media–society triad has its own basic concerns and goals. The state is interested in gaining and exercising political control, but it is also interested in maintaining the city’s vibrant economy and society. The state must also be concerned with the public’s perception of its legitimacy. The news media are concerned with protecting press freedom and preserving their professional integrity. As most media organisations in Hong Kong are commercial entities, they also need to avoid alienating the audience. However, media organisations, through ownership structures and because of their dependence on advertising, also have intricate relationships with political and economic power. Hence some media organisations may have strong incentives to appease the power holders. Civil society is interested in defending, maximising and, if possible, expanding, its own freedom and rights. Hence it can be an important ally for the media in the struggle for press freedom. 131

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But society also values prosperity and social stability, making it an object of possible co-optation by the state. Given their respective goals, the players develop strategies to interact with each other. At the same time, the players also need to respond to changing social and political contexts. In particular, major political events may lead to changing perceptions of reality, and the players may alter their strategies as a result. Consistent with recent research on political developments in Hong Kong, this chapter treats the 1 July (‘7/1’ hereafter) protest in 2003, in which 500,000 people protested against the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government, as a critical event that had significant repercussions on the China–Hong Kong relationship (Lee and Chan 2011; So 2011: 99–116; Tai 2009: 220–45). Before 2003, China was largely willing to grant an ‘exceptional’ degree of press freedom to the city’s media. It relied on an informal system of politics marked by self-censorship and inducement to contain the Hong Kong press. While these elements persisted after 2003, the state developed new strategies to control and co-opt the Hong Kong press as the government began to intervene more openly in Hong Kong society. Yet civil society has also become more active in monitoring press performance, so that by 2013, Hong Kong’s press was more polarised and more proactive in voicing its concerns.

Politics of self-censorship under ‘one country, two systems’ Hong Kong has long been granted the status of being an ‘exception’ by the Chinese government. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) did not take Hong Kong back in 1949, swallowing the humiliation of having a British colony on its doorstep in order to retain a contact point with the capitalist world. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, a confluence of social and political factors – the colonial government’s determination to avoid provoking China, Hong Kong’s development into a refugee society where people were largely politically apathetic, and the focus of local newspapers on Chinese politics rather than local matters – contributed to what Kuan and Lau (1988) called a minimally integrated media political system. The local media did not challenge the authority of the colonial government, whereas the government refrained from controlling the press. A tradition of ‘de facto press freedom’ therefore developed (Chan and Lee 1991). Press freedom took up more substantive meanings in Hong Kong when China and Britain began to negotiate about the future of the territory. The signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 marked the beginning of the transition period during which the political influence of Britain and China roughly balanced each other. At this historical juncture, the local media took up the liberal conception of journalistic professionalism as its legitimating creed. This meant that journalists began to see themselves as autonomous professionals working independently from political and economic power. The press began to value the notions of objectivity and neutrality and see itself as a watchdog. It began to offer a critique of both China and Britain on behalf of the local public (Lee and Chan 2009a: 9–42). Certainly, China’s influence increased as the handover approached. In the early 1990s, China began exercising influence on the Hong Kong press by co-opting media owners (Fung and Lee 1994: 127–33), defining the taboo areas that the media cannot discuss (Lee and Chu 1998: 59–77) and, in the most notorious case in 1994, firing a warning shot to the media by sentencing Hong Kong journalist Xi Yang to 12 years in prison for ‘stealing state secrets’ (Sciutto 1996: 131–43). Nevertheless, China has promised that Hong Kong would be governed under the principles of ‘one country, two systems’ and a ‘high degree of autonomy’. Determined to show the world, and especially Taiwan, that the formula of ‘one country, two systems’ can work, China has 132

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indeed largely refrained from openly intervening in Hong Kong affairs after the handover. Hong Kong has thus enjoyed a degree of civil liberty which, though by no means unlimited, is nonetheless truly exceptional within the PRC. For example, Hong Kong people have continued to commemorate annually the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. China has also refrained from forcing the Hong Kong SAR government to outlaw the religious sect Falun Gong. Within this broader context, China’s approach to controlling the Hong Kong press was mainly by encouraging self-censorship. First, China continued to co-opt the city’s media owners by allocating political appointments. Some media owners, such as Charles Ho of the Singtao Group, Peter Woo of Wharf (which owns Cable TV) and Ma Ching-Kwun of Oriental Daily, were members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, a political advisory body within the PRC. Besides, many media owners, with or without political appointments, have extensive business interests in mainland China. As a result, media ownership in Hong Kong is largely concentrated in the hands of a small group of political–economic elites sharing the same fundamental interest of appeasing the Chinese government (Fung 2007: 159–71; Ma 2007: 949–70). Second, Chinese officials would occasionally criticise the Hong Kong media when the latter reported on politically sensitive matters in ways that China regarded as inappropriate. The most notable cases in the early years after the handover included criticism by Chinese officials of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and Cable TV for their coverage of the pro-Taiwan independence view (Lau and To 2002: 322–42). Although the Hong Kong media typically responded to such criticisms by emphasising the importance of press freedom and their own professionalism when covering this issue, the media found it difficult to completely ignore the signals. The essence of self-censorship inducement is that through its actions and strategies the Chinese state has attempted to shape the incentive structure and political atmosphere in which Hong Kong media must work. This is designed to make sure that self-censorship becomes the most likely course of action in a given range of situations. It is difficult to establish a direct link between the individual strategies and specific instances of media self-censorship, but it is reasonable to argue that media self-censorship would have been less serious without the state’s inducement. In any case, the majority of professional journalists do regard self-censorship as a major problem in the media. In a survey conducted in 2001, 13.2 per cent of journalists reported that selfcensorship was serious, whereas 57.4 per cent saw self-censorship as ‘existent but not serious’; only 2.9 per cent considered it non-existent. In a similar survey in 2006, the percentage regarding self-censorship as serious increased to 26.6 per cent, while another 47.2 per cent saw selfcensorship as ‘existent but not serious’.1 Notably, awareness of the seriousness of self-censorship varied by subject and by practices. In the 2006 survey, respondents were asked to indicate, by means of a five-point scale ranging from 1 = none at all to 5 = frequently, whether the media have engaged in self-censorship practices. The results show that 34.9 per cent of the respondents opted for 4 or 5 on the scale when ‘toning down negative news about the SAR government’ was concerned, while the corresponding percentage was 46.0 per cent for ‘toning down negative news about the Chinese government’. In other words, journalists perceived the media as being more likely to exercise self-censorship when dealing with China than when dealing with local matters. In addition, the percentages of respondents reporting that the media would at least quite frequently ‘omit negative news’ about the SAR government and the Chinese government were 19.7 per cent and 29.6 per cent respectively. The figures are lower than those for ‘toning down negative news’. The difference is understandable: Although toning down a negative news story about the government may invite criticism, it can be explained in terms of one’s 133

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news judgement regarding how prominent the story should be. In contrast, omitting a piece of negative news altogether represents a much more inexcusable form of self-censorship. The findings thus point to the ‘measured’ character of self-censorship in the Hong Kong media, i.e. if self-censorship is needed to avoid political trouble, it nonetheless has to be practised in relatively less conspicuous ways. As Chan and Lee (2008: 43–55) explained, the Hong Kong media cannot completely succumb to political pressure from the state due to a mix of considerations. The commercial orientation of many news organisations compels them to maintain their market credibility. Journalists continued to exhibit a significant degree of professionalism as they continued to believe that the media should provide the audience with accurate information, serve as a marketplace of ideas and monitor the government to prevent abuse of power (So and Chan 2007: 148–58). Moreover, Hong Kong journalists also exhibit a significant degree of ‘local orientation’ (Chan and Lee 2011: 89–105), which means they see themselves as serving the interests of the local public. When the interests of the local society are threatened, many journalists believe that the Hong Kong media should stand by the local society even if doing so may require them to confront the state. The presence of such counteracting forces thus explains why the manifestations of selfcensorship in the Hong Kong media tend to be measured, subtle and hence elusive. Critics often found it easy to raise the concern of self-censorship, but difficult to prove that it has occurred in a specific case. Beyond self-censorship, the presence of counteracting forces also led different media organisations to develop various strategies to handle the political situation. A number of media outlets, most notably Apple Daily and several populist radio phone-in talk shows (Lee 2002: 57–79), have positioned themselves as critics of the government and the mouthpiece of citizens. They were willing to bear higher levels of political risks in return for profitability in the market. In one sense, they constituted ‘test balloons’ in the Hong Kong media system, signifying the boundaries of free speech in the mainstream media arena. While these media outlets are sometimes criticised for being sensational and unprofessional, their presence has been highly important for the maintenance of press freedom. With such critical media outlets pushing the limits, a larger breathing space was created for other media organisations. When sensitive stories emerged, the ‘test balloon outlets’ could also serve as the leaders in the reporting cycle, i.e., after the critical outlets break the sensitive stories, other media outlets can, and must, follow. Meanwhile, some elite- and professional-oriented news organisations – news media that target the educated middle class in terms of market positioning and emphasise professional norms such as objectivity and fairness in terms of their approach to news coverage – have developed strategies that help them simultaneously deal with political pressure and maintain their professional integrity. Writing just after the handover, Lee (2000: 317) appropriated Tuchman’s (1978) concept of strategic ritual to describe ‘the peculiar and twisted ways that media organisations routinise their news work in order to credibly meet extraordinary political pressure and to uphold their own limited legitimacy’. According to Lee (2007: 138), examples of strategic rituals ‘include the increasing use of juxtapositions between positive and negative views towards the power holders, the use of more factual narrative forms, the increasing reliance on opinion polls as “objective” indicators of public opinions, and the increasing use of academics as “non-political authorities” on public affairs’. Considered together, such strategic rituals illustrate the approach adopted by professionaloriented newspapers in the first few years after the handover, namely ‘intensified objectivity’. That is, by appealing to the norm of objectivity the professional-oriented media outlets maintained a space for the expression and communication of critical views. However, the 134

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intensified objective stance also required them to refrain from criticising the power holders. As a result, the report may be criticised for being self-censorship in disguise (Lee and Lin 2006: 331–58). The above has analysed the politics of self-censorship inducement and the strategic responses from the local media after the handover. As long as the Chinese government refrained from openly suppressing press freedom in Hong Kong by coercive means, the local media have to a significant degree succeeded in protecting the basic freedom of reporting. Self-censorship does constitute a problem though, especially when the reporting of sensitive matters is concerned. It is worth noting that the system-level negotiation between political control and professional autonomy also existed at the micro-level within news organisations. Lee and Chan (2009b: 112–33) showed that within news organisations, self-censorship was the result of both the structural positioning of journalists and the interactive dynamics in news production. Top-level newsroom managers tended to hold more conservative political views, and journalists working on China-related news also exhibited higher levels of national identification. These constituted the structural basis for the production of relatively less critical news coverage. In addition, frontline journalists described how they could observe and understand the tacit rules that exist in the newsrooms. Occasionally, they would receive questionable instructions about how to handle specific pieces of sensitive news, though such orders were mostly either highly ambiguous or framed in technical or professional terms. For example, a news manager may justify an instruction to downplay certain critical views in a news story by the need to maintain objectivity, or one may justify the deletion of certain materials from a news article because of space constraints. Professional journalists did try to resist pressure to self-censor by occasionally arguing with their supervisors and by developing operational tactics to protect their work. Some interviewees stressed that the discourse of professionalism remained dominant within newsrooms. However, resistance had its limitations. Arguing against the superior may not be an option when the questionable orders were given in highly ambiguous terms or in the midst of a hectic work flow. Some journalists also acknowledged that they might have unintentionally stopped working on politically sensitive topics simply because of a tendency to avoid the unpleasant experience of workplace conflicts. Lee and Chan (2009b: 112–33) thus illustrated how self-censorship is an ‘organisational product’ despite journalistic professionalism and resistance.

Critical events and China’s new strategies The previous section focused mainly on the interaction between the media and the state. In the first few years following the handover, Hong Kong’s civil society was a minor player in the politics of press freedom. However, in the broader process of political development social mobilisation has become increasingly prominent as Hong Kong was embroiled in a serious economic downturn after the Asian financial turmoil. Repeated government mistakes and occasional political controversies and scandals further damaged the legitimacy of the SAR government. With grievances accumulating, debates about national security legislation2 and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in early 20033 finally led to the explosion of public discontent in the 7/1 protest in 2003. This civil society mobilisation succeeded in forcing the SAR government to postpone indefinitely the national security legislation, and led to the resignation of two top government officials in mid-July. Lee and Chan (2011) argued that the 7/1 protest constituted a ‘critical event’ in the sense that it altered how political actors perceived the situation in Hong Kong, and once perceptions changed, the actors also adjusted their goals and strategies. In particular the Chinese government seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that its non-interventionist approach from 1997 to 135

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2003 failed to achieve the desired outcome. As legal scholar Benny Tai (2009: 220–45) put it, there was a shift after 2003 from ‘one country in passive voice’ to ‘one country in active voice’. China’s intention to regain control was apparent in the debates about democratic reform in 2004 when the Chinese government insisted that Hong Kong’s political reform is not purely a local matter. In February, Xinhua News Agency republished a speech by late national leader Deng Xiaoping in which Deng stated that Hong Kong should be governed by ‘patriots’.4 The republication of this speech provoked a controversial ‘patriotism debate’. In April 2004, the National People’s Congress ruled out the possibility of direct elections of the chief executive in Hong Kong in 2007. In addition to democratisation, freedom of speech was another casualty. The patriotism debate, in which pro-China politicians sometimes accused oppositional leaders of being ‘traitors’, created a suffocating political atmosphere. Albert Cheng, Yuk-man Wong and Allen Li, prominent public figures and among the most popular radio talk show hosts at the time, resigned in quick succession. Their successive resignations signified the beginning of the demise of critical radio phone-in talk shows (Lee and Tang 2013: 23–60). Beyond the events in 2004, there are indeed signs that there have been more direct and indirect contacts between Chinese officials and news organisations in Hong Kong. In May 2010, Vice Director of the Chinese Liaison Office (CLO) Li Gong agreed to meet up with three representatives of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong to discuss political reform. The CLO is the official representative organ of the Chinese central government in Hong Kong. The meeting is special in that Chinese officials have in the past refused to enter into direct dialogue with the democrats (or at least have not done so publicly). But according to a media columnist, Li called a number of ‘friendly newspapers’ before the meeting, indicating that the reporters from those newspapers would have the chance to raise questions in the press conference after the meeting. Then, when the reporters from those organisations arrived at the press conference, CLO officers gave them a number of questions to ask (Lam 2010: P18). The second example occurred during the election for chief executive in early 2012, an event which resembled a political soap opera, with the media uncovering one scandal involving candidates after another. The campaign led many citizens to wish for an ‘abortive result’ of the vote, meaning that if no candidate could win more than half of the votes from the 1,200-member election committee, then no candidate would be declared as winner and the whole electoral process would have to begin anew. An abortive election would greatly damage the credibility of the electoral system. In the week before the voting took place, the media reported that the CLO and the central government directly mobilised the election committee members to vote for C.Y. Leung (who did finally win) in order to prevent an abortive result. The news created a public uproar criticising China’s direct intervention in the election. Then, three days before the election, a pro-democracy politician, quoting an unnamed newspaper owner, claimed that the CLO called the newspaper complaining about its coverage of ‘CLO’s mobilisation’. Media reports later identified the newspaper as the Hong Kong Economic Journal, a prestigious financial paper in the city. Of course, these stories about direct contacts and pressure are difficult to prove. Many cases could have remained secret and never publicised, though it is reasonable to argue that the Chinese government would exercise such ‘direct persuasion’ only in the most important and sensitive events. But such stories do show that the Chinese government has already gone beyond the informal politics of self-censorship inducement when handling the Hong Kong press. In addition to direct pressure on top management, we can discern two other new strategies adopted by the state in the post-2003 era. The first can be called front-line operational harassment, which refers to the increasing level of direct control that journalists have to face in 136

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the front line. For example, many journalists have complained that the government has been setting up more and more closed-door news briefings, dubbed ‘wind-blowing sessions’ by local journalists, in which government information is provided to the reporters on condition that reporters would cover the information without naming the government source (Chong 2011). The result is the proliferation of news stories with anonymous sources, a phenomenon not conducive to holding the government to public account. More controversially, many journalists criticised the police for suppressing their freedom of reporting during social protests. In major political events where social protests are likely to occur, the ‘reporting area’ is often set up quite far away from the likely scene of action. Some journalists even complained that the police would use physical violence against reporters. For example, in the 2011 7/1 protest, conflict between protesters and the police occurred after the main march, during which at least 19 journalists were hurt by the police’s use of pepper spray. Several journalists claimed that the police continued to use pepper spray on them even after they clarified their identity as reporters (Lui 2011). Operational harassment also exists when Hong Kong reporters work in mainland China. It should be noted that working on sensitive stories in the mainland – stories that mainland journalists are often forbidden to pursue and write about – has long been a major contribution of the Hong Kong news media to the pursuit of freedom of information in China. However, Hong Kong journalists worked on these topics in mainland China only by bearing a significant and apparently increasing degree of personal risks. In August 2009, for instance, a Hong Kong reporter and her cameraman were accused by the Chengdu police for ‘possessing drugs’. The two journalists were planning to cover the trial of a famous dissident (Tan Zouren) at the time. Although the police did not arrest them, the journalists were effectively prevented from covering the trial as the police kept them in their hotel rooms for six hours (Hong Kong Journalist Association 2010). Over time, front-line operational harassment has implications on what Hong Kong reporters choose to work on in the mainland. As RTHK’s China news reporter Miu-ling Chan (2011) said, since there is no guarantee of personal safety Hong Kong journalists have covered fewer and fewer groundbreaking stories in the mainland. Instead, pack journalism has become the norm. By acting together and covering what each other are covering, individual journalists do not need to face political risks by themselves. Yet the practice of pack journalism led to the homogenisation of content. The second new strategy that China employed after 2003 was the use of soft power. The concept of soft power has been the focus of much discussion in foreign relations and international communications since 2000 (e.g. Kurlantzick 2008), but the concept may also apply to China’s promotion of nationalism in Hong Kong since 2003. The Hong Kong public’s negative reactions toward national security legislation have led the Chinese government to be concerned about the population’s weak national identification. Nevertheless, China understood that nationalism cannot be imposed on Hong Kong, and a ‘hard sell’ approach would only backfire. Therefore, China has opted to promote nationalism in the territory largely through the ‘soft power approach’, sending to Hong Kong astronauts, Olympic gold medallists, award-winning musicians and pandas to showcase the achievement and treasure of the nation. While the ultimate target of soft power is the general public, the Hong Kong news media became part of the strategy as China proactively invited the Hong Kong press to cover related events and stories. The arrival of two pandas in Hong Kong in 2007 is an illustrative case. The Chinese government deliberately framed the event as a case of China sending its national treasure to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong press spent a significant amount of news space, spanning nearly two months, to cover the lives of the two selected pandas in their original habitat in Sichuan 137

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Province, the competition organised for naming the two pandas, the transportation of the two pandas to Hong Kong, etc. The amount of attention given to the story was arguably disproportional: the arrival of two pandas was after all a relatively trivial human interest story, and it was not even the first time pandas were sent to the city from the mainland (the first two pandas arrived in Hong Kong in 1998 largely without the ‘nationalistic fuss’). But the important point here is that the coverage was possible only with the Chinese government’s facilitation, which gave Hong Kong media access to relevant places, people and institutions. Compared to direct contact with management and front-line operational harassment, the use of soft power may appear less ominous. However it is directly relevant to a discussion of press freedom because it shows the Chinese government’s attempt and ability to set the news agenda. When the media devote attention and resources to the stories preferred by the state, less attention and resources are given to other topics, including stories that might expose the dark sides of Chinese politics and society. Moreover, the use of soft power also illustrates how China’s media management has become more sophisticated. The range of strategies has broadened from suppressing the coverage of negative and sensitive news to include ways to direct media attention to positive news.

Pressure from civil society: the decline of news objectivity? Did the strategies of front-line operational harassment, direct contact with management and the continuing politics of self-censorship inducement succeed in gagging the Hong Kong media? Did soft power have its presumed influence on the general public? For a period of time, the mix of strategies did seem to achieve, to a certain extent, the goals of political control and legitimacy building. Opinion polls have shown that Hong Kong people’s trust in the Chinese government and national identification was on the rise. According to surveys conducted by the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong, the percentage of Hong Kong people who trust the Chinese government rose from 43.3 per cent in August 2003 to 55.5 per cent in December 2008. Hong Kong people’s national identification, when measured on a 0–10 scale, also rose from 7.32 in June 2003 to 7.79 in December 2008.5 Writing on the tenth anniversary of the handover, Lee (2007: 134–47) developed the concept of cultural co-orientation to describe the possibility that continuous social and cultural integration between Hong Kong and the mainland has narrowed the differences between the values and beliefs of the two societies. The implication on press freedom is that the conflict between the Hong Kong media and the Chinese government might reduce when the perspectives held by the two sides converge. There would be less need for China to influence the Hong Kong press if the beliefs and values of the Hong Kong journalists themselves were synchronised with the views of the Chinese government. For example, if the Hong Kong journalists themselves start to view Taiwan independence as wrong, then China does not need to do anything to prevent the Hong Kong media from advocating Taiwan independence. However, while cultural co-orientation might have occurred on certain issues such as attitudes toward Taiwan independence, and though it is possible that most Hong Kong people are willing to rejoice in China’s achievement in scientific and cultural arenas, certain fundamental differences in political values between the mainland and Hong Kong have proven to be much more enduring. If political differences have stayed dormant for a short period of time between 2004 and 2007, numerous events since 2008 have foregrounded the differences again. Problems uncovered through tragedies such as the Sichuan earthquake and the Wenzhou high-speed train crash,6 repeated scandals related to corruption, food safety and other matters, and China’s handling of 138

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dissidents have reminded Hong Kong people about the importance of liberty, the rule of law, a transparent political system and free media. In addition, Hong Kong has suffered from a high and rising level of income inequality despite the end of economic decline since 2005, and there is little sign that the problem of ineffective governance could be resolved (Zhang 2009: 312–32). As a result, instead of being pacified, grievances in and resistance from the civil society have persisted and arguably have grown after 2008. The aforementioned surveys by the University of Hong Kong show that the percentage of Hong Kong people who trust the Chinese government declined from above 50 per cent in December 2008 to 41.7 per cent in June 2010, and then fell to as low as 25.9 per cent in September 2012. National identification also went down to only 6.99 in June 2012 – the lowest mean score registered by the survey series since 2000.7 This reversal in public opinion was also evident through the collective actions of citizens. On 4 June 2009, 150,000 Hong Kong people participated in the commemoration rally for the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. The figure surpassed the numbers of participants registered since the early 1990s. The size of successive June 4th (hereafter ‘6/4’) rallies remained high, as around 100,000 people joined in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, citizens have also become more active in staging protests on a wide range of local issues, making social mobilisation a core feature of the city’s political process (see Chan and Lee, Chapter 9 in this volume). The significance of the continual growth of social mobilisation resides in how it strengthens the counteracting force exerted by civil society on the mass media. As explained earlier when discussing the politics of self-censorship, the Hong Kong media should find it problematic to completely succumb to political pressure because they have to maintain credibility. However, as journalism scholars have long pointed out, ‘the public’ is mostly an abstract and imagined entity for journalists. In their day-to-day practices journalists are much more likely to take note of the reactions from their ‘inner public’, namely colleagues, supervisors and news sources. It follows that civil society would become a more powerful influence on the media only if citizens become more proactive and vocal in expressing their views. In fact, Hong Kong citizens not only used collective actions to voice their opinions on social and political issues, but also targeted the mainstream media. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Hong Kong public had long been regarded as ‘attentive spectators’ in politics, i.e. they paid close attention to the news media without being active in political participation (Lau and Kuan 1995: 3–24). In their research on the participants of the 7/1 protests, Lee and Chan (2011: 173–83) further argued that the protesters were also ‘attentive analysts’ of news, meaning they were able to analyse news coverage and identify signs of self-censorship. What happened in the most recent years is that some citizens have also become active critics who expressed their dissatisfaction with media performance through action. One prominent incident of citizen protest against the news media was undertaken by an individual nicknamed ‘Lousy Boy’ during the 6/4 commemoration rally in 2009. Targeting the Television Broadcasting Ltd (TVB), the dominant player in Hong Kong’s television market, ‘Lousy Boy’ sneaked behind a TVB reporter and raised a cardboard sign when the reporter was doing a live stand-up piece to camera. The sign showed a slogan accusing TVB news for being si-dan, a Cantonese phrase that can be translated as lousy in this context (and hence the nickname). Unaware of the protester, the reporter continued the live feed. The protest was shown on television, causing huge embarrassment to the broadcaster. Rather than being a one-off event, the protest by ‘Lousy Boy’ became a catalyst for further and more collective protests against the news media. Media self-censorship became a hot topic in some online discussion sites. Netizens mocked TVB and Asia Television (ATV), the other 139

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free-to-air broadcaster in Hong Kong; they renamed these stations CCTVB and CCATV, associating them with the official Chinese Central Television (CCTV) in the mainland. In the 7/1 protest in 2009, about a hundred protesters surrounded a TVB reporting team on Victoria Park, the starting point of the march route, chanting slogans and raising banners lamenting the death of press freedom. The protests against TVB and ATV since 2009 can be considered as part of a movement against the domination of political power over the mainstream media in Hong Kong that gathered force after 2003. In fact, the 7/1 protest in 2003 also led to the proliferation of online citizen journalism platforms and movement groups concerned with media performance (Ip 2009: 221–39), though few online alternative media survived for long due to lack of resources. Inmedia Hong Kong constituted a relatively successful case. It was established in 2004 by a group of concerned academics and social activists as a social movement organisation that aimed at generating a public sphere not dominated by political power and big corporations.8 Inmedia succeeded in maintaining its operation by relying mainly on citizen donations. In 2009, they even established their own team of ‘special correspondents’. Their website became a platform for the expression of pro-social movement viewpoints on various issues, and frequently published critical commentaries of the mainstream media. In other words, the news media have become sandwiched between increasing pressure from the state and increasing criticism from civil society. Local researchers have yet to assess systematically the impact of such a situation on media performance. But we can suggest that increased pressure from both the state and society apparently accompanied the decline of intensified objectivity. The case of Ming Pao is illustrative here. The elite-oriented newspaper has been the exemplar when local scholars discussed the strategy of intensified objectivity (Lee and Lin 2006: 331–58). But an objective approach to news would still necessitate the reporting of sensitive issues and critical views, and Ming Pao was banned in China – Chinese netizens could not access the newspaper’s website. At the same time, even the newspaper’s own journalists have become increasingly dissatisfied with its unwillingness to be more proactive in criticising the power holders and in standing for pro-democracy values. In other words, objectivity has gradually lost its power as a weapon that the news media could use to straddle between political pressure and professional integrity. Polarisation between the state and society meant that objectivity could appease neither side. The situation also meant that the Hong Kong news media have arguably become more polarised themselves. Some media organisations have fallen in line with the power holders to an even larger extent, in the process abandoning even the most basic professional norms. An extreme example occurred during the election for chief executive in March 2012 when a newspaper substantially revised a columnist’s article to turn it from being a critique of the electoral process into a supportive statement for C.Y. Leung, the eventual winner who was reportedly favoured by Beijing. At the other end, news organisations which did not want to further compromise their own professional integrity and credibility, such as Ming Pao, might opt to move in the opposite direction, becoming more critical and daring in their coverage of sensitive matters. Besides news organisations, the tendency to move away from an insistence on strict objectivity is also evident in the increasingly active role played by the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) in social protests. The HKJA has long been a staunch defender of press freedom, but historically the association has largely refrained from participating in social protests because of the journalistic ideology of objectivity and detachment. Nevertheless, the HKJA joined the 7/1 protest in 2003 because its members saw the national security legislation controversy as directly pertinent to press freedom. Since then, the increased pressure from the state, especially through 140

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the strategy of front-line operational harassment, provoked the HKJA into becoming more active in joining or staging protests to protect press freedom. At the more individual level, journalists also became more active in sharing their views on issues related to professionalism and press freedom through new media platforms such as Facebook and blogs (Chu 2012: 371–87). On the whole, journalism has become more vocal, and a closer relationship between the profession and civil society has emerged. This alliance between civil society and journalists has become a crucial force in the struggle for press freedom in Hong Kong.

Concluding discussion This chapter has analysed the evolution of press freedom in Hong Kong through tracing the strategic interaction between the state, the media and civil society. The Chinese state has broadened its repertoire of control strategies over time. Rather than mainly trying to induce self-censorship, the state has in recent years intervened more directly in the news production process. Of course, this does not mean that the Hong Kong media are nowadays subject to the same type and degree of press control that exists in the mainland. But from a critical perspective the rise of front-line operational harassment and direct management interference do constitute worrying signs. China has seemingly become less and less interested in maintaining the ‘exceptional’ status of Hong Kong. Yet this chapter’s analysis also shows how a significant degree of press freedom is maintained in Hong Kong through the continual efforts of the professional journalists and resistance from the civil society. The professionalism of journalists cannot be easily suppressed, especially as journalism education in the territory’s major universities is still organised around the liberal democratic press theory. More broadly, the fundamental differences in political values upheld by the two societies are too substantial to be eliminated in a short period of time. It should be noted that Hong Kong journalists are part of the local citizenry, hence they share the generally liberal and pro-democracy worldview of the population at large.9 Under this condition, when the pressure applied by the state becomes stronger, the resistance from the media and the society might also strengthen. Social mobilisation is today playing an important role in the politics of press freedom in Hong Kong. In fact, one may even argue that there has been a reverse in the relationship between civil society and press freedom in Hong Kong since 1997. In the early post-handover years, critics generally opined that press freedom is crucial for the protection of civil society. In more recent years, it seems that a vibrant and vocal civil society is crucial for protecting press freedom. Overall the analysis suggests that the struggle for press freedom will persist, and that silencing the press is by no means easy. The key worry of those concerned with press freedom in Hong Kong is whether the state will adopt a more hard-line approach in the future and use coercive means to suppress the media and civil society. To conclude the chapter, it would be useful to discuss a couple of issues that have more general theoretical implications and point out one limitation of the analysis. The first theoretical issue worth discussing is objectivity. It is a well-established argument in journalism studies that the rise of objectivity as a professional ideology can have its own social and political conditions. In the case of the USA, Schudson (1978) has famously interpreted the rise of objectivity as a result of the growth of the democratic market society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Similarly, there are specific historical conditions for the rise of objectivity in Hong Kong: the Sino-British negotiations in the early 1980s led to the Hong Kong media needing to find a legitimating creed which would allow them to critique both the Chinese and British sides. At that historical juncture, a specific conception of ‘local interests’ served as the foundation 141

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of the objective stance, namely whether Hong Kong could continue to enjoy its liberty, prosperity and stability. Meanwhile this chapter shows how historical and political conditions may lead to the decline of objectivity. In the immediate years after the handover, objectivity as a core professional norm was utilised by some professional-oriented media – media organisations that were concerned about their professional integrity – as a ‘weapon of the weak’ (Scott 1985). The objective stance, however, also became a constraint undermining the media’s capability to criticise the power holders. As time went on, the limitations of objectivity as a weapon have become clearer. Finally, when the conflict between society and the state became more apparent, there is no longer a conception of ‘local interests’ or a set of enduring values independent from society and the state that can serve as the foundation of the objective stance. Therefore the case of Hong Kong can enrich our understanding about the dynamic relationships between socio-political conditions and professional norms. Second, the strategic interactional approach to analyse the politics of press freedom should have generalised value beyond Hong Kong. More specifically, the interactional perspective seems to be particularly useful in analysing media politics in what is often called ‘transitional society’. In a transitional society, old institutions and values often coexist with new and emerging institutions and values; and rules and norms are often more ambiguous than they are in a society with a more established and stable system. In such contexts, structural constraints are likely to be less determining, leaving more room for various actors to engage in negotiations and contests regarding how social and political changes will proceed. Actors are also more willing to engage in strategic innovations and practical experiments. In fact, much research and discussion regarding the politics of news media in mainland China since the 1990s has focused on how media actors develop various strategies to expand the space of freedom of reporting. Finally, the limitation of the analysis presented in this chapter is the lack of a more comprehensive examination of how Hong Kong features in the larger politics of social and political reform in China itself. Ultimately, the future of press freedom and democratisation in the SAR is closely related to the broader transformation of China. The country is currently facing a wide range of social problems – corruption, business fraud that could affect the everyday life of ordinary citizens, serious inequality in wealth and the impoverished living condition of the lower strata of the society, etc. – that threaten to undermine social and political stability. The situation arguably led to both the call for political reform to resolve the problems and the tendency to heighten the force of suppression to prevent the problems from getting out of control. In any case, the politics of press freedom in Hong Kong would take another important turn if China embarks on political reform (no matter how gradual and tortuous that process will be) or decides to tighten its grip on both the mainland and Hong Kong. At the same time, it should be noted that the Hong Kong press may also influence the politics of press freedom in China as it may serve as an outlet for the publicisation of sensitive information and viewpoints (Cheung 2011: 713–38). In the early 1990s, Chan and Lee (1991) subtitled their book-length study of the changes in the journalistic paradigm in the territory, ‘the Hong Kong press in China’s orbit’. Inevitably, this description of the Hong Kong press remains appropriate.

Notes 1

The two surveys were conducted by a team of researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Professor Clement So and Professor Joseph Chan were involved in conducting both the 2001 and 2006 surveys, and the present author was involved in the 2006 survey.

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2

3

4

5 6

7 8 9

According to the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of the SAR, the Hong Kong government has to establish laws against treason and secession. Moreover, the press and society are highly suspicious of any attempt to enact national security laws because of the fear that such laws could be used to suppress civil liberties. In 2002, the SAR government began the consultation process for national security legislation, leading to a highly charged public debate. The SARS epidemic struck Hong Kong in early 2003, resulting in 299 deaths. The government was severely criticised for apparently attempting to conceal the fact of the epidemic’s outbreak at the early stages (also see de Burgh, Chapter 6 in this volume). In Deng’s speech, a patriot was defined as a person who ‘respects one’s own nation, sincerely and whole-heartedly supports the motherland’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and does not damage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability’. Deng did not explicitly state that the patriot should wholeheartedly support the communist regime, but it could be regarded as being assumed. In fact, a core issue in debates surrounding patriotism in Hong Kong is whether ‘loving the country’ entails ‘loving the Communist party-state’. The data are available at: http://hkupop.hku.hk. In the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, mainland Chinese media were forbidden from reporting on the fragility of school buildings, which was probably the result of corruption. In the Wenzhou high-speed train crash in July 2011, which led to 40 deaths, the rescue effort was concluded and the train buried at the site within 24 hours. The Hong Kong media and public severely criticised the Chinese government for prematurely ending the search for survivors and destroying evidence before a thorough investigation of the crash. The data are available at: http://hkupop.hku.hk. The stated aim is taken from the group’s website: www.inmediahk.net. For polling data regarding Hong Kong people’s views towards democratisation and other political matters, see the website of Hong Kong University’s Public Opinion Programme (hkupop.edu.hk). For information about the political views of journalists working in Hong Kong, see Lee and Chan (2009b: 112–33).

References Chan, J.M. and Lee, C.C. (1991) Mass Media and Political Transition, New York: Guilford Press. Chan, J.M. and Lee, F.L.F. (2008) ‘Renationalisation, internationalisation and localisation: media and politics in Hong Kong’ (Zai guozuhua, guojihua yu bentuhua de jiaoli: Xianggang de chuanmei he zhengzhi), 21st Century 101: 43–55 (in Chinese). Chan, J.M. and Lee, F.L.F. (2011) ‘The primacy of local interest and press freedom in Hong Kong: a survey study of journalists’, Journalism 12: 89–105. Chan, M.L. (2011) ‘What it means to be a Beijing correspondent’ (Zhu jing jizhe suowei heshi), The Journalist, April. Available online http://hkthejournalist.blogspot.hk/2011/04/c10.html (retrieved 18 December 2012, in Chinese). Cheung, P.T.Y. (2011) ‘Who’s influencing whom? Exploring the influence of Hong Kong on politics and governance in China’, Asian Survey 51(4): 713–38. Chong, H.Y. (2011) ‘Government’s off-the-record briefings continue to flourish’ (Yue chui yue lan, chui dao chui feng hui), The Journalist, April. Available online http://hkthejournalist.blogspot.hk/2011/ 04/c12.html (retrieved 18 December 2012, in Chinese). Chu, D. (2012) ‘Interpreting news values in j-blogs: case studies of journalist bloggers in post-1997 Hong Kong’, Journalism 13: 371–87. Fung, A.Y.H. (2007) ‘Political economy of Hong Kong media: producing a hegemonic voice’, Asian Journal of Communication 17(2): 159–71. Fung, A.Y.H. and Lee, C.C. (1994) ‘Hong Kong’s changing media ownership: uncertainty and dilemma’, Gazette 53: 127–33. George, C. (2012) Freedom from the Press, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press. Hong Kong Journalist Association (2010) Freedom of Expression Annual Report: The Vice Tightens: Pressure Grows on Free Expression in Hong Kong, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Journalist Association. Ip, Y.C. (2009) ‘New political force: the development of independent media in Hong Kong’ (Xin zhengzhi liliang: Xianggang duli meiti de fazhan), Mass Communication Research 99: 221–39 (in Chinese). 143

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Kuan, H.C. and Lau, S.K. (1988) Mass Media and Politics in Hong Kong, Hong Kong: Center for Hong Kong Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kurlantzick, J. (2008) Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lam, T.N. (2010) ‘The deep-rooted contradictions in using reporters as “match-makers”’, Hong Kong Economic Journal, 31 May: P18. Lau, S.K. and Kuan, H.C. (1995) ‘The attentive spectators: political participation of the Hong Kong Chinese’, Journal of Northeast Asian Studies 14: 3–24. Lau, T.Y. and To, Y.M. (2002) ‘Walking a tight rope: Hong Kong’s media facing political and economic challenges since sovereignty transfer’, in M.K. Chan and A. So (eds), Crisis and Transformation in China’s Hong Kong, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 322–42. Lee, C.C. (2000) ‘The paradox of political economy: media structure, press freedom, and regime change in Hong Kong’, in C.C. Lee (ed.), Power, Money, and Media: Communication Patterns and Bureaucratic Control in Cultural China, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 288–336. Lee, C.C., He, Z. and Huang, Y. (2007) ‘Party-market corporatism, clientelism, and media in Shanghai’, International Journal of Press/Politics 12: 21–42. Lee, F.L.F. (2002) ‘Radio phone-in talk shows as politically significant infotainment in Hong Kong’, Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 7(4): 57–79. –––– (2007) ‘Strategic interaction, cultural co-orientation, and press freedom in Hong Kong’, Asian Journal of Communication 17(2): 134–47. Lee, F.L.F. and Chan, J.M. (2009a) ‘Making sense of political transition: a review of political communication research in Hong Kong’, in L. Willnat and A. Aw (eds), Political Communication in Asia, London: Routledge, 9–42. Lee, F.L.F. and Chan, J.M. (2009b) ‘The organisational production of self-censorship in the Hong Kong media’, International Journal of Press/Politics 14: 112–33. Lee, F.L.F. and Chan, J.M. (2011) Media, Social Mobilisation, and the Pro-Democracy Protest Movement in PostHandover Hong Kong, London: Routledge. Lee, F.L.F. and Lin, A.M.Y. (2006) ‘Newspaper editorial discourse and the politics of self-censorship in Hong Kong’, Discourse & Society 17(2): 331–58. Lee, F.L.F. and Tang, G. (2013) ‘Social change, media interaction, and the transformation of radio phonein talk shows in Hong Kong’ (Shehui bianqian, meiti hudong, he diantai tingzhong canyu jiemu zai xianggang de yanbian), Chinese Journal of Communication & Society 24: 23–60 (in Chinese). Lee, P.S.N. and Chu, L. (1998) ‘Inherent dependence on power: the Hong Kong press in political transition’, Media, Culture & Society 20: 59–77. Lui, T.L. (2011) ‘Police abandon Police General Orders for 7/1 confrontation’ (Jingfang buyi ‘jingcha tongli’ xingshi, chuanmei qi yi ye caifang zaoyang), The Journalist, August. Available online http://hkthe journalist.blogspot.hk/2011/08/c01.html (accessed 18 December 2012, in Chinese). Ma, N. (2007) ‘State–press relationship in post-1997 Hong Kong: constant negotiation amidst selfrestraint’, China Quarterly 192: 949–70. Schudson, M. (1978) Discovering the News, New York: Free Press. Sciutto, J.E. (1996) ‘China’s muffling of the Hong Kong media’, in M.J. Skidmore (ed.), Hong Kong and China Pursuing a New Destiny, Singapore: Toppan, 131–43. Scott, J. (1985) Weapons of the Weak, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. So, A.Y. (2011) ‘“One country, two systems” and Hong Kong–China national integration: a crisistransformation perspective’, Journal of Contemporary Asia 41(1): 99–116. So, C.Y.K. and Chan, J.M. (2007) ‘Professionalism, politics, and market force: survey studies of Hong Kong journalists 1996–2006’, Asian Journal of Communication 17(2): 148–58. Tai, B.Y.T. (2009) ‘An unexpected chapter two of Hong Kong’s constitution: new players and new strategies’, in M. Sing (ed.), Challenges to Governance for China and Hong Kong, London: Routledge, 220–45. Tuchman, G. (1978) Making News, New York: Free Press. Zhang, B.H. (2009) ‘Political paralysis of the Basic Law regime and the politics of institutional reform in Hong Kong’, Asian Survey 49(2): 312–32. Zhao, Y.Z. (2008) Communication in China, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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9 Media and social mobilisation in Hong Kong Joseph M. Chan and Francis L.F. Lee

Introduction The rise of collective actions by citizens has constituted one of the most important aspects of social and political developments in Hong Kong. Since the handover in 1997, the economic downturn triggered by the Asian financial turmoil, policy mistakes by government and occasional political scandals have led to widespread public discontent (Chan and So 2002). Many social groups and citizens have taken to the street to express their grievances. On 1 July 2003, 500,000 people protested against the imminent national security legislation1 and government incompetence in general. This protest was a ‘critical event’ in the sense that it changed the way the government and political actors perceived the reality, leading them to adopt new strategies when interacting with society and with each other (Lee and Chan 2011). The protest also illustrated the potential efficacy of ‘people power’ as it successfully forced the government to postpone the national security legislation. The event thus became a catalyst for the further growth of collective actions in Hong Kong. In the years after 2003, civic associations, political parties, professional groups and ordinary people continued to organise and participate in various types of collective actions to make a wide range of claims. Local academics have tried to make sense of such developments in different ways. Some sociologists described these social movements and collective actions as ‘postmodernist’ (K.M. Chan 2005: 67–83; So 2011: 365–78), in the sense that they address societywide public interests, attract participants coming from all walks of life, lack strong organisational bases, emphasise spontaneous actions, and rely heavily on the mass media and new media technologies for mobilisation. Others may argue that the contemporary protests and social movements in Hong Kong are quite typical of the ‘new social movements’ commonly found in advanced capitalist societies (Faulks 1999). Lee and Chan (2013), meanwhile, cast the development of social mobilisation in Hong Kong against the perspective of a ‘movement society’ (Meyer and Tarrow 1998), that is, a society where social movements and contentious collective actions have become normalised and routinised. Despite the somewhat different characterisations, most scholars would agree that media communications have played a crucial role in the rise of protest politics. Lee and Chan (2013) in particular have argued that conventional mass media and new media technologies have combined to constitute the communication infrastructure for social mobilisation in the city. This chapter provides a conceptual overview of the roles played by the mass media and new 145

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media platforms in the formation of social movements and specific instances of collective actions in Hong Kong. Certain important issues in the relationship between media and social mobilisation, such as how the professional news media cover social protests, are also discussed. But to provide the broader background against which the roles of media communications can be understood, the next section will further discuss the characteristics and development of contentious collective actions in contemporary Hong Kong (also see Francis L.F. Lee, Chapter 8 in this volume).

Contentious collective actions in contemporary Hong Kong It is important to begin with some basic definitions. Throughout this chapter, contentious collective actions refer to people acting in concert to make contentious claims on behalf of themselves and/or a social group. Contentious claims are claims that go against the interests and/or desires of another entity, such as another social group, a business corporation or the government. Although all social groups are likely to make contentious claims in some instances and on certain matters, they do not always do so through organising collective actions; at the same time, not all collective actions involve the making of contentious claims. Contentious collective actions can take different forms. People can select a method in a well-established ‘repertoire of contention’ (Tarrow 1998: 30–42) including demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes and so on. Of course, protesters can also innovate and improvise when they engage in collective actions. To avoid verbosity, this chapter will use ‘contentious collective action’ and ‘protest action’ interchangeably. More importantly, a contentious collective action or protest action does not constitute a social movement by itself. Following Tilly (2004: 7–8), we define a social movement as a campaign which makes collective and contentious claims on target authorities through an array of claim-making performances that involve the public representations of the worthiness of the cause and the unity, numbers and commitments of the claimants. A social movement thus involves a continual interaction between the social forces behind the movement and its main targets (Tarrow 1998). Notably, Tilly’s definition does not emphasise the presence of movement organisations. This characteristic makes the definition particularly suitable for studying contemporary social movements in Hong Kong, as we will see later. Given the conceptual clarifications, the following subsections will further discuss the characteristics and development of contentious collective actions in Hong Kong by focusing on three sets of issues: (1) size and diversity of protest actions, (2) public opinion towards contentious collective actions and (3) routinisation of protest actions.

Size and diversity of protest actions When discussing the rise of protest actions in Hong Kong, several large-scale demonstrations and rallies are the most eye-catching. Besides the aforementioned July 1st (hereafter ‘7/1’) protest in 2003, the 7/1 demonstrations in subsequent years continued to attract tens of thousands of participants. The annual June 4th (hereafter ‘6/4’) rally commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen incident in China also had tens of thousands of participants each year throughout the 2000s.2 From 2009 to 2012, the number of participants even reached 100,000 and beyond. Of course, few contentious collective actions in Hong Kong have such scale. Yet a simple search on the electronic news archive Wise News would find that, other than the 6/4 rally and 7/1 protest, there were at least 12 different protest actions in the year 2011 which had more than 1,000 participants. They included four protests directed at the government. The others 146

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included a protest staged by a tourist guide union against the new regulations set up by the Travel Industry Council, a protest in support of the mainland dissident artist Ai Weiwei, the labour day demonstration, a rally organised by a political party calling for the building of more public housing, a candlelight vigil held at a local university ‘commemorating the death of freedom’ on campus and a protest against a local political party in relation to the issue of the right of abode of foreign domestic helpers. This list of the sizable protests in 2011 is illustrative of the fact that major protests are nowadays organised not only by the conventionally oppositional and/or marginal groups, but also by professional associations, student organisations and political parties. If we included small-scale protests, the range of groups having undertaken protest actions would certainly be much wider. In fact, a content analysis of newspaper coverage of protests found that the proportion of collective actions organised by commercial or occupational associations has increased from 3.7 per cent in 2002 to 7.5 per cent in 2009. The proportion of protests organised by professional associations has increased from 1.6 per cent to 5.7 per cent in the same period (Lee and Chan 2013: 243–69). Unlike labour unions and non-governmental organisations, occupational groups and professional associations traditionally seldom engage in social mobilisation. Their increasing presence in the protest scene is illustrative of the diversification of protest actions.

Public opinion towards protests How ordinary citizens view contentious collective actions is an important question when one analyses the development of protest politics in a society. Understanding public opinion toward protests could predict whether the general public is likely to support or even participate in specific instances of contentious collective actions and social movements in general. There is a lack of longitudinal data about how Hong Kong citizens perceived protests and social movements over the years, but survey evidence has indeed pointed toward citizen receptiveness toward protests. In two surveys conducted by the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in early 2010 and 2012, we included a list of questions asking the respondents whether they thought a list of organisations and entities are ‘representative

Table 9.1 Perceived representativeness of political actors, media and social institutions

Political actors HK government Political parties Legislators Media News commentators Newspapers Television news Radio phone-in Other social institutions Polling agencies Social movements

2010

2012

4.94 4.54

4.62 4.44

4.67

4.64

5.74 5.52 6.11 5.62

5.57 5.43 6.06 5.54

5.64 5.21

5.54 5.24

Note: The entries are mean scores based on a 0–10 scale (10 = absolutely can represent public opinion, 0 = absolutely cannot represent public opinion).

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of public opinion’. As Table 9.1 shows, ‘social movements’ obtained an average score of 5.21 in 2010, which is above the mid-point of the scale. Admittedly, the respondents saw the news media and polling agencies as substantially more representative, but social movements did fare much better than the government, political parties and legislators. The findings remain the same in 2012. The same surveys also asked the respondents if they would agree with the statement ‘you may participate in a demonstration in the future to fight for your rights’. In 2010, 43.7 per cent of the respondents disagreed with the statement and 32.1 per cent agreed (the others answered ‘don’t know’ or opted for the neutral category). Although respondents agreeing with the statement did not constitute the majority, the figures are still indicative of a substantial amount of ‘protest potential’ within the population. In 2012, the percentage of respondents agreeing with the same statement rose to 41.1 per cent, while only 27.2 per cent disagreed. The difference between the two years is statistically significant (␹2 = 60.1, df = 2, p < .001). In other words, the protest potential of the Hong Kong public has increased further between 2010 and 2012. It should be noted that there were no major social and political events occurring right before the 2012 survey. The increase in protest potential does not seem to be the result of any specific and idiosyncratic events. Moreover, past research has shown that the Hong Kong public has a high level of collective efficacy, i.e. they believe that the collective actions of Hong Kong people can change society and influence the government (Lee 2006: 297–317; 2010: 392–411). The surveys in 2010 and 2012 show the same phenomenon. In 2010, 45.9 per cent of the respondents agreed with the statement ‘Hong Kong people’s collective actions, such as demonstrations, have huge influence on public affairs’. Only 22.7 per cent disagreed. In 2012, the percentage of people agreeing with the statement had risen further to 52.9 per cent, and only 15.8 per cent disagreed.

Routinisation of protests Social movement scholars in western democracies have pointed out that protest actions have become more routinised and, by implication, less disruptive over the years. Concomitant with the trend is the development toward a more congenial police–protester relationship. Several researchers have noted a shift in police strategy from an emphasis on control in the 1960s and 1970s to an emphasis on negotiation and management in the 1980s and 1990s (Della Porta 1999: 66–96; McCarthy and McPhail 1998: 83–110). In Hong Kong, many activists acknowledged that the police–protester relationship is generally ‘cooperative’. It does not mean that activists would completely trust the police, but they are willing to negotiate with the police on practical matters such as determining the protest route and area. They are willing to provide the police with basic information, such as the estimated size of an upcoming protest, so that the collective action can be managed. They even maintain some contact during large-scale protest actions in order to respond to emergency situations (Lee and Chan 2011). This willingness to cooperate with the police arguably signifies the concerns of conventional movement activists with maintaining the ‘order’ of protests. That is, many traditional activists in Hong Kong would not want the collective actions to result in uncontrolled violence, destruction and arrests. However, the police–protester relationship and interaction have seemingly become more conflictive and confrontational in recent years. In 2011, official statistics show that the Hong Kong police arrested a total of 440 protesters and charged 46 of them. The numbers represent a substantial increase from the figures in year 2010, when there were only 57 arrests and 15 charges.3 While critics questioned if the police are increasingly prone to abuse their power, the increase in arrests is also undeniably related to the emergence 148

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of more radical protest tactics. In fact, among the 440 arrests in 2011, 397 came from the 7/1 rally, the 6/4 commemoration and a large-scale protest against the government budget in March. These arrests came after a group of protesters lay down on the streets to block the traffic. The police claimed that they had warned the protesters without effect and hence could only take action. In other words, the most current Hong Kong situation differs from the ideal typical movement society in that the city is witnessing both the routinisation and radicalisation of protests simultaneously. On the one hand, contentious collective actions are conducted regularly, and most of the protest actions remain peaceful and non-disruptive. In Lee and Chan’s (2013) content analysis, only 5.7 per cent of the protest events in 2009 reported in the news involved protesters using physical force, and only 6.5 per cent involved the police using physical force. But, on the other hand, specific groups of protesters have seemingly taken a radical turn. Given the media, especially television’s appetite for sensational visuals, images of conflicts between protesters and police can become highly prominent in the news. It is difficult to ascertain whether the trend towards a more conflictive protester–police relationship would continue, but the above suggests that the development of protest politics in Hong Kong does not always move in a linear direction. New social and political developments may lead contentious politics to diverge from its existing developmental path.

Mass communication and social mobilisation The previous section has reviewed the key developments of social movements and contentious collective actions in Hong Kong. The rise of protest politics can be explained from several angles. Political scientist Peter Cheung (2011: 113–21) argued that the existing mechanisms the Hong Kong government use to engage public opinion have become outdated and ineffective. The public thus finds the need to voice their views through more direct means. Similarly, sociologist Agnes Ku (2009: 505–27) argued that the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government failed to develop a notion of democratic citizenship that would help absorb public demands in the policy-making process more effectively. Political scientist Ngok Ma (2011: 683–712) tied the rise of protest politics to changes in political and cultural values. While Hong Kong people used to hold an instrumental view of democracy and a belief in the efficiency and fairness of a low-intervention economic system, post-handover developments have led to disenchantment with the neoliberal myth. Citizens developed stronger support for democracy and postmaterialist values, which are then expressed through social protests. A thorough discussion of the systemic and cultural bases of protest politics is out of the scope of this chapter. Suffice it to say that no matter what political and cultural bases are there, social mobilisation would not arise automatically. We contend that media communications have played important roles in social mobilisation in Hong Kong, especially due to the weaknesses of local movement organisations and civic associations. In resource mobilisation theory, the rise of social movements is explained in terms of how movement organisations recruit activists, frame issues, pool together resources and mobilise supporters for actions (McCarthy and Zald 1973 and 1977: 1212–41). In Hong Kong, however, the development of civil society is hindered by ‘the lack of resources and manpower, internal divisions, the prevalence of a depoliticised culture, and the marginalisation of its role in politics’ (Lam and Tong 2007: 146). In this situation, the presence of a communication infrastructure becomes crucial as it can partly compensate for the absence of a strong organisational basis for mobilisation. Indeed, the weak organisation-based mobilisation and the heavy reliance on communication channels for mobilisation have resulted in what may be called self-mobilisation – mobilisation initiated and conducted by ordinary citizens themselves 149

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in a largely diffuse, decentralised and horizontal manner. This is a form of spontaneous mobilisation commonly found in Hong Kong (Lee and Chan 2011). The communication infrastructure for social mobilisation is composed of both the mass media and new media technologies. We consider the two as intertwined to form a holistic mediascape. However, for presentational clarity, we will first discuss the roles of the mass media and then turn to new media technologies in the next section.

Direct mobilisation and action facilitation On 1 July 2003, Apple Daily, a mass-oriented newspaper highly critical of the government, printed ‘Take to the street and see you there’ as its front-page headline. In the month prior to the 7/1 protest in 2003, mobilisation messages were also widely circulated through the mass media. After the protest, Chinese officials have reportedly pinpointed ‘one newspaper, one magazine, and two mouths’ – referring to the Apple Daily, Next Magazine and two famous talk show hosts – as major mobilisers. The question of whether certain media outlets have mobilised citizens to protest was hotly debated. Indeed, empirical research has shown that readers of Apple Daily and listeners of populist talk radio were more likely to have participated in various kinds of protests (Lee 2007: 78–96; Lee and Chan 2011). These findings suggest that media outlets could indeed mobilise people to act when they explicitly play the role of mobilising agents. However, other empirical findings suggest that media can also facilitate protest participation even if they do not explicitly mobilise their audience. In the case of the 7/1 protest in 2003, readers of the elite-oriented newspaper Ming Pao were also more likely than readers of other newspapers to have participated, even though Ming Pao had taken a largely neutral approach when reporting the national security legislation controversy (Lee and Chan 2011). Besides, Chan and Lee (2005) also showed that, while there is no relationship between general news consumption and participation in the 7/1 protest in 2003, there is a positive relationship between news consumption and participation in other protests. These latter findings point to the more fundamental ‘facilitating role’ of the mass media. Citizens cannot participate in a protest unless they know that there is one. Therefore, merely by reporting on the time and place of an upcoming protest, i.e. by providing people with what Lemert (1981) called ‘mobilising information’, the media is already facilitating citizen participation. Moreover, when the news media report on a protest action, they may maintain their neutrality by juxtaposing the views of people who support the protest against those who oppose it. Despite the balancing act, this kind of coverage does provide the audience with views supportive of the protest action. People who selectively accept only the pro-protest views may then decide to take action. Moreover, when the pro-protest views came from authoritative social leaders, the views may help ‘certify’ (McAdam et al. 2001) the legitimacy of the protest action and thus heighten people’s intention to participate. The mass media, therefore, constitute an important platform for mobilisation and specific outlets may even serve as mobilising agents. The media can also act simply as messengers for protest organisers and/or activists; and, as pointed out earlier, having the mass media serving as messenger can be particularly important for movement organisations in Hong Kong because the latter do not have strong membership bases and networks.

Status conferral For movement organisations and activists, media access is important not only for the purpose of mobilisation, but also because regular media appearances could signify their status as legitimate 150

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spokespersons on social and political matters. More than 60 years ago, Lazarsfeld and Merton (1948) called this the status conferral function of the mass media. In Hong Kong, Chan (1992: 106–29) argued that the news media did confer status on social movements in the 1970s by starting to report their actions and use them as sources. There is a lack of systematic research in the past decade documenting the media appearances of social movement organisations. But for illustration, we constructed Table 9.2 by searching through the electronic news archive Wise News for the numbers of articles published in five major newspapers in Hong Kong between 2002 and 2011 mentioning the names of three selected movement organisations. We chose the three organisations because their characteristics would allow us to make a few key points. Specifically, the first two columns show the frequencies of media appearances of two environmental organisations. Founded in 1968, the Conservancy Association is currently managed by a group of social elites, with the chairperson being a Justice of Peace and the vice-chairperson being a professor in environmental engineering. But, as Table 9.2 shows, while the association did get some media attention in 2002 and 2003, media attention substantially increased after 2004. In contrast to the Conservancy Association, Green Sense was established in 2004 by a 24year-old, but it caught up very quickly in terms of media access. Into the latter half of the 2000s, the organisation’s frequencies of media appearance have already matched that of the Conservancy Association. Whether the organisation has any specific media strategies is an issue for further research. But the figures in Table 9.2 do suggest that it is nowadays not necessarily difficult for even a new civic association to attract the media spotlight. Certainly, it may be relatively easy for environmental organisations to gain media access because the claims they make are usually consonant with public opinion at large. The case of Zi Teng, an organisation established in 1996 working for the rights of sex workers, is therefore useful to illustrate how a movement organisation working for a marginalised group in the society would fare in terms of media access. As Table 9.2 shows, Zi Teng was almost totally invisible in the media before 2003. Yet, similar to the Conservancy Association, Zi Teng’s frequencies of media appearance increased afterwards and soared suddenly in 2008 and 2009. The surge was due to a series of serious crimes against sex workers, which provided important discursive opportunities

Table 9.2 Media presence of selected movement organisations

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Total

The Conservancy Association

Green Sense

Zi Teng

58 49 100 104 103 207 151 120 249 192 1,226

n/a n/a 8 39 80 188 117 182 152 199 965

2 14 29 32 40 53 138 104 37 24 457

Note: n/a = not applicable because the organisation was not yet established. The entries are number of articles mentioning the name of the organisation on the main news and Hong Kong news pages of Ming Pao, Apple Daily, Oriental Daily, Sing Tao Daily and Wen Wei Pao.

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for the organisation. As the issue subsided, Zi Teng’s media appearances declined, but it is still featured in the news occasionally. This appears to indicate that it has assumed the status of a legitimate association from the perspective of the journalists. On the whole, although the organisations in Table 9.2 are not representative of all movement organisations in Hong Kong, the table does illustrate the news media’s willingness to use movement organisations as sources when relevant events occur or when the claims made by the movements are in tune with public opinion. Such media appearances should help movements achieve status as legitimate speakers on social matters. They should also contribute to popular perceptions of movements as representative of public opinion.

Cultural codification When trying to mobilise public support, social movements need to develop ways of talking about their ideas so that people will find them persuasive. Meaning construction is an important task facing social movements (e.g. Gamson 1992; Gamson and Modigliani 1989: 1–37). Besides, citizens also need ways to make sense of contentious collective actions in general. Therefore, the rise of protest politics in Hong Kong in the past decade was partly facilitated by the growth of a range of discursive resources with which people can make claims and make sense of protest actions. An example of discursive resources for the articulation of issues and demands is the notion of ‘property hegemony’, a phrase popularised in the city after the publication of a book with the same title in 2009. The phrase highlights the huge influence of the biggest property developers in Hong Kong on the government, the policy-making process and society at large. It provides a term for people to articulate together various social problems and trace their root cause to the overwhelming influence of the property tycoons. Since 2009, the phrase has become a prominent focus of criticism in various large- and small-scale protests in the city. By employing the phrase, protesters can articulate their demands in a way that would more easily strike a chord among the general public. Regarding discourses about protests in general, Chan and Lee’s (2006: 71–96) analysis of public discourses surrounding the 7/1 protest in 2003 has shown how commentators converged to praise the ‘peaceful and rational’ quality of the protest and the civic quality of the protesters. Commentators highlighted the lack of violence during the protest and attributed it to the characteristics of ‘the people’. The image of ‘high quality Hong Kong people’ and the emphasis on peacefulness and rationality made it possible to describe protest actions in very positive terms; and since 2003, the theme of ‘peacefulness and rationality’ has reappeared in media discourses surrounding many other protest actions. It became a yardstick for evaluating the ‘quality’ of various protests. Notably, an overwhelming emphasis on rationality has its downside, as it arguably fails to challenge the hegemony of the ‘order imagery’ in public culture (Ku 2007: 186–200). It can easily be appropriated by conservative politicians to undermine specific forms and instances of ‘irrational’ protest actions. But it does help define a specific form of contentious collective actions as appropriate and legitimate. The news media did not invent all the discursive resources. What the media provide is a platform for such discursive resources to be generated and circulated. However, we should not exaggerate the capability of movements to control whether and how the media would take up their discourses. Other social and political actors can generate their own ways of talking about social problems that may undermine social mobilisation, and sometimes power holders can also appropriate social movements’ discourses. The heritage protection movement is a case in point. During the movement to oppose the dismantling of the Star Ferry Pier in 2005, the media 152

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largely framed the issue in terms of Hong Kong people’s collective memory. Activists found the frame problematic, though, since it tended to lead to sheer nostalgia. Over time, some activists abandoned the notion of collective memory and even the phrase ‘heritage protection’ and turned to emphasise the idea of ‘public space’ (Ku 2012: 5–22). In sum, new discursive resources have appeared in Hong Kong which constituted the cultural code through which protest actions can be legitimised. Yet cultural codification is an ongoing struggle. The media is the platform for such discursive contestation, while they also play the roles of circulators and sometimes generators of discourses.

Media portrayal of protests and Hong Kong media’s political parallelism The three previous sections have highlighted how the media have arguably helped the development of social movements. But with or without benefiting movements, another fundamental role of the media is to report on the occurrence of collective actions. Critical scholars have long identified the mainstream media as agents of social control. Hence the media often have the tendency to portray social movements in negative ways (Chan and Lee 1984: 183–202; Gitlin 1980). The contemporary media scene in Hong Kong, however, is more complicated. On the one hand, the local media tend to cover protests in a negative light when the protests involve violence (even if the violence is largely symbolic, such as when protesters overturn a police car when there is no police officer in it) (e.g. Ku 2007: 186–200; Lee 2008: 57–78). This may be explained by an emphasis on rationality, order and peacefulness of protest actions. Commercialised media tend to attract audiences through the use of sensational visuals, so they may be inclined towards exaggerating the violent aspects of a collective action. This inclination has strained the relationship between the media and the more radical wings of the local social movements because the latter are often perceived to be given unfair or distorted treatment in the news (Leung 2010). On the other hand, our previous discussion on cultural codification also implies that the Hong Kong media may also cover many contentious collective actions in a neutral or even positive manner. This would be the case when the protest action is largely ‘peaceful and rational’ in its form and style of expression and the claims being made, though contentious in the sense that they go against the interests of another group or entity, are nonetheless seen as representing the view of the public at large. The most prominent examples of this type of collective actions include the 7/1 protest and the 6/4 commemoration rally. Notably, the media system in Hong Kong exhibits a substantial degree of political parallelism – there are news organisations that adopt a more explicitly pro-democracy perspective, and there are also pro-government and conservative newspapers. But as Chan and Lee (2006: 71–96) illustrated, in the case of the 7/1 protest in 2003 newspapers representing different political perspectives converged to stand by the general public when ‘energised public opinion’ was powerfully expressed through the demonstration. Over time, the political differences among the newspapers did re-emerge. But instead of dismissing or criticising the 6/4 rallies or 7/1 protests, the conservative newspapers typically opted to either downplay the prominence of such actions or develop their own discursive strategies to dampen the social influence of these protests. For example, instead of treating the 7/1 protests as a series of pro-democracy demonstrations, conservative newspapers tended to emphasise the plurality of the claims being expressed and the ‘carnivalesque’ atmosphere surrounding the collective action. The example of the 7/1 protests thus suggests that Hong Kong media organisations of varying political predilections have developed their own discursive strategies in covering different types 153

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of protest actions. Some media organisations, because of their connections with the political establishment, are definitely still playing the role of agents of social control. But nowadays they have to play this role within a public arena where much more sympathetic portrayals of collective actions also exist. This results in a more complicated mix of news reports and discourses surrounding social movements and collective actions.

New media and social mobilisation While citizens remain largely reliant on the mass media for information about the political world, the advance of new media technologies has had substantial impact on how people connect with each other. Not surprisingly, the role of new media in social mobilisation has also attracted much scholarly attention. In Hong Kong, a few studies have demonstrated the mobilisation potential of new media technologies. We can highlight three major implications of new media on social mobilisation in the city: new media as channels for action mobilisation, new media as channels for attitudinal support activation and new media as platforms for new forms of contentious collective actions.

New media as channels for mobilisation The earliest study of the role of new media in social mobilisation in Hong Kong was concerned about the mobilisation processes behind large-scale protests. Drawing upon onsite surveys conducted at the 7/1 protests in 2003 and 2004, Chan and Lee (2005) showed that participatory leaders and participatory followers, i.e. those who have called upon others to participate in the protests and those who heeded the calls of others to participate in the protests, differed in the extent to which they used the internet for sharing information about public affairs and sharing information about the 7/1 demonstrations. More generally, Chan and Lee (2005) argued that the mobilisation processes behind the 7/1 protests in 2003 and 2004 were consistent with the two-step flow model – the participatory leaders were more likely than the participatory followers to see the mass media as influential on their decision to participate, whereas followers were more likely than the leaders to see interpersonal influences as important. New media technologies constituted a channel through which the participating leaders and followers could communicate with each other. Lee and Chan’s (2010) analysis of the 6/4 commemoration rally in 2010 partly replicated such findings and partly provided insights into some new developments since the emergence of social media. Their onsite survey shows that 29.4 per cent of the rally participants frequently shared with other people information and messages related to public affairs online, while only 7.8 per cent indicated that they never shared such information and messages online. At the same time, 20.0 per cent of the participants reported that they frequently participated in Facebook groups addressing public issues, while only 21.4 per cent reported that they never did so. Rally participants who were active in online political communication, when compared to their inactive counterparts, were more likely to have called upon their friends and acquaintances to participate in the 6/4 rally and more likely to have made an earlier participatory decision. In other words, these people were more likely to have played a leading role in the process of social mobilisation behind the 6/4 rally. Beyond the large-scale protests, social media have also played a role in generating among young people higher levels of political participation in a wide range of activities. A survey on university students conducted in late 2011 showed that 46.0 per cent of the respondents reported 154

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‘sometimes’ talking about politics or current affairs on social networking sites, and 27.0 per cent reported that they have joined a Facebook group addressing a topic related to politics or public affairs. These figures show that a substantial proportion of young people are politically connected through social media. In addition, a multiple regression analysis shows that both belonging to a Facebook political group and frequency of political discussion through social networking sites are positively related to offline political participation (Lee 2014).

New media as channels for attitudinal support activation Besides mobilisation for action, new media may also help garner broader public support for social movements and their causes as they provide channels for communication and persuasion. Nevertheless, it is questionable if movement organisations and activists can easily persuade all citizens through new media. Rather, what is likely to happen is that specific movements and collective actions can activate the support from people who are already predisposed toward supporting social movements in general. This support activation role of the new media has to be understood in relation to how people engage in political communications. As many scholars in the USA have pointed out, the advance of new media and the concomitant proliferation of media outlets have led to heightened degrees of audience selectivity (Bennett and Iyengar 2008: 707–31; Stroud 2010). Although the phenomenon of selective exposure has been examined for decades, the proliferation of media choices and the interactivity of the new media environment mean that it has become substantially easier for citizens to actually exercise selectivity. Therefore, people are increasingly likely to be exposed mainly or even only to likeminded views. Whether this is normatively desirable is a matter of debate, but it does imply that new media-based communications are particularly likely to reinforce people’s existing views rather than changing their views (Bennett and Iyengar 2008: 707–31). Following this line of argument, we may expect pro-movement messages on the internet to reach mainly people who are already holding positive attitudes toward social movements. This support activation hypothesis was tested by Lee and Chan’s (2012: 1–23) analysis of the anti-express rail movement in Hong Kong in early 2010. They found that people who named the internet as an important source of information about the express rail controversy were more likely to oppose the government’s plan to build a railroad to connect to China’s express rail system. In other words, reliance on the internet for information is related to support for the cause of the anti-express rail movement. More importantly, this relationship is stronger among people who treated social movements as generally representative of public opinion. This latter finding lends support to the activation thesis. Moreover, if people mainly encounter consonant information and interact with likeminded people on the internet, online political communication may lead to more extreme political attitudes and hence stronger support for radical actions. Lee and Chan (2012: 1–23) tested this opinion radicalisation hypothesis by examining if people who relied on the internet for movement-related information were more likely to support a couple of relatively radical actions undertaken by the activists. The finding indeed supported the hypothesis, but in line with the argument of support activation the positive relationship between reliance on the internet for information and support for radical actions was applicable only to people who held positive attitudes toward social movements in general. On the whole, Lee and Chan’s (2012: 1–23) findings point to the capability of new media to help social movements to solidify and activate, though not necessarily expand, their support base. 155

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New media, new forms of collective actions In addition to being channels for mobilisation and communication, new media also constitute platforms for action. The aforementioned survey study of university students found that 12.0 per cent of the respondents have signed an online petition on some public matters (Lee 2014). The onsite survey conducted during the 6/4 rally in 2010 also found that 14.2 per cent of the participants had frequently or very frequently signed online petitions, whereas only 24.3 per cent reported having never signed an online petition (Lee and Chan 2010). Petition campaigns are a long-established form of collective action. The online arena simply provides a platform on which the circulation of the petition can be quicker and easier. More interestingly, new media can also be a platform for the emergence of new forms of collective actions (Earl and Kimport 2011). One major form involves the collective creation and circulation of symbols as a way of online protest. An illustration in this connection is the online satire-fest in Hong Kong. In a satire-fest, some individuals kick-start the process by producing satirical videos or pictures, expressing a criticism or a contentious claim against certain organisations, individuals or policies. As the satirical products catch the imagination of others, some people respond by producing their own entries following the templates of the earlier products. The result is an accumulating and widely circulating body of satirical materials expressing the same underlying claim. One actual case of such an online satire-fest occurred in February and March 2012 amidst the election for chief executive in Hong Kong. Since the chief executive was elected only by a 1,200-member committee, the election was criticised by pro-democracy citizens and politicians as being a ‘small-circle game’. Furthermore, two of the major candidates in the election were embroiled in various scandals. In February 2012, some newspapers charged Henry Tang, a major candidate who was also the former chief secretary of the government, for having an illegally built basement in his home. When it became clear that the news was true, and Tang apparently ran out of excuses, some citizens produced satirical posters based on the Batman movies, joking that ‘I am actually Batman’ is the last excuse Tang could use. The Batman posters were circulated widely through Facebook, and new ‘movie posters’ quickly proliferated as other citizens made their own based on a wide range of popular films. In the online satire-fest, there is no fixed time and place for people to act together. People sharing the same sentiments underlying the satirical materials are simply drawn into the process of creative accumulation. But the process taken as a whole can be regarded as a collective action as individuals are responding to and adding on to what each other has produced. More importantly, the satirical products are often circulated collectively or linked with each other in cyberspace. Many people, therefore, would encounter the satirical products in the form of a collection or as an intertextual chain, as exposure to one satirical article leads them to another similar satirical article and so on. The voice expressed through the creative production is ultimately a collective one. The example of online satire-fest thus illustrates how new media are facilitating new forms of collective actions, enriching the repertoire of contention in contemporary societies.

Concluding remarks This chapter has discussed the major roles played by the mass media and new media technologies in social mobilisation in Hong Kong. To recapitulate, while a number of news outlets have occasionally served as mobilising agents, the mass media have mainly played a facilitating role in the formation of social protests through providing information and amplifying the messages 156

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of activists. On a more day-to-day basis, the mass media also helped legitimise social movements as important actors and speakers in the political communication process by using movement activists and organisations as news sources. Moreover, the mass media served as the platform for the process of cultural codification – the generation, articulation and circulation of discursive resources that movements and citizens can use to make issue-specific claims and legitimise protest actions. New media technologies, meanwhile, are important channels for citizens to mobilise people around them for collective actions. At the same time, movement-related information and persuasive messages are widely circulated through new media, and the heightened levels of selective exposure in the new media environment means that communication through new media can activate support for a specific movement among people who hold positive views toward social movements in general. Finally, new media technologies also serve as the platforms for both old and new types of collective actions. New media thus extend the space for protest actions to be conducted and enrich the repertoire of contention. All these functions not only point to how mass media and new media can facilitate the formation of specific contentious collective actions, they also point to the role played by the media in the normalisation of social movements and protest actions in Hong Kong. As pointed out earlier, this chapter has separated the discussions of mass media and new media only for the sake of clarity. In reality, communications through mass media and new media are often intertwined through processes of remediation and recreation. For example, much new mediabased mobilisation involves people circulating contents from the mass media. Besides, what we have called online satire-fest often involves people working on materials provided by the mass media (such as movie posters in the case discussed in this chapter). Therefore, we can argue that one additional role of mass media in social mobilisation in contemporary Hong Kong is to serve as a provider of symbolic resources for citizens engaging in online social mobilisation or new-media based collective actions. From the other way round, social mobilisation and collective actions on new media can also become materials for the mass media to report. When a Facebook political group gains the support of a huge number of citizens, it may become a news story in itself. Given the status conferral function of the mass media, such media reports can legitimise and encourage more people to engage in the new-media based mobilisation and actions. Even more fundamentally, one might argue that the boundary separating mass communication and new media communication is actually blurred. When a Facebook political group is set up and a collection of people’s creative protest materials is exhibited, the Facebook group can also be regarded as engaging in mass communication – the communication of messages to a large unknown and undifferentiated audience. The close relationship between new media and mass media and the blurred boundary between the two constitute the reason why they are considered as forming an integrated communication infrastructure underlying the rise of social protests in Hong Kong. It should be noted that, when compared to many other countries, the literature on media and social protests in Hong Kong is relatively uneven. In fact, readers may recognise that not all the arguments in this chapter are validated by evidence. Therefore, research in some of the areas discussed in this chapter is very much in need. The media coverage of protest is an example. While some studies based on qualitative textual analysis of media coverage of and public discourses surrounding individual cases of protests do exist (e.g. Chan and Lee 2006: 71–96; Ku 2007: 186–200; Lee 2008: 57–78), we lack a systematic analysis of media coverage of contentious collective actions in general. For example, do the news media cover protests differently based on the topics and organisers of the protests? How do the news media portray different forms 157

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of contentious collective actions? Did the tone of media coverage of protests change over time? Answering these questions can enrich our understanding of the media–protest relationship in the city. Another area where research is needed is the development of new forms of online contentious collective actions. We have discussed the example of how the satirical videos and pictures produced by individual citizens can be considered as constituting a collective action. Yet further research should be done to examine how frequently and in response to what topics this type of protest is staged. There is also the need to examine in more detail the characteristics of the satirical videos and pictures in order to discern how contentious claims are made through such practices. Certainly, attention should be paid to other emerging forms of collective actions in the new media environment. For instance, in a digitised environment it becomes much easier for people to express their concern about a given issue on the internet. Where do we draw a line between the mere focusing of online discourses on a given topic and an online collective action in this regard? The next question that follows is about how online collective action is connected to offline collective actions in real life. These are all questions that deserve the attention of researchers. Moreover, it should be acknowledged that this chapter’s discussion may have left out certain issues. For instance, we have not discussed whether and how social movement organisations have utilised new media technologies to communicate their views and recruit activists. This is partly due to the lack of existing research in this area in Hong Kong, and partly related to the fact that organisations of social movements in Hong Kong are relatively weak and arguably do not play as important a role in social mobilisation as their counterparts in other countries. In fact, we have argued that the importance of the communication infrastructure for social mobilisation in Hong Kong resides partly in its capability to compensate for the absence of strong movement organisations. This explains why we have characterised the typical mode of social mobilisation in Hong Kong as self-mobilisation. We trust that the self-mobilisation model is especially applicable in places where the communication infrastructure grows at a faster rate than social organisations. Nevertheless, we have to conclude by stating that we do not treat the communication infrastructure as capable of completely replacing movement organisations or networks. There are certain roles and functions of social movement organisations that the communication infrastructure, no matter how well developed, may not be able to take up. Most notably, local sociologists and political scientists have pointed out that social movements in Hong Kong often adopt a coalitional model when addressing specific issues. That is, they often join forces to form ad hoc coalitions when facing important matters. Yet such ad hoc coalitions tend to disband once the imminent issue is resolved (Ma 2009: 9–23; Lee and Chan 2011). Social movements in Hong Kong, therefore, tend to address various issues on a case-by-case basis, resulting in a lack of movements that can provide a sustained challenge to the status quo from the vantage of a coherent ideology. An implication is that the civil society in Hong Kong is, according to Ma (2005: 456–82), good at defending existing rights but not at fighting for new rights. In our view, the communication infrastructure does not seem to be capable of resolving this limitation either. In the end, having a strong communication infrastructure does not obliterate the need for continual development of social movement organisations and civil society associations in Hong Kong.

Notes 1

According to article 23 of the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region government had the responsibility to enact laws protecting national security

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2

3

and integrity. In late 2002, the Hong Kong government started the consultation and legislation processes. The proposed law aroused huge public opposition, however, because of its possible implications on a wide range of civil liberties. The government was also criticised for not allowing enough time for public discussions. The commemoration rally is an instance of contentious collective action because it invariably involves the participants calling for the Chinese government to reverse its verdict of the events in 1989. It has also become a platform, in recent years, for people to protest against China’s suppression of human rights and failure to democratise. ‘Police arrests of protesters increased six-fold; denial of abuse of power’, Ming Pao, 18 January 2012, p. A08.

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10 Citizen journalists as an empowering community for change A case study of a Taiwanese online platform ‘PeoPo’ Chen-ling Hung

One woman sobbed in tears as she said, ‘I fell to my knees in front of the excavators begging them not to destroy my farmland, but they just wouldn’t listen to me.’ Excavators drove all over the fields, completely destroying the rice that was ready for harvesting, leaving only a pile of muck in their wake. Farmers could only look on in bewilderment at the destroyed rice fields, speechlessly looking to the heavens for the reason why. – subtitles in online news clip, ‘When the excavators came to the rice fields’ (Jieli 2010)

In mid-June 2010, an online video of excavators driving into farmland shocked many Taiwanese viewers (see Figure 10.1). They were angered by the violence of excavators, felt sympathy for those powerless farmers and started to ask what happened. This happened on 9 June 2010 when the Miaoli County Government in western Taiwan planned to expropriate a total of 28 hectares in Dapu Borough and sent in excavators to dig up rice paddies despite the opposition of farmers. Farmers and local protestors asked for a citizen journalist’s help to videotape and edit the scene ‘When the excavators came to the rice fields’ (Jieli 2010). Photographs and video clips of the demolitions spread quickly on the internet and in the media, turning the Dapu land controversy from a local issue into a national debate. On 17 July 2010, around 1,000 farmers and activists staged an overnight sit-in on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the presidential office to protest land seizures in Miaoli County. Facing media and public criticism, President Ma Ying-jeou held an urgent meeting with the cabinet and instructed Premier Wu Den-yih to help settle the disputed expropriation of farmland from farmers and negotiate with the Miaoli County Government (Huang 2010). As a result, the Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung apologised publicly for his failure to supervise his subordinates who destroyed the farmland (Wang 2010: 1). This case suggests the power of citizen journalism in Taiwan. While the aforementioned events are random examples, the network and influence of citizen journalists is not. Instead, 161

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Figure 10.1 The image ‘When the excavators came to the rice fields’ which was posted online and broadcast on media, causing a national debate on land policy Source: PeoPo platform (www.peopo.org/portal.php?op=viewPost&articleId=58748)

this network is cultivated by a citizen journalism platform PeoPo, the abbreviation of ‘People Post’ which was created by Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS).

Introduction to the case study of PeoPo In April 2007, PTS established the PeoPo Citizen Journalism Platform to encourage public participation in news production. As a friendly Web 2.0 platform, PeoPo was designed for citizens to report and share news stories online. In addition, training curricula and courses are provided to empower Taiwanese citizens and organisations so that they are capable of reporting on important environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues. By September 2012, PeoPo had recruited more than 5,000 citizen reporters and 200 non-profit organisations. Together they have generated over 76,000 articles, and half of them are original multimedia works of great topical interest conveying a grassroots perspective.1 PeoPo’s efforts attracted attention from the mainstream media and international news organisations. Since the creation of PeoPo, PTS has been invited to share its experience of developing citizen journalism with media-related organisations, including the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA), Public Broadcasters International (PBI), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Japanese public service broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) and the International Institute of Communications 162

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(IIC). The International Press Institute (IPI) annual conference in 2011 tabled PeoPo as a focus session for discussion (PeoPo Webcast 2011). Philipe Harding of BBC World News has commented that PeoPo could be a model for citizen journalism and ‘one of the best strategies for extending public media service in the digital era’. Harding believes that following PeoPo’s design, citizen journalism will be incorporated into public television, facilitating coverage of grassroots stories through the viewpoints of citizens, and reaching new levels of news reporting which will reach beyond the scope of traditional media (Harding 2010). Why can PeoPo be influential? What is so unique about it? What can we learn from this case? Furthermore, how is the platform designed and operated? What are PeoPo’s achievements? What are the impacts on participants from the viewpoint of empowerment? What implications does it have on our understanding of the media, online journalism and citizen participation? To answer these questions, this chapter applies the concepts of participatory communication and citizen journalism to examine the development and influences of PeoPo. The discussion includes a brief analysis of this platform and interviews with the platform manager and its citizen reporters. This chapter thus aims to analyse the practice and influences of PeoPo and how this model would advance our understanding of citizen journalism.

Citizen journalism under debate Citizen journalism is a popular label2 used to describe ‘people without professional journalism training’ who ‘can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others’ (Glaser 2006). Accordingly, what distinguishes citizen journalism from traditional journalism is the participation of people who are not professional full-time journalists, but who nevertheless engage in news/information production and sharing. Besides, citizen journalism represents a bottomup phenomenon in which ‘there is little or no editorial oversight or formal journalistic workflow dictating the decisions of a staff. Instead, it is the result of many simultaneous, distributed conversations that either blossom or quickly atrophy in the web’s social network’ (Bowman and Willis 2003: 9). These definitions see citizen journalism as a specific form of media used by citizens, as well as referring to user-generated content. It reveals three features: active citizens, participation and interaction. First, news making and distribution are no longer the exclusive privilege of media organisations and professional journalists. Instead, ‘every citizen is a reporter’ as the Korean online newspaper OhmyNews claimed (Gillmor 2003).3 In the traditional broadcasting pattern, communication flow is one-way and the message is transmitted from a few trained professionals to a mass of isolated audience. Now audiences are not groups of passive receivers, but are instead people who actively respond to messages and even produce and distribute their own messages (C. Chang 2013). Second, it is possible to explain why audience members are becoming participants. Amy Jo Kim (2006) mapped human’s offline needs4 to online community equivalents, assuming that people are motivated to participate in order to achieve a sense of belonging to a group, to build self-esteem through contributing, to garner recognition for participating, and to develop new skills and opportunities for ego building and self-actualisation. Based on the above assumptions, when making online news an individual may be motivated by multiple reasons: to gain status or build reputation in a given community, to create connections with others who have similar 163

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interests (online and offline), to inform and be informed, to entertain and be entertained, and to create (Bowman and Willis 2003). Participation is a founding principle on most online news sites (Allan 2006). Taking Korea’s OhmyNews as an example, when people register on the news site they are invited to participate in news production regarding whatever topic interests them. Moreover, they are encouraged to have their own perspective and writing style (Bowman and Willis 2003). Thanks to the variety of online news platforms and functions, citizens can easily find a way of participation that fits their interests. Third, citizen journalism exhibits characteristics of sharing and discussion sites because of their emphasis on interaction and the exchange of ideas (Bentley et al. 2007: 239–59). Since it offers more interaction than traditional news outlets, one can use a citizen journalism site either as a reader, as a writer or as both (Strohecker and Ananny 2002: 1128–31). Facilitated by the interactive function of Web 2.0, most news sites rely on the conversations among their participants to monitor, evaluate and give feedback to online news content. Such practices therefore form a collaborative community with a strong identity, a sense of belonging and the possibility of exercising influence. Communications undertaken by citizens within a certain community may be transformed into social actions (W. Chang 2005: 925–35). Many significant events have demonstrated the power of citizen journalism, especially during times of disaster and emergency. For example, during 9/11 many eyewitness accounts of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center came from citizen journalists (Glaser 2006). In 2004, when a huge tsunami hit Banda Aceh in Indonesia, footage shot by those who experienced the disaster was widely broadcast by mainstream news outlets. The same happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in US history. Some 3,000 files with images and video were emailed by citizen journalists to CNN.com over the first three days of the hurricane (Allan 2006). In the London bombing attacks in July 2005, due to the inaccessibility of the underground disaster scene, media organisations requested audiences’ help to get footage from areas journalists could not access. In the event, messages made by Londoners caught up in the tragedy were extensively used by news sites and media. For Rob O’Neoll, when victims and witnesses of the major disaster recorded and distributed onsite messages to others, their actions symbolised one of the most amazing developments in media history. Until then, ‘citizen journalism was an idea. It was the future, some people said. After London, it had arrived’ (Allan 2006: 167). In authoritarian countries or countries experiencing political transformation, citizen journalists can play a role in democratic movements and political crisis. The democracy movement in Burma in which participants used mobile phones to capture scenes of protests and uploaded them on to the internet gained global attention. The Arab Spring in 2011, once simply framed as a ‘social media revolution’, witnessed the power of Facebook, Twitter and email to mobilise. Based on the survey of participants in Egypt’s Tahrir Square protests, research finds that social media facilitated social ties and provided individuals news, information and support to join the political protest. In turn participants actively documented and shared information about the protests, thus fitting the definition of citizen journalists (Tufekci and Wilson 2012: 363–79). Another study argues that these protests were the result of long-term movements cultivated by oppositional forces which made use of advanced technology for information sharing and networking, thus transforming online activism into offline action (Lim 2012: 231–48). When taking a journalistic perspective to examine the influence of citizen journalism in the Arab Spring, research finds that social media provides counter-discourses against the mainstream media. While state-controlled newspapers framed the protests as ‘a conspiracy on the Egyptian government’ which caused chaos, social media posts used a frame of ‘a revolution for freedom 164

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and social justice’ to recognise collective action. But research results warned that social media were not guided by journalistic standards because not all posts could be verified, hence rumours proliferated (Hamdy and Gomaa 2012: 195–211). While citizen journalism finds its impact on social change and in time of crisis, its quality and claims of truthfulness often becomes the target of critics (mostly in traditional media institutions). For example, the New York Times has accused proponents of public journalism of abandoning the traditional goal of objectivity. Many traditional journalists view citizen journalism with some scepticism, believing that only trained journalists can understand the art and ethics involved in reporting news (Gillmor 2006; Gant 2007). Vincent Maher, media critic from the New Media Lab at Rhodes University, outlined several weaknesses in the claims made by citizen journalists by focusing on the ‘three deadly E’s’: ethics, economics and epistemology (cited in Lievrouw 2011). Citizen journalists are not professionals, so they lack training in ethics. They lack financial support, and they also lack the equipment and skills available to professional journalists (scepticism which is also found in research on Taiwan, see Chen 2007; He 2007). In short, critics claim that unpaid bloggers who write as a hobby cannot replace trained and professional journalists. In rebuttal proponents of citizen journalism argue that citizen journalists can be more professional than traditional journalists because the former are more independent from interference by political and commercial forces (Gant 2007). When citizen journalists report issues more relevant to their profession (e.g. when a scientist covers a scientific-relevant story), they tend to be more accurate and professional. Besides, citizen journalism has gained some recognition among professionals. For example, a US independent and non-profit newsroom, ProPublica,5 won the Pulitzer Prize for its efforts in disclosing corporate scandals, and the OhmyNews was able to influence the Korean presidential election. These two online media have developed a new model of professional–amateur (‘proam’) journalism which demands the collaboration between professional and citizen journalists to advance standards and news quality (Hu 2010: 11–50; Hu 2012: 31–76). PeoPo’s practice is a form of pro-am journalism but represents a different model from the above two examples.

Participatory communication and empowerment Based on the development thesis, participatory communication is by definition the involvement of ordinary people in a development process leading to change (Tufte and Mefalopulos 2009). During the process of participation, the parties who are the target beneficiaries of development projects learn to identify their interests and make decisions on their own, which means disadvantaged people are not only passive receivers of charity, but also empowered agencies for social change. According to Anyaegbunam et al. (2004), to become empowered people need relevant skills, information and knowledge in addition to physical resources and technologies to enable them to improve their circumstances. Focusing on the means of communication technology resources, communication for empowerment is an approach that puts the information and communication needs and interests of disempowered and marginalised groups at the centre of media support. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the aim of communication for empowerment is ‘to ensure that the media has the capacity to generate and provide the information that marginalised groups want and need and to provide a channel for marginalised groups to discuss and voice their perspectives on the issues that most concern them’ (UNDP 2006: 8). To support communication for empowerment, proper strategies are 165

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necessary, including increasing access to information for marginalised groups, highlighting and amplifying marginalised voices, and creating spaces for public debate, dialogue and action (UNDP 2006: 32–5). During the past decades, people used communication technologies such as radio, television and video camera to speak for themselves and fight for better lives. Today the internet and online platforms are the popular and most useful tools for people to participate and take action for change. In this way, the idea of participatory communication finds its modern practice in citizen journalism. Furthermore, participatory communication emphasises the importance of empowerment, and participation is either a means to, or a goal of, empowerment. According to Narayan-Parker (2005: 5), participation becomes a turning point: ‘Empowerment is the expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives’. Therefore, participation produces the outcomes of empowerment on three levels: (1) the individual psycho-social level, (2) the life skills level which emphasises the acquirement of competencies and (3) the institutional level or the level of community development. Tufte and Mefalopulos (2009: 4–5) further clarify the three outcomes as follows: first, psycho-social outcomes of increased feelings of ownership of a problem and a commitment to do something about it; second, improvement of competencies and capacities required to engage with the defined development problem; and third, actual influence on institutions that can affect an individual or community. In the project of citizen journalism, the empowerment of citizens can thus be defined as the strengthening of capability to define their problem, make decisions on their own, take collective action and use technology to enhance personal skills and community development. Since PeoPo values citizens’ awareness and aims to empower citizens by initiating a platform and forming a community, these outcomes of empowerment are expected to be found within the participants of PeoPo.

PeoPo: a platform for people to speak out The project of citizen journalism initiated by Taiwan’s PTS shows its uniqueness by matching Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) and online journalism. With careful design and proper resources in place, citizens have more opportunities to access media, to speak out for themselves and are empowered to serve as the agent for social change. The following remarks will provide firsthand understanding of how this project is carried out and what citizens who participate think about this project.

Initiation and objectives Taiwan’s PTS was launched in 1998 when the media market was fully liberalised. After martial law was lifted in 1987, limitations on media outlets and ownership were gradually removed (Rawnsley and Rawnsley 2001). By 2011, Taiwan had 2,196 newspapers, 8,492 magazines, 171 radio stations, 5 terrestrial TV stations, 62 cable TV operators and 107 satellite TV channels including 8 24-hour news channels among them (B.H. Chen 2012). Because of its liberalised media market and diverse media outlets, Taiwan has been rated as free in the World Press Freedom survey, second in Asia only to Japan. However, citizens are not satisfied with the performance of news media. A survey in December 2003 showed that 58.0 per cent of the Taiwanese audience complain that news reporting is not fair; 52.0 per cent do not trust newspapers and 47.4 per cent do not trust television (Hung 2006: 51–75). 166

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Two years later, a survey showed parents think that TV news does more harm than good for their children; on a scale of 0–10, parents give the credibility of TV news a score of 4.58 (Zhang 2005: C8). History reveals that while commercial media became dominant in Taiwan, they became captives of market logic. Facing severe competition, media now resort to sensational reporting to increase audience ratings, and blend news with messages preferred by advertisers – including commercial businesses and government institutions – to increase revenue (Hung 2013a: 83–93). Because advertising revenue has been declining, media have given up on their responsibility to monitor the government in order to compete for its advertising dollars (S. Chen 2007). Product placement in news has blurred the boundary between news and advertising. This kind of paid news destroys the independence of reporters and editors and in the long run destroys audience trust (Lin 2005). Faced with such widespread public distrust of commercial media, PTS has been striving hard to build a quality media outlet for the public good. Additionally, PTS has suffered from a limited audience during its short history and there was an urgency to reach a larger audience using new technology. PTS started broadcasting five years after the cable TV system was legalised in 1993, and audiences tend to view PTS as an option among 100 TV channels (Rawnsley and Rawnsley 2001). The PTS audience share was 0.16 in 2012, ranking PTS 29 of all TV channels, and it has suffered from losing the young audience. Of its viewers, 62.0 per cent are over 45 years old, 37.0 per cent over 55 and 25.0 per cent between 45 and 54. Only 38.0 per cent of the audience are below 44 while those between 15 and 24 years old comprise merely 6.0 per cent (PTS 2013). For the former director of PTS, Hu Yuan-hui, the answer to strengthening news quality and reaching the young generation was to launch a multimedia citizen journalism project called PeoPo. As the principal advocate of PeoPo, Hu wondered ‘whether there would be other possibilities in a time when news media in Taiwan were under heavy criticism, especially when our communication technologies were quickly developing’. Reflecting on the traditional idea that news media did not have to care about what their audience were thinking, and citizens could not be their own masters, Hu decided it was time to change the active–passive relationship between media professionals and citizens: ‘PeoPo would be an opportunity of change or revolution’ (Hu Yuan-hui, 22 May 2010).6 PTS allocated a budget and three full-time staff to establish the platform. The difference between traditional media and PTS can be identified by the way they treat citizen journalists. On PeoPo, reports from citizen journalists constitute news products without any further editing or amendment by PTS staff: The biggest difference between other media and PeoPo is that we don’t treat citizen journalists as sources. Rather, we establish a community of citizen journalists and let them speak for themselves. We enable citizens to speak out on a huge scale. Until now we haven’t seen anything similar among other public broadcasters. (Lin Le-qun, 13 May 2010)7 In short, PeoPo is designed to turn a passive audience into active news producers with the assistance of interactive technology. To make this platform well known and used, PeoPo enlists citizen groups and college students as major participators. According to its Team Head Yu Zhili, ‘PeoPo is defined as a platform for citizens and grassroots activists to speak. Thus we strongly combine it with local Non-Profit Organisations (NPO), Non-Government Organisations (NGO) and citizen activists’ (Yu Zhi-li, 4 December 2009).8 167

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Therefore PeoPo’s marketing strategy is to attract the attention of NPOs, NGOs and schools, instead of the masses. According to Yu, those who really care for certain topics would actively join relevant NPOs or NGOs, and thus ‘if we find a certain NPO, we find a group of people’.

Operation Citizen participation in PeoPo includes three aspects: production, dialogue and action. Participation allows citizens to spontaneously report news; citizen dialogue means online discussion via the PeoPo platform; and citizen action expects people to participate and help make changes to policy and current events. To facilitate news production, the platform allows citizens to upload their news with video or text materials. Categories and issues covered include ecology and the environment, culture, community reform, education and learning, agriculture, leisure, media, sports and technology, politics and economics (see Figure 10.2).

Figure 10.2 The website of PeoPo platform (www.peopo.org/) 168

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Reports which are uploaded to this platform will soon be searchable on Google news, therefore enhancing exposure to and accessibility by the general public. For information posted on individual blogs or websites, it may be like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, Yu Zhi-li of PeoPo believes that ‘PeoPo is different. It is defined by Google as “news”, and when you search for relevant information, it jumps up as the very first one. That’s why it enjoys such high rate of exposure’ (Yu Zhi-li, 4 December 2009).9 PTS integrates citizen journalists’ news into its programmes. When Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan in 2009, many citizen journalists made recordings and distributed them online. These videos were broadcast by PTS daily news which increased their exposure. Besides, there is a daily five-minute programme on the best stories filed that day, and at the weekend the main news bulletins carry at least four PeoPo reports. Such convergence of media outlets may attract more citizens and groups to participate in the project. In addition to the web-based platform, PeoPo provides training courses to equip participants with basic skills to produce news on their own. For example, in 2008, PTS held over 183 faceto-face training classes to cultivate each reporter’s media literacy and ability to think independently and creatively (PeoPo 2009). Furthermore, PeoPo hosts the annual Citizen Journalism Award to recognise and encourage outstanding citizen reporters. To build an autonomous community, PeoPo applies a self-management mechanism which avoids censorship from PTS (Harding 2010). Citizens must register with a copy of their identity card to post reports on the PeoPo website. Registered citizens are free to contribute whatever news stories they like without moderation or filter. If someone objects to a report, it is forwarded to the author who is invited to reconsider and amend it. The Code of Ethics states: ‘All citizen journalists should admit and correct reports containing errors, and are liable for overseeing and correcting biased news reports or erroneous information sources so that all PeoPo citizen journalists may adhere to the same high moral standards.’ The code emphasises impartial and faithful reporting on public policy issues and prohibits unethical speech such as advertising, hostile language or plagiarism (PeoPo 2010). While citizen journalism is usually criticised for being unprofessional and uncensored, which may downgrade the professionalism of journalism, PTS is very positive about this mechanism of self-management. Due to the registration system and the Code of Ethics, PeoPo never faces serious controversies and to date has never had to apply its right to remove materials from the website (Hung 2013b: 152). According to PTS’s Director of International Affairs Lin Le-qun, ‘those people with radical ideas and remarks keep a far distance from the platform. After several years, its social issue-oriented trait has become quite obvious’ (Lin Le-qun, 13 May 2010).10 Various offline activities are designed to empower citizen reporters and facilitate their interaction and dialogue. To connect with local people and to hear local opinions, PeoPo holds gatherings in different regions. During these meetings, local issues are proposed and discussed so that citizen reporters have more opportunities to meet and work together (see Figure 10.3). So far more than 300 face-to-face gatherings and workshops have been held on environmental and socio-economic issues. Many NPO and NGO groups joined PeoPo and invited the team to train citizen journalists together. PeoPo also connects with community colleges which are embedded in local neighbourhoods. In June 2011, in association with the national alliance of community colleges and media watch organisations, PeoPo held a training workshop for citizen journalism lecturers. Teachers who had an interest in, or who were already offering, citizen journalism courses in community colleges gathered to share their thoughts and experiences. The PeoPo online curriculum is also available to these teachers. In this way, PeoPo cultivates lecturers in local communities who may then help to train more citizen journalists. 169

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Figure 10.3 Citizen reporters participate in a face-to-face gathering sharing opinions on local affairs Source: PeoPo platform.

During the summer break period PeoPo holds college citizen journalism camps, establishing campus citizen journalism press centres at 14 universities island-wide, encouraging students to go out into their communities and report on local issues. Generally the camp lasts for four weeks: intensive courses are delivered in the first week, including introductions to the concept of civic journalism as well as how to produce news. Then students start doing interviews, make video clips and review their work with professional reporters. PTS anchors and reporters and PeoPo team members are dedicated to the training programme. By providing training courses to students, the platform attracts a large number of young participants, around 120 students each year. In brief, PTS has implemented its human resource and media expertise to connect with communities, making an important contribution to public service (Taiwan Broadcasting Service 2007). When citizens are trained to express themselves through new technologies, they tend to feel confident and are willing to contribute to the platform with more news reports. By participating in local meetings, citizen reporters have opportunities to share their views and form a community, which enables further action when needed.

Citizen journalists in action According to the thesis of participatory communication, when people participate in the process of news production and distribution, their voices can be heard and their capability as citizens in public life is enhanced. The empowerment of citizens can thus be conceptualised as the capability to define their own problems, make decisions on their own, take collective action 170

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and use technologies to enhance personal skills and community development (Narayan-Parker 2005; UNDP 2006; Tufte and Mefalopulos 2009). Since its launch in 2007, the PeoPo platform has continued to develop and expand in terms of scale and influence. Participation is not only about transformation of citizens from being passive audiences to active reporters, but also about the change it brings for the participants and society. Why do these people keep participating in this project? What changes are brought about by participation? What is the influence of citizen news reports? This section will provide answers based on interviews with the participants.

Motivation of participation According to the interview data, many active citizen reporters are either associated with community colleges or are members of NGOs. In other words, they are activists in their neighbourhood, tend to pay attention to things that happen around them and have strong personal networks for distribution. This finding corresponds to PeoPo’s market strategy by targeting NGOs and community organisations. Jady, a community college teacher in rural Taipei, is dedicated to citizen journalism. Jady and her 70-year-old grandma are active in community affairs and both joined PeoPo as citizen journalists. Jady’s passion, interest and willingness to volunteer are motivations for participation. A further requirement is the continuous encouragement from peers with the same goal of ‘reporting for the community’. Jady has pointed out, ‘We came here to report, to bring something back to share. How do we have this power of action? It can’t be formed in one or two days. Therefore, we encourage each other and find out what brings us a sense of achievement’ (Jady, 22 May 2010).11 Community colleges provide Jady and other senior students resources and networks for them to learn and take action together. Meanwhile PeoPo provides a platform for them to express opinions. Therefore, she introduces the training of citizen journalists to her college, hoping more teachers will participate in this field. In the long term, she plans to create a cross-district platform for collaboration by information exchange. Supported by community colleges, older people such as Jady’s grandma are able to learn digital skills and tell their stories. The practice of training citizen journalists in community colleges also helps to bridge the digital divide between different generations. While citizen journalists are motivated by their interests and concern about their neighbourhood or broader social issues, public exposure of their news reporting provides a sense of achievement, which in turn renews their interest in producing news stories. Su-su, a private tour guide, contributed her first article about her concerns with historic and cultural preservation. On a hiking tour in southern Taiwan, she found the relics of a historical building were covered with moss and full of small pools of rainwater. She recorded the scene and posted it online. PeoPo used Su-su’s report and introduced it to PTS. This exposure encouraged Su-su to continue reporting stories: ‘PTS has followed my report, and I felt that somebody really cared about it, really saw and heard it. The news was aired on TV, and I was so happy, so proud. We really received encouragement. As for the news effect, we didn’t care about it that much’ (Su-su, 27 April 2010).12 For Su-su, to tell a story and to be heard is important, and this counters the feeling of lacking power. However, there is a distance between disclosing social problems and solving them. Why doesn’t Su-su care much about the effect of her reports? There are two ways to interpret her words. First is the influence of professional objectivity and distinguishing reporting from taking action for change. Second is the attraction of vanity. Some people might only participate in 171

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this project because they like to see their name in print or their images on TV. The appeal of vanity is common among citizen journalists but it is not the end of the story. If vanity can be encouraged and transformed into further participation for the social good, then there would be more active empowerment. Community gatherings and training courses organised by PeoPo attract positive comments from participants. While they feel confident and important in the community, such participants would like to contribute more to society: What’s special about PeoPo is that somebody runs and manages the platform. They will interact with you further; they won’t leave the news you upload there and do nothing. From PeoPo you receive a sense of achievement, and you feel you play an important part. That feeling really matters. They invited me to join their citizen journalists’ gathering at the very first year, and I had a brief speech on the stage. My sense of vanity has been fulfilled. (Wind-blowing-through-trees, 27 April 2010)13 Therefore, face-to-face meetings and interaction strengthen the identity of participants and their sense of achievement which motivates them to produce more news stories for this platform. In the long term, PeoPo hopes that participation will cultivate a sense of community and social responsibility.

Empowerment Active participation empowers citizens. Interviewees find personal change after joining the PeoPo platform, either in their attitudes or their ability to do things. When they are empowered, they are able to help others by sharing their news stories and their skills. Baga, an indigenous citizen reporter who has recorded stories of his tribe for a long time, finds that his participation in PeoPo gets positive feedback for himself and the young generation of the tribe. Positive feedback from his people brings Baga a sense of responsibility. He said: ‘I feel some change personally. That is, I become responsible. I have to take responsibility for my own report. I must be responsible for whatever I have written. That’s what I’ve learned’ (Baga, 1 March 2010).14 For Raptor, a citizen reporter who has a special interest in environmental issues, joining PeoPo helped him to find a community with people who have the same interests. He started as a student in community college learning media literacy, and then started to work as a citizen reporter. After three years of participation, he became a teacher able to advise others who are interested in learning citizen journalism. His efforts help recruit more citizens to participate and also counter his feelings of loneliness. ‘I have been a citizen journalist for two years’, said Raptor. ‘It’s an extremely lonely process. You have to walk on your own path. However, I am happy to see that we all grow slowly: people have noticed citizen journalism, and more and more people are participating’ (Raptor, 22 May 2010).15 The experience of producing citizen news reports makes participants feel confident about themselves and they are able to define the problem from the angle of a macro-social structure and then tend to take action to solve the problem. As Su-su commented: I used to feel depressed when nobody stands by me, supporting what I always stand for. However, gradually I find out that this is a structural problem. The structure of society has serious problems; it makes you feel that whatever happens, it’s none of your business. Other 172

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people will take care of it, and you don’t have to be that nervous. In the end, the voices of victims can never be heard. They may become so depressed that they give up on the whole thing. (Su-su, 27 April 2010)16 As the participatory communication thesis claims, when people participate and become empowered they are able to define social problems and gain increasing feelings of commitment to do something about them. Participation in PeoPo changed Su-su in her way of thinking about society and its problems.

Influence In some cases news production by, and dialogue between, citizens brings about action and change. The case of the Dapu land controversy introduced at the beginning of this chapter is a good example. In addition, citizen reports also have an impact on environmental policy. In 2009 a project to privatise Taiwan’s eastern coast provoked anger among environmental activists and stories were uploaded to PeoPo to appeal for public attention. Related stories were followed and reported by PTS and the commercial media, so public opinion forced the government to postpone this development project (Yu Zhi-li, 4 December 2009).17 Since then, lots of protests and marches were held against the local government which unlawfully passed the project. The Taitung government was sued and the controversial Miramar Resort Village construction project has twice been ruled invalid by the Supreme Administrative Court for improper environmental impact assessment until 2013. For many citizen reporters, they sense the power of their work and the instant influence over the problems they are concerned about. For example, Raptor has participated in several environmental actions and he learned the power of recording and reporting as a tool of protest. During a campaign against removing trees for local construction, Raptor worked with environmental protection groups to keep the trees safe. I stayed around for a long time. Once the constructor said he was going to bring the tree down, I made phone calls to inform people to come to stop it. We had our cameras running here and there, which force the constructors to retreat. In the end, under everyone’s effort, it turns out that every tree on Xuzhou Road is safe and sound; not only one tree is safe, but one hundred trees. I think I did play a part in it. I participated. (Raptor, 22 May 2010)18 ‘Wind-blowing-through-trees’, a social worker, uses media to tell stories of the disadvantaged people in his community. When he saw a disabled old lady who has lived alone in conditions of appalling sanitation, he decided to help her. Knowing that the old lady cannot afford diapers, ‘Wind-blowing-through-trees’ posted news about her on PeoPo, and the PTS reported it. Public support was instant: ‘I didn’t imagine the impact would be so strong’, said the citizen journalist. ‘Money kept coming in. At the beginning, I only asked people to donate ten dollars, ten dollars for each diaper. In the end the money accumulated to over TWD 100,000 (c. US$3,437.86)’ (Wind-blowing-through-trees, 23 April 2010).19 Participants in PeoPo strongly acknowledge that they are citizen reporters with influence. The non-profit nature of PeoPo allows it to serve public interests, and the support of PTS expands its influence. Public service media and active citizens work hand in hand to make a difference. 173

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As for the influence of citizens, just like I’ve mentioned, people from all backgrounds participate. Most importantly, through PeoPo we can influence and control the perspective and tempo of news, and crucial issues can be gathered . . . Therefore a citizen journalist is no longer simply a citizen, but a person who makes a difference. (Jady, 22 May 2010)20 I record something and I know some other citizen journalists, so through me, PTS knows what’s happening out there. Thus, you can see the power of citizen journalism has started to combine with mainstream media. Moreover, we can direct the news flow of some mainstream media. Citizen journalists are no longer weak. (Raptor, 22 May 2010)21 While Taiwanese media are under commercial influence and tend to ignore serious public issues, citizen journalism can be a mirror which reflects problems and overcomes deficiencies in the mainstream media. In many cases such as environmental and land policies, citizen reports start online and through public television, leading to their role in setting the agenda in public and media discussion. The influence of citizen journalists should not be underestimated.

Conclusion In Taiwan, citizen journalism has emerged at a time of widespread distrust of the sensational and commercial media. Since martial law was lifted in 1987, civil society has expected media to serve democracy instead of being the captive of the market or political power. When media performance cannot meet citizens’ expectations, they have discovered how digital technology can help them speak for themselves and for the public good (C. Chang 2013). PeoPo has significant implications for the future of public media and citizen participation. The application of interactive digital technology in news production and diffusion is a critical means for public service broadcasters to extend their service to, and gain support from, different social groups and citizens. As Lin Le-qun, director of International Affairs at PTS has said, PTS and citizen journalism are a good match. Without the burden of making profit, public service broadcasting is able to allocate resources and train general citizens. At the same time the project helps to build a network of citizen journalists who have a strong commitment to PeoPo and PTS (Lin Le-qun, 13 May 2010).22 From the perspective of participation, the citizen journalism of PTS demonstrates its progressive value in transforming a passive audience into active producers. By participation, citizens are able to speak out for themselves and for the public issues they care about. In addition, their empowerment and the building of a community facilitate information exchange and collective action which may in the long term enable social change and reform. PeoPo’s experience allows us to identify four core features of citizen journalism: first, being active participants, citizen journalists should not only be treated as news resources of mainstream media; instead, they are news producers who are able to make quality stories if they are trained. Second, user registration and oversight allows citizen journalism to meet the ethical standards championed by critics of the poor quality professional media. Third, online and offline networking efforts may form a community of mutual interests. Fourth, citizen awareness and input from the grassroots can inform and encourage social change. This case is embedded in Taiwan’s unique social context but has undoubtedly universal implications. However, some challenges and suggestions should be identified. To advance its potential, citizen journalism needs more exposure and more networking with mainstream media, 174

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social media and other online outlets. In addition, more resources and a proper collaboration between professional journalists and citizen journalists would help enhance both quality and influence. Finally, networking with civil society can help maintain the ‘civil’ nature of citizen journalism.

Notes 1 For further information regarding PeoPo platform, please consult the website: www.peopo.org/. 2 ‘Citizen journalism’ is the latest term for the new type of journalistic practice conducted by ordinary citizens. It is also referred to as ‘participatory journalism’ (Bowman and Willis 2003) and grassroots journalism (Gillmor 2003). 3 For further information on OhmyNews in English, please consult the website: http://english. ohmynews.com/. 4 Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a well-known hierarchy of human needs in which he used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualisation and SelfTranscendence needs to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through (Maslow 1954). 5 For further information about the ProPublica, please see its website: www.propublica.org/. 6 Interview with the author, Taipei. Hu Yuan-hui is a former director of PTS. 7 Interview with the author, Taipei. Lin Le-qun is the director of the International Department and chief of Documentary Platform, PTS. 8 Interview with the author, Taipei. 9 Interview with the author, Taipei. 10 Interview with the author, Taipei. 11 Interview with the author, Taipei. 12 Telephone interview with the author. 13 Interview with the author, Kaohsiung. 14 Interview with the author, Taipei. 15 Interview with the author, Taipei. 16 Telephone interview with the author. 17 Interview with the author, Taipei. 18 Interview with the author, Taipei. 19 Interview with the author, Kaohsiung. 20 Interview with the author, Taipei. 21 Interview with the author, Taipei. 22 Interview with the author, Taipei.

References Allan, S. (2006) Online News: Journalism and the Internet, Maidenhead: Open University Press. Anyaegbunam, C., Mefalopulos, P. and Moetsabi, T. (2004) Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal: Starting with the People, Rome: SADC Centre of Communication for Development. Available online www.fao.org/docrep/008/y5793e/y5793e00.HTM (retrieved 16 May 2014). Bentley, C., Hamman, B., Littau, J., Meyer, H., Watson, B. and Welsh, B. (2007) ‘Citizen journalism: a case study’, in M. Tremayne (ed.), Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media, London: Routledge, 239–59. Bowman, S. and Willis, C. (2003) We Media: How Audiences Are Shaping the Future of News and Information, Arlington, VA: American Press Institute. Chang, C. (2013) Reporter in a Rush: Citizen Journalism, Media and Society, Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press. Chang, W. (2005) ‘Online civic participation and political empowerment: online media and public opinion formation in Korea’, Media Culture and Society 27: 925–35. Chen, B.H. (2012) ‘The past and future of Taiwanese media industry’ (Jiuwen xinzhi: Taiwan meiti chanye de jinxi yu weilai), Blog Collection Room, 17 May. Available online http://content.teldap.tw/ index/blog/?p=3698 (retrieved 16 May 2014, in Chinese). 175

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Chen, S.X. (2007) Making Citizen Media (Daozao gongmin meiti: Fuda shengmingli xinwen tuandui de xingdong yanjiu), Taipei: Fu Jen Catholic University Press (in Chinese). Gant, S. (2007) We’re all Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age, New York: Free Press. Gillmor, D. (2003) ‘A new brand of journalism is taking root in South Korea’, San Jose Mercury News, 18 May. –––– (2006) We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media. Glaser, M. (2006) ‘Your guide to citizen journalism’, Media Shift, 27 September. Available online www.pbs.org/mediashift/2006/09/your-guide-to-citizen-journalism270.html (retrieved 25 April 2010). Hamdy, N. and Gomaa, E.H. (2012) ‘Framing the Egyptian uprising in Arabic language newspapers and social media’, Journal of Communication 62: 195–211. Harding, P. (2010) ‘PeoPo helps Taiwanese public broadcaster to restore trust: Public Television’s citizen journalism project hailed a success’, The Guardian, 15 February. Available online www.theguardian. com/media/2010/feb/15/citizen-journalism-taiwan (retrieved 17 May 2014). He, G.H. (2007) ‘Traditional media face the challenge of citizen journalist’ (Gongmin xinwen dui chuantong meiti de tiaozhan), unpublished paper presented at the Annual Conference of Chinese Communication Society, Tamkang University, Taipei, July (in Chinese). Hu, Y.H. (2010) ‘Strong citizens, strong democracy: the development of citizen media in the globe and its meanings’ (Qiang gongmin, qiang minzhu: Quanqiu gongmin meiti de fazhan mailuo yu shidai yiyi), in Y.H. Hu (ed.), The Rise of Citizen Media in the Globe (Quanqiu jueqi de gongmin meiti), Taipei: Advanced Media, 11–50 (in Chinese). –––– (2012) ‘News as conversation: the development and challenges of “collaborative journalism” in Taiwan’ (Xinwen zuowei yizhong duihua), Mass Communication Research 112: 31–76 (in Chinese). Huang, S. (2010) ‘Farmers fail to meet president’, Taipei Times, 19 July. Available online www.taipeitimes. com/News/front/archives/2010/07/19/2003478294 (retrieved 20 May 2014). Hung, C. (2006) ‘The control of broadcasting and freedom of speech: starting from the controversy over changing satellite TV licences’ (Guangdian guanzhi yu yanlun ziyou), Broadcasting and Television 26: 51–75 (in Chinese). –––– (2013a) ‘Media control and democratic transition: ongoing threat to press freedom in Taiwan’, China Media Research 9(2): 83–93. –––– (2013b) ‘Minority communication rights in the digital age: a case study of the Taiwanese indigenous citizen journalism platform WATTA’, Communication and Society 25: 135–71. Jieli (2010) ‘When the excavators came to the rice fields’, PeoPo: Citizen Journalism, 24 June. Available online www.peopo.org/portal.php?op=viewPost&articleId=58748 (retrieved 16 May 2014). Kim, A.J. (2006) Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities, Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press. Lievrouw, L.A. (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media, Cambridge: Polity Press. Lim, M. (2012) ‘Clicks, cabs, and coffee houses: social media and oppositional movements in Egypt, 2004–11’, Journal of Communication 62: 231–48. Lin, Z.Z. (2005) ‘Who is buying media? Media “selling news for profit”’ (Shei zai shoumai meiti? Meiti “maixinwen zhuan daqian”), Common Wealth Magazine 361(February). Available online www.cw.com.tw/ errorWebArticle.action (retrieved 11 January 2011, in Chinese). Maslow, A. (1954) Motivation and Personality, New York: Harper. Narayan-Parker, D. (2005) Measuring Empowerment: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives, Washington, DC: World Bank. PeoPo (2009) ‘About PeoPo: voicing out and building bridges’, PeoPo. Available online www.peopo.org/ events/about/english/P1–2.htm (retrieved 20 May 2014). –––– (2010) ‘People Post citizen journalists’ Code of Ethics’, PeoPo. Available online www.peopo.org/ events/about/english/P2.htm (retrieved 20 May 2014). PeoPo Webcast (2011) ‘PeoPo attracts attention at the International Press Institute annual conference’ (Guoji xinwen xiehui nianhui PeoPo shou zhumu), PeoPo, 28 September. Available online www.peopo.org/news/84539 (retrieved 20 May 2014, in Chinese). PTS (2013) ‘PTS’s report on audience rating for the first quarter of 2013’ (Gonggong dianshi 2013 nian diyiji shoushiji baogao), official document, Public Television Service, April. Available online http://info.pts.org.tw/open/data/prg/2013tv_rating_q1.pdf (retrieved 16 May 2014, in Chinese). Rawnsley, G.D. and Rawnsley, M.Y.T. (2001) Critical Security, Democratisation and Television in Taiwan, London: Ashgate. 176

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Strohecker, C. and Ananny, M. (2002) ‘Situated citizen photojournalism and a look at dilemmatic thinking’, in M. Driscoll and T. Reeves (eds), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2002, Chesapeake, VA: AACE, 1128–31. Taiwan Broadcasting Service (2007) ‘Taiwan Public Television Service Foundation annual report 2007’, official document, Taiwan Broadcasting Service. Available online http://web.pts.org.tw/php/_utility/ ehomepage/pic/2007_e.pdf (retrieved 12 January 2010). Tufekci, Z. and Wilson, C. (2012) ‘Social media and the decision to participate in political protest: observations from Tahrir Square’, Journal of Communication 62: 363–79. Tufte, T. and Mefalopulos, P. (2009) Participatory Communication: A Practical Guide, Washington, DC: World Bank. UNDP (2006) ‘Communication for empowerment: developing media strategies in support of vulnerable groups’, United Nations Development Programme, 30 October. Available online www.undp.org/ content/undp/en/home/librarypage/democratic-governance/civic_engagement/communication-forempowerment-media-strategies-for-vulnerable-groups.html (retrieved 10 May 2010). Wang F. (2010) ‘Wu offers Dapu farmers new farmland’, Taipei Times, 23 July: 1. Zhang, J.H. (2005) ‘The credibility of TV news only scores 4.58 by parents of senior high, junior high and primary schools in northern Taiwan’ (Dianshi xinwen gongxinli bei gao zhong xiao xue jiazhang pingjun zhigei 4.58 fen), United Daily News, 9 September: C8 (in Chinese).

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Part III

The internet, public sphere and media culture

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11 Politics and social media in China Lars Willnat, Lu Wei and Jason A. Martin

Introduction In December 2012, the Chinese government toughened its restrictions on social media by issuing new rules that required internet users to provide their real names to online service providers, while assigning internet companies greater responsibility for policing controversial content (Bradsher 2012). The issue of attaching real names to online posts had drawn the government’s attention due to the growing popularity of Twitter-like blogs and other internet services that allow Chinese online users to circumvent the state-sponsored flow of information in China’s traditional media. The move was the latest in the ongoing battle between state censorship of the internet and attempts at political reform through social media that has drawn much attention from the popular and academic presses. However, the degree to which that struggle has resulted in social media’s tangible effects on increased political engagement in China is not yet apparent. In the literature on the political effects of the internet in China, several studies have focused on censorship and the potential of social media to contribute to political engagement (Jiang 2010a; Lagerkvist 2006; Leibold 2011: 1023–41; MacKinnon 2008 and 2009). However, many of these analyses have been anecdotal or case-based, and have not resulted in a clear portrait of internet use in China and its potential for political participation. As Leibold (2011: 1023–41) points out, optimistic conclusions about the internet’s reformatory role in China are premature and possibly inaccurate. Moreover, the focus on online censorship and digital activism in China has limited scholarly analysis of the important social and cultural factors that may contribute to changes in Chinese society. While scholars have rightly pointed out the potential of digital media for circumventing the government’s strategies of information control and prior restraint, there is little empirical evidence that points to the internet’s contribution to systemic change. Claims that social media are altering the balance of power between the Chinese government and the public often are unsupported or tempered as a tentative step toward the development of a healthier public sphere (Esarey and Xiao 2008: 752–72; Xiao 2004). In fact, what little empirical evidence exists indicates that Chinese online and social media ecologies may have produced the same power-privileged, niche-driven, entertainment-oriented internet culture seen in many other societies (Leibold 2011: 1023–41). Chinese internet users 181

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are mostly apathetic about politics, and some studies indicate that the few who contribute are generally motivated by the opportunity to share personal opinions rather than more substantive forms of political engagement (Liang and Lu 2010: 103–20). As a result, the same incivility and superficial commentaries so prevalent in the social media of many western nations also have been found in China – a characteristic that some scholars fear will hinder social media’s broader political engagement appeal (Guo 2007). While most scholars agree that new forms of political participation in China, such as exchanging information and political views through social media, probably have had a net positive result, they have not yet been chronicled in the academic literature. In this chapter we will attempt to take stock of the current state of the internet in China by analysing what digital media are available, how they are used within China’s unique political and social environment, and what effects they might have on political engagement among ordinary Chinese. In doing so, we will try to rely on as much empirical evidence as possible, even though we realise that this is a fairly new and unexplored topic among China’s scholars. We will start our discussion with a description of internet access in China, followed by a more detailed look at the availability and use of social media and blogging. We will then discuss the growing significance of online video in China’s public sphere and how this medium has become an important tool for undermining the government’s efforts at controlling social media. Finally, we will review the current literature on the potential link between social media and political engagement in China. Because the digital landscape in China is shifting constantly and reliable data are often difficult to obtain, we would like to remind the reader that everything that is being discussed here might be quickly outdated by new developments. However, many of the trends in China’s digital media mentioned here have been observed during the past decade or so, which leaves us to hope that they remain significant in the foreseeable future.

Internet access In the quarter-century since the first email transmission from China in 1987, the internet has developed and expanded exponentially in this vast nation (Qiu 2003). Internet access in China has grown from only a few thousand users in the mid-1990s to 298 million in 2008 – the year it surpassed the United States for the most internet users in the world. By the end of 2013, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reported 618 million Chinese internet users, representing 45.8 per cent of China’s total population (CNNIC 1998, 2013 and 2014). The average internet user in China spends about 25 hours per week online and is most likely to be an urban male (56.0 per cent) in his teens (24.1 per cent) or twenties (31.2 per cent). A significant number of Chinese online users also are found among those between 30 and 39 years old (23.9 per cent), while those older than 40 represent a relatively small group (19.1 per cent). However, with internet penetration approaching nearly half of China’s population, the demographics of internet users have begun to adopt a more egalitarian distribution. Less educated groups, such as middle school (36.0 per cent) and high school (31.2 per cent) graduates, now represent a larger share of all internet users than those with at least some college-level education (20.9 per cent). In addition, online users are now relatively evenly distributed among high- and low-income segments in China (CNNIC 2014). Despite this rapid growth and a more diverse online audience, a significant urban–rural digital divide still characterises internet use in China. Almost three-fourths (71.4 per cent) of Chinese online internet users are urban dwellers compared with about one-fourth (28.6 per cent) who are rural residents. Moreover, this gap has widened since 2007 (Freedom House 2012). Geographically, the eastern, coastal provinces demonstrate a much higher rate of internet use 182

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than the less economically developed central and western regions of China. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong are the top three provincial districts for internet resources. Research on what exactly Chinese ‘netizens’ (wang min) do on the internet is limited. One of the few studies that has tried to provide empirical evidence for the online activities of Chinese internet users was conducted by Pan and his colleagues in Shanghai (Pan et al. 2011: 116–32). Based on a quota sample of 2,910 residents who were interviewed in 2009, the authors analysed ‘how internet use behaviour is embedded with the structural properties of China’s social stratification system’ (Pan 2011: 111). As expected, their findings revealed fairly significant inequality in access and use of the internet among Chinese netizens. Both the likelihood of internet adoption and frequency of using it upon adoption were significantly greater among younger men with higher levels of education, income and occupations with higher levels of social prestige. Internet users also were more likely to read newspapers and magazines more regularly. Based on their findings, the authors ‘caution against drawing systemic inferences on internet’s impact in China without taking into account of social differentiation in terms of socioeconomic status, age, gender, possession of media resources, and other basic social grouping characteristics’ (Pan 2011: 111). For Chinese users who have access, various other barriers to accessing news and information online remain. The government’s strategy of content control consists mainly of automated technical filters, self-censorship by service providers and proactive government censorship (Freedom House 2012). China’s technical filtering, sometimes called the ‘Great Firewall’, includes wholesale blocking of domain names, but also incorporates approaches such as the filtering of individual internet pages within otherwise approved sites. This technique renders a subtle form of censorship, or ‘web throttling’, which slows the loading of data to render some services essentially useless (Freedom House 2012). These controls reinforce one another and have become increasingly ubiquitous and advanced as the internet has spread and more citizens have gone online. However, a growing number of Chinese internet users try to circumvent censorship and filtering controls by using either a virtual private network (VPN), alternate terms or homonyms to replace sensitive words, multiple accounts on hosting sites or peer-to-peer networks (Freedom House 2012).

Mobile internet While most Chinese access the internet from home or work, a relatively new trend in China is mobile online access. According to a report of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, there were 1.1 billion mobile phone users in China by March 2013. That figure represents 84.9 per cent of China’s population, making it the country with the most mobile phone users worldwide (MyDrivers 2013). Because many of these phones have basic internet capabilities, mobile phones have become the most popular way to access the internet in China, with about 500 million people doing so regularly (CNNIC 2014). While phone calls remain an important form of communication in China, a growing number of mobile phone users communicate primarily via short message service (SMS). In March 2013, 74.6 billion text messages were sent over the network of China Mobile, the nation’s largest telecom carrier, with an average of 2.1 messages per phone each day. The number of text messages sent each day usually surge during holidays in China, especially during the traditional Spring Festival, when millions of people text greetings to family and friends. According to official estimates, Chinese revellers sent more than 30 billion text messages during the 2012 Spring Festival (China Daily 2012). 183

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The fact that so many Chinese now have access to text messaging has prompted some scholars to argue that this form of digital communication could become a powerful tool for democracy in China. He (2008: 182–90), for example, argues that SMS has become a ‘fifth’ media channel in China that allows users to participate in a growing ‘nonofficial discourse universe’ which, in turn, could make them politically more engaged. His analysis of the political power of text messages concludes that ‘although much of the content through SMS is not directly subversive with regard to the political structure, it is subversive culturally and ideologically in that it sustains a diverse discourse’ that could undermine the control of the Chinese government (p. 188). However, the evidence for such political consequences of SMS discourse in China remains to be tested empirically. As internet access through mobile phones has grown in popularity, the boom of internet cafés in China has subsided. As recently as 2007, internet cafés were the second most popular access point for Chinese internet users, with more than one-third (37.2 per cent) of them going online at cybercafés. Five years later, only about one-quarter (25.8 per cent) relied on internet cafés for online access (CNNIC 2007 and 2012). The importance of internet cafés in China has been reduced mostly by increasingly tight government controls. Starting in 2010, internet café users across China were required to provide proof of identification before they were allowed entry (Radio Free Asia 2010). In January 2011, the Vice Minister of Culture announced that all sole-proprietor cybercafés would be replaced by chains within the next five years, a move that observers considered a means to increase the efficiency of government surveillance and censorship (Freedom House 2011).

Social media In his landmark study, The Power of the Internet in China, Guobin Yang (2009) argues that the internet has fostered the ‘emergence of a citizen’s discourse space’ in China. ‘Nowhere else’, says Yang, ‘do Chinese citizens participate more actively and directly in communication about public affairs. Nowhere else are so many social issues brought into public discussion on a daily basis’ (p. 217). Yang also argues that the internet has created Chinese netizens who are ‘fearless, informed, impassioned, and not easily deceived’ (p. 217). While the internet has allowed Chinese citizens to access more and better information with just a few clicks, the manner and speed with which people can organise into active political groups through social media has drawn special concern from the government (Zhang and Shaw 2012). What worries officials most is the fundamentally interactive character of social media that enables citizens to discuss public affairs issues with very limited opportunities for the state to control what is being said and who is participating in the discussion. It is therefore no surprise that social media are subject to special government attention in China. Access to foreign social media sites, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter has been blocked fairly consistently since 2009 (Branigan 2010). To counteract demand for such foreign services, the Chinese government has supported the development of a wide range of alternative, Chinese-language services that are run on domestic servers and therefore are under the direct control of the government (R. Martin 2011). However, unlike western-based social media services that are dominated by Facebook and Twitter, China has several networks that appeal to specific user groups. Most of these services are accessed via mobile phones and thus popular even among those who cannot afford computers. The largest and oldest social networking site in China is Qzone, which started as an extension of Tencent’s ubiquitous instant message service QQ Messenger. Qzone reached an astonishing 625 million monthly users in 2013 by targeting teens and rural users throughout 184

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the country who access the service mostly via QQ (Tencent.com 2014). Tencent also owns the mobile text and voice messaging service Weixin (known as WeChat internationally), which has become China’s second most popular social network with more than 355 million monthly users in 2013 (Tencent.com 2014). The popular social networking service Renren, which attracts about 100 million monthly users (Savitz 2012), appeals mostly to college students and features services that are very similar to Facebook with user profiles, friendships, and applications for entertainment and games (Gustin 2011). Kaixin001.com, with 130 million registered users, is a close rival of Renren but targets mostly white-collar workers in China’s larger cities (kaixin001.com 2014). Other social networking services, such as 51.com and Douban, are popular with smaller online communities throughout China, but also have between 100 and 200 million registered users each (Savitz 2012). As Wallis (2011: 406–36) notes, social media in China have become ‘an active realm for public discussion, information dissemination, and mobilisation in ways that are both sanctioned and discouraged by the government’ (p. 419). However, Chinese social media services are subject to the same content controls as other websites registered in the country. Automated keyword filters, government reminders for self-censorship consideration and direct control of content by government agents are commonly used to monitor social media in China (Freedom House 2012). A 2011 content analysis of about 1,400 different Chinese social media services, including blogs and bulletin board systems, estimated that 13.0 per cent of posts were deleted by censors, many in the first 24 hours (King et al. 2012: 1–18). Contrary to expectations, posts with negative criticism of the government and its policies were not more likely to be censored; instead, the researchers found that the censorship programme was aimed at curtailing collective action through the silencing of comments that contribute toward social mobilisation, regardless of content.

Blogging Chinese bloggers have been celebrated by scholars and journalists alike as fearless heroes who have ousted corrupt officials, exposed political scandals, undermined state control and generated greater political transparency (Gao and Martin-Kratzer 2011: 69–83; Yang 2009; Zhou 2009: 1003–22). However, relatively few studies have investigated the democratic potential of political blogs (Zhou 2009: 1003–22). Instead, most claims about the political impact of blogs in China are based on anecdotes, speculation and a few exceptional cases. What dominate are content analyses that assume rather than empirically test political power. A good example of such studies would be Zhou’s (2009: 1003–22) qualitative content analysis of 316 blog posts related to the controversial dismissal of Shanghai Communist Party chief Chen Liangyu in 2006. Despite the fact that only about one in ten posts were critical of the government’s actions, Zhou concluded that this criticism is ‘very meaningful to Chinese people, considering the heavy censorship imposed on mainstream news media’ (p. 1016). However, she also noted that ‘the main political value of blogging in China is not to be found in politician’s presentations, but in the network discussions on political events and public issues involving millions of bloggers, which must be attributed to the trend of Chinese bloggers becoming popularised and diversified’ (p. 1008). Esarey and Xiao’s (2008: 752–72) content analysis of popular political blogs in China is more sceptical in tone, but also assumes rather than tests the political power of blogs. While the authors identified ‘satirical, implicit, or otherwise guarded critiques of the party-state’ in the analysed blog posts published in 2006, they concluded that political blogs mostly influence the political process in China by creating dissent and undermining popular belief in the censored official 185

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media and by allowing citizens to gradually develop strategies for challenging the official discourse without being subjected to repression. A similar study by Esarey and Xiao (2011: 298–319) used content analysis to compare information available in nine daily newspapers and blogs, and found that blogs included almost no national or local propaganda, significantly more criticism and much more discussion of pluralism than the state-run print media. They concluded that financial independence, complete lack of editorial oversight and the low cost of restarting blogs that have been shut down by the authorities allow bloggers to include more controversial content than traditional media. For example, in 2011, more than 14,000 blog posts included the terms ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘rights’, and more than 19,000 posts included ‘democracy’ and ‘political reform’. Much of the optimism surrounding blogging in China is, of course, based on the enormous number of participants. According to estimates by CNNIC (2014), by the end of 2012, there were 437 million bloggers in China, accounting for about 70.7 per cent of all internet users. It is important to note, though, that the majority of bloggers in China are young people who write about their daily lives (MacKinnon 2008: 31–46). The most popular blogs, of course, are those run by celebrities and successful entrepreneurs (Nie and Li 2006: 746–51; Wallis 2011: 406–36). Arguably the most prominent public affairs blogger in China is the author and professional rally driver, Han Han. The 31-year-old’s aggressive personal style, which he uses in his books, on his blogs and in real life, has helped him accumulate more than 597 million hits on his blog as of April 2014 – more than any other personal blog in China and possibly the world (Hille 2010). Most of his fans come from China’s post-1980s generation, which is often characterised by its enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, consumerism and access to digital media. The success of his blog can be partly explained by the wide range of topics it focuses on, including current affairs, politics, education, art and entertainment. Many of his posts also critically discuss political issues in China and, at times, even accused Communist party officials of corruption and cronyism. Another prominent political blogger is the 44-year-old novelist and social critic Li Chengpeng. His blog, which regularly criticises the Chinese government for mishandling important public affairs issues, has received more than 324 million hits as of April 2014. Li became a celebrity blogger in the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which he witnessed first-hand in Chengdu. Millions of people read his story about a group of elementary school teachers guiding their students across the mountains from a ruined school to safety. In it, he criticised local officials and construction companies for using shoddy materials in schools, an issue that became a major scandal in China (Cohen and Martin 2011). In May 2012, the fourth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake, Li shocked the Chinese online community with the following post that recalls his feelings during the visit to Sichuan in 2008: I was a typical patriot before 2008. I believed that ‘hostile foreign forces’ were responsible for most of my peoples’ misfortunes . . . But my patriotism began to come into question as I stood in front of the ruins of Beichuan High School. It became clear that the ‘imperialists’ did not steal the reinforced-steel bars from the concrete used to make our schools. Our school children were not killed by foreign devils. Instead, they were killed by the filthy hands of my own people. (cited in Li 2012) Despite the impressive reach of China’s more popular bloggers, it would be premature to conclude that blogs have a significant impact on China’s political environment. Leibold’s (2011: 186

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1023–41) recent analysis of the Chinese blogging community concluded that it is ‘producing the same sort of shallow infotainment, pernicious misinformation, and interest-based ghettos that it creates elsewhere in the world’ (p. 1025). The author argues that Chinese internet users, like their counterparts in the west, are primarily interested in entertainment and socialisation rather than political activism and that political content only represents a very small portion of China’s online environment. As a consequence, the Chinese internet is not much more than ‘an intranet of playful self-expression and identity exhibition’ (p. 1026). Leibold also cautions against applying western-style notions of democratic discourse to China under the assumption that the internet can foster a robust public debate and engage citizens politically in many of the ways that political participation is typically measured in the academic literature.

Microblogging While traditional blogs remain popular in China, microblogging (weibo) has become the nation’s most prevalent and fastest growing Web 2.0 application in recent years. According to estimates by CNNIC (2014), the number of Chinese microbloggers has increased from just 63 million in 2010 to an astonishing 281 million in 2013, thus representing almost half of the nation’s internet users. The popularity of Chinese microblogs can be partly explained by their Twitter-like function, their ability to allow relatively free discussions online, and the way they are accessed by most people. Both Twitter and weibo have the same basic functionality, including a 140-character limit on posts and a unidirectional organisational structure of followers who choose to access other users’ posts (Q. Gao et al. 2012: 88–101). It is important to note, however, that 140 Chinese characters roughly translate into 70.0 per cent more characters when translated into English (The Economist 2012). Thus, the succinctness of the Chinese language allows users to say much more within the 140-character limit. Ai Weiwei, China’s foremost artist and political activist, noted that ‘in the Chinese language, 140 characters is a novella’ (The Economist 2011). The most common activities of weibo users include reading news and information, watching video and chatting with social contacts. However, compared to those who use Twitter, Chinese weibo users tend to engage in more interactive dialogue, using the platform more as an online forum with long chains of discussion on specific topics (King et al. 2012: 1–18). Moreover, unlike Twitter, which is primarily accessed through desktop computers and tablets in the USA (Smith and Brenner 2012), most Chinese log into their weibo accounts through their mobile phones. As a consequence, microblogs are easily accessible to China’s 420 million mobile phone users. Among more than 50 microblogging sites available in China, Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo are the most popular. Sina Weibo, launched in 2010, reported more than 536 million users in 2014, of which about 54 million were active on the site every day. Sina Weibo is regarded as having an elite orientation that attracts celebrities, professionals, marketers and users of higher socio-economic status. Tencent Weibo, launched in 2009, claimed about 540 million users by the end of 2012 with a community of mostly students and other young adults. A third service aimed at computer gaming, Netease Weibo, exceeded 260 million users in 2012 (Millward 2012). The enormous growth in the number of weibo users has prompted some scholars to conclude that China is in the midst of a ‘micro-blog revolution’ (Y. Yang 2011; Hu 2010). The enthusiasm for this relatively new communication platform is due to the fact that users often post content on microblogs that is unavailable in China’s state-controlled media, which makes weibo critical for news sources and expression conduits in a media environment that is 187

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characterised by limited diversity (Sullivan 2012: 773–83). Thus, even though microblogs are monitored closely by the Chinese government, they have become an important outlet for public opinion and serve as alternative news sources that often contest the official discourse in China’s mainstream media (Hu 2010; Jiang 2010b; Yang 2009; Zheng 2008). Chinese weibo have been used to organise political protests and online campaigns in 2012 that have been credited with forcing government concessions, such as an investigation into a labour activist’s death in custody or upgrades to air-quality monitoring in Shanghai (Freedom House 2013). The aftermath of the high-speed train crash near Wenzhou in eastern China on 23 July 2011, which killed 40 people and injured another 192, provides one of the most vivid examples of the political power of social media in this nation. News about the crash first emerged on Sina Weibo, including one post from a survivor who tweeted an emotional appeal for help from the scene of the crash just minutes after the accident occurred: ‘Our train bumped into something. Our carriage has fallen onto its side. Children are screaming . . . Come to help us please! Come fast!’ According to China Daily, this post was reposted 100,000 times in just ten hours. Two hours after the accident, calls for blood donations on China’s weibo resulted in more than 1,000 people promptly donating blood (China Daily 2011). Attempts by government officials to downplay the accident and order the burial of the derailed train cars were met with public outrage. In order to control the growing anger, the government issued directives on 24 July to restrict news coverage in the state-run media. However, accounts of the restrictions soon found their way on to the internet. In the week that followed the accident, China’s online community posted more than 30 million messages about the crash on China’s two largest microblogs alone (China Daily 2011). Bloggers questioned why the accident occurred and asked whether the government was trying to protect those responsible for the crash. Videos and images of the damaged train cars being chopped up and buried went viral and further infuriated the public. One angry microblogger noted that ‘this is a country where a thunderstorm can cause a train to crash, a car can make a bridge collapse and drinking milk can lead to kidney stones. Today’s China is a bullet train racing through a thunderstorm – and we are all passengers onboard’ (cited in Y. Yang 2011). On 29 July, the Chinese government issued a second directive that banned all coverage of the accident ‘except positive news or that issued by the authorities’. Major internet portals were forced to remove links to news reports and videos related to the crash. This second directive was widely ignored by China’s state-run media and instead prompted a series of editorials that condemned the handling of the accident by the Chinese government. The editor of the notoriously independent Southern Metropolis Daily, for example, angrily responded on Sina Weibo by accusing the government of a cover-up: ‘Tonight, hundreds of papers are replacing their pages; thousands of reporters are having their stories retracted; tens of thousands of ghosts cannot rest in peace; hundreds of millions of truths are being covered up. This country is being humiliated by numerous evil hands’ (cited in LaFraniere 2011). Compared to China’s traditional media, weibo are faster, more informational and more interconnected. The succinctness of the 140-character limit encourages brief information exchanges on the internet, which many Chinese prefer due to their hectic lifestyle (Wei and Wang 2012). Instantaneous ‘status updates’ also allow citizens with mobile phones to report events they witness long before professional journalists have a chance to do so (Murthy 2011: 779–89). As mentioned earlier, news about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the 2011 Wenzhou high-speed train accident first emerged on microblogs and only later was reported by the Chinese mainstream media. Thus, the constant flood of information that is generated and distributed by millions of Chinese online users every day can erode government censorship efforts simply through quantity and speed (Wines and LaFraniere 2011). 188

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Moreover, as Yi Yang (2011) pointed out, microblogs have not only empowered ordinary citizens, but also journalists working for mainstream media in China. Faced with a growing number of reporting constraints imposed by the government, Chinese journalists have used microblogs to conduct independent investigations and interviews, which they then post on weibo in order to avoid official pre-publication censorship. While it is true that government censors are quick to take down unwanted weibo posts, by the time this is done, the news usually has spread through the online community. Yi Yang (2011) concludes that this process established ‘a new alliance’ between citizens and journalists. However, as with other types of social media in China, multiple layers of self-censorship also characterise the various weibo services. For instance, Sina Weibo has implemented a comprehensive and proactive form of censorship in which thousands of employees use sophisticated software to monitor frequently updated lists of ‘sensitive’ words and phrases. But despite these controls, Sina Weibo has developed into a mainstream platform that has been described as a new kind of digital tabloid press in which scandals are reported, public opinion is shared and news sometimes devolves into ‘virtual mob justice’ (Sullivan 2012: 779). Thus, as a consequence of the sheer number of online users, the active personality of many Chinese citizens and the Chinese people’s deep mistrust of official information channels, weibo has become a powerful player in Chinese politics (Sullivan 2012: 773–83). The role of microblogs in shaping political discourse in China has become an important research subject in recent years. Scholars have argued that weibo can influence China’s public sphere in three major ways. First, microblogs challenge conventional notions of news production by breaking professional barriers set by traditional media and by creating free platforms that allow all citizens to express themselves and be heard. The consequence of such (theoretically) unlimited access is the potential for each citizen to set the public agenda. Empirical evidence for such a public agenda-setting process has been found in a recent study by Xie and Xu (2011: 9–14), who showed that Chinese microbloggers not only discussed most of the important events (81 per cent) that occurred in China in 2010, but also were responsible for breaking the news on a significant number (10 per cent) of these events. The study also found that many of the events that were discussed on weibo eventually forced a response from the government and subsequently had a significant impact on public affairs in China. Other scholars have pointed out that microblogs have revitalised civic participation in China by reducing the cost (e.g. required effort) of political engagement and increasing the benefits of citizen interactions. For example, weibo have been instrumental in the so-called ‘rights defence movement’ (weiquan yundong), which has united ordinary citizens, political activists, journalists and civil rights lawyers in various political and social disputes with the Chinese government. According to Biao (2012: 29–49), rights defenders have used weibo and other social media in China ‘to exert the pressure of public opinion in a way that has increased the cost of judicial injustice’. Thus, social media have empowered Chinese citizens to organise powerful interest groups that can collectively expose civil rights violations, which are then much more difficult to be ignored by the government. For example, the forced abortion of Feng Jianmei, a 22-year-old woman from a small village in China’s Shaanxi province, sparked national and international outrage and an intensive online debate in 2012 – after the family posted graphic pictures of her stillborn child on Sina Weibo. The image, which quickly became viral, prompted thousands of angry comments that were quickly deleted by government censors. But despite these efforts to limit the impact of the story, prominent lawyers and bloggers began discussing the case and demanded government action. Li Chengpeng, China’s famous activist blogger, angrily noted on Sina Weibo that ‘the purpose of family planning was to control population, but now it has become murder population’. Even 189

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Hu Xijin, chief editor of the nationalistic Global Times, criticised the forced abortion on his weibo account by writing: ‘I strongly oppose the barbarous forced abortion to this 7-monthpregnant mother. Time has changed and the intensity of enforcing family planning has changed. We should promote civilised family planning’ (cited in Gu 2012). In response, the Chinese government launched an official investigation of the incident, fired two local officials and initiated a review of local family planning offices throughout the country. Biao (2012: 32) notes that online protests by such informal ‘rights defence’ groups ‘have combined to give rise to an increasingly law-conscious and public spirited populace’. Similarly, Wei (2011: 21–2) argues that Chinese citizens might be motivated by the action of such groups once they believe that what they say and do can affect government policies and possibly their own lives. It is important to note, however, that the Chinese government has learned that microblogs can be effective instruments to gauge public opinion and advise public decision making (Yu 2010: 143–4). By monitoring the constant chatter on China’s microblogs, the government is able to gather real-time feedback on policies and keep an eye on the public mood (Reuters 2012). As a consequence, local and national governmental organisations in China have launched numerous weibo accounts to disseminate official government information (Li et al. 2010: 49–51). According to Zhao (2008), these efforts at ‘public opinion guidance’ not only set the boundaries of political discourse online, but also are clear indications that the Chinese government is using new communication technologies to maintain its legitimacy and support its official policies.

Online video and egao The growing popularity of microblogs in China has been accompanied by a surge in the number of Chinese who go online to watch videos and short films. According to CNNIC (2014), there were about 428 million online video users in China by the end of 2013, accounting for 69.3 per cent of all Chinese internet users. Recent user surveys suggest that online videos are especially popular among Chinese men (56.1 per cent) below the age of 30 (64.8 per cent) who hold college degrees (80 per cent) (iResearch.cn 2012). Youku is China’s leading video website and the second-largest online video service in the world behind YouTube. After merging with Tudou.com in March 2012, this video giant reaches about 310 million users, or more than 70.0 per cent of all online video users in China (iRearch.cn 2012). Youku offers Chinese internet users a variety of professionally produced content licensed from copyright holders, including television dramas, feature films, news programming, variety shows, music videos, animated features and sports coverage. It also has produced original online videos, such as Yang Xiao’s 43-minute film Old Boys, which had been watched by almost 51 million viewers by the end of 2012 (Youku Index 2012). In addition, Youku has provided a national platform for Chinese video bloggers (paike) who often upload and share videos straight from their mobile phones or digital video cameras. While the most popular content on these video websites is professionally produced entertainment, a growing number of users have begun posting videos to express opinions on social or political issues. For example, there were about 14,500 videos about the Diaoyu Islands posted on Youku in early 2013, about a quarter of them user-generated. The territorial row over the eight uninhabited islands in the East China Sea (known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan) has repeatedly strained international relations between China and Japan in recent years. The dispute also has led to an outpouring of patriotism among Chinese citizens and thus provides a good indication of how popular online videos have become in public discussions of political issues (also see Ma, Chapter 12 in this volume). 190

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While user-generated online videos about the Diaoyu Islands dispute might be welcomed by the Chinese government due to their nationalistic character, other topics, such as the ‘three Ts’ – Tiananmen Square, Taiwan and Tibet – are less likely to remain online. In response to the growing use of online videos for discussions of sensitive political issues, the Chinese government announced tighter regulations of online video services in July 2012. According to China’s State Administration of Radio Film and Television and the State Internet Information Office, online video sites are required to review all videos, both self-produced and user-generated, before they are posted online, or risk penalties including loss of licensing. The goal of these new measures is ostensibly to minimise vulgar, violent and pornographic videos, and to encourage the production of content that ‘reflect the spirit of the times, promote goodness and beauty, and show what people love to see and hear’ (People.com 2012). Because political criticism is usually deleted quickly from Chinese internet servers, Chinese netizens have pioneered the use of ‘egao’ to circumvent official censorship. Egao, which loosely translates to ‘reckless or malicious actions’, are audio, visual or text-based spoofs that are posted online by a grassroots subculture that takes serious issues and entertains with subversive comedic effects, often in the style of parody or satire (Huang 2006; Meng 2011: 33–51; Zhang 2010). According to Gong and Yang (2010: 16), egao ‘plays with authority, deconstructs orthodox seriousness, and offers comic criticism as well as comic relief. It provides imagined empowerment for the digital generation, exploring an alternative space for individual expression’. New egao content is created and distributed online as a form of symbolic resistance as soon as new public issues occur (Zhang 2010). These parodies often attract more attention online than mainstream media reporting, and the increasing popularity of video websites enhance the reach and power of egao by offering Chinese internet users an open space to create, publish and share their work. Thus, by appropriating official content into personal expression, citizens enter the digital conversation with entities that previously had monopolised communication channels through political and economic means (Meng 2011: 33–51). Among countless egao, two of the most popular are indicative of the format’s appeal: the ‘Steamed Bun’ and the ‘Song of the Grass Mud Horse’. In 2006, Hu Ge, a 31-year-old sound engineer and former radio show host in Shanghai, became famous for his 20-minute egao parody of The Promise (Wu ji), an epic film directed by Chen Kaige. Using a pirated DVD, Hu transformed the film’s plot into a satirical crime procedural by re-editing and re-dubbing the original scenes (Zhang 2010). As with many egao authors, Hu used popular culture touchstones to convey his disappointment in the original film and interject humorous context cues. The result lampooned the epic movie and various other societal institutions, and became a national sensation (Meng 2011: 33–51). Tens of thousands of users disseminated the ‘Steamed Bun’, and thousands more actively recreated and enriched the work through their own egao mash-ups of the original film (Meng 2011: 33–51). While the ‘Steamed Bun’ could be traced to one user and dwelled mostly on artistic and popular culture criticism, the ‘Grass Mud Horse’ story developed in a more ambiguous and decentralised fashion – and more directly involved a strike back at China’s norms of political and social censorship. In early 2009, a short animated video featuring the imaginary ‘Grass Mud Horse’ appeared on YouTube to protest growing government censorship of politically sensitive internet content in the name of removing ‘low and vulgar’ online practices (Meng 2011: 33–51; Shang 2009). Because protest videos against official censorship are removed quickly, the names of the main characters in the video were used to convey a ‘hidden’ message that could at least temporarily avoid government sanitisation. In Chinese, ‘Grass Mud Horse’ is pronounced ‘cao ni ma’, which is almost identical to the profane phrase ‘f> your mother’. In the story, the Grass Mud Horse eventually defeated the River Grab, or ‘hexie’, which resembles the 191

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pronunciation of ‘harmonious’ in the term ‘harmonious society’ (hexie shehui), Hu Jintao’s signature ideology. The song’s hidden meaning, obvious only to those familiar with Chinese language and culture, but impossible to detect by automatic internet filters, is that government attempts at political control under the guise of building a ‘harmonious society’ will be defeated (Tang and Yang 2011: 675–91). The ‘Grass Mud Horse’ video provoked widespread public support and participation. Within two months from its February 2009 posting, the imaginary horse and the culture surrounding it developed into a ‘virtual carnival’ of user-generated content that included fake online encyclopaedia entries, video spoofs, comic strips and toy manufacturing (Meng 2011: 33–51). By the time the Chinese government issued an announcement to censor the video in March 2009, it had attracted about 1.4 million viewers, and the foul-mouthed horse had become popularised as a symbol of discontent with internet censorship (Wines 2009). In summary, egao has emerged as a form of expression specific to the social–political culture in China, and a powerful way to unite people against authority. Egao uses the internet to challenge mainstream government and commercial culture with an active re-appropriation of official content for other purposes, often in the service of criticism of the original material. Unlike western versions of mash-ups, Chinese egao are usually spontaneous, grassroots products uploaded in scattered spots around the internet and social networks by anonymous users (Zhang 2010). According to Meng (2011: 33–51), egao do not necessarily lead to organised political action, but they contribute to political communication in the sense of maintaining a dialogue about issues that invoke common concerns that are beyond a citizen’s private life.

Response by China’s mainstream media The response of China’s traditional media to the challenges of digital news has evolved during the past decade. As in many western nations, younger Chinese have abandoned the official news media for the convenient – and often more critical – news available online. This process has accelerated due to the growing gap between actual events in China and the way these events were portrayed in the government-controlled media. As a result, rather than viewing digital media as an enemy, China’s mainstream media began to adapt and collaborate with online media in hopes of survival. As a result, the first digital newspaper, Guangzhou Daily Mobile Digital Edition, was launched in April 2006. Three days later, the first subscription-based digital newspaper, Wenzhou Digital Newspaper, was published online. By 2008, more than 500 Chinese newspapers had digital editions. However, many of these online newspapers were limited to the content and form of their print counterparts and did not provide multimedia content, more updated information or strong interactive functions (Gou 2008: 44–8). To better address the demands of an audience that was getting quickly used to multimedia online offerings, the Chinese government began pushing the convergence of different media industries in 2006. It also encouraged the production of multimedia content by the official print media and the development of new channels of news delivery via mobile phones and tablets. A good example is Oeeee.com, which was established by Southern Metropolitan Daily in March 2006. The goal of this website is to build a constellation of convergent media outlets. After years of effort, Oeeee.com successfully integrated the website of the newspaper, a video website, an online radio network, an online community forum, an online shopping platform and the first Chinese-language news app in Apple’s App Store (Long 2012: 23–5). By 2012, most Chinese newspapers had launched mobile news apps either on iOS or Android platforms. A recent content analysis of Chinese news apps found that, among the top 400 news 192

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apps, most (247) were offered by newly established media companies (L. Wei 2012). The study also found that media apps launched by new companies surpassed mainstream media apps in terms of content, forms, functions and number of downloads. They also were more successful with integrating user-generated content, updating content quickly and offering more and better customisation functions to their users. A final strategy of China’s mainstream media was to integrate social media into the news production process. By the end of 2012, most Chinese newspapers had launched their own microblogs as an important interactive link between them and their audience. Even People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, launched a microblog on Sina Weibo in July 2012. In the following months, the party organ surprised the public with news and information on their official weibo that was very different from the official propaganda style of the paper’s print version. Within two months of activation, the grassroots-friendly writing style of People’s Daily’s weibo attracted nearly 2 million readers. Other government organisations quickly joined the trend and, by the end of 2012, more than 60,000 verified government accounts had established microblog accounts on Sina Weibo (Chen 2012). The quick adoption of microblogs by the Chinese government clearly shows that officials have recognised the power of social media to control public opinion. Social media allow the government to monitor public opinion and, when necessary, push its own version of events through interactive media channels that provide the illusion of an open and diverse public discourse.

Digital media and political participation In this last section of the chapter, we will briefly review studies that have investigated the potential link between internet use and political participation in China. Due mostly to the controlled political environment in China, empirical studies of political participation remain the exception in this nation. Studies of digital media also are relatively uncommon in the academic literature that focuses on China’s media. A review of media studies published in English-language academic journals between 2000 and 2010, for example, found that only 24 of 159 studies about Chinese media focused on new media technologies (Li and Tang 2012: 405–27). A similar review of new media studies published in Chinese-language academic journals between 2000 and 2007 found only 69 articles that centred on digital media in China (R. Wei 2012: 116–27). While the articles covered a variety of digital media technologies, such as mobile phones, text messaging, blogs, Wikis, e-publishing, internet television (IPTV) and online games, most of the studies were descriptive and focused on technical and economic issues rather than the effects of internet use on individuals or organisations. Ran Wei (2012: 122–3) concludes that digital media research in China ‘lags behind the fast-changing media landscape in the country’ and therefore fails to ‘shed light on the processes of how millions of Chinese adopt, consume, apply, and re-invent new media technologies’. It therefore would seem premature to judge the impact of digital media on political changes in China at this point in time. In western nations, scholars often see the internet as a new information outlet that can bridge the gaps left by the shrinking mainstream media – and thus as a potential tool to stimulate political engagement in a world that is characterised by digital news (Tolbert and McNeal 2003: 175–85; Postmes and Brunsting 2002: 290–301; Shah et al. 2005: 531–65). Others suggest that the growth of social media and social networking opportunities, partnered with the lowered cost of online participation, offer new platforms for enhancing political participation strategies, links and methods of engagement (Bimber et al. 2009: 72–85; Gil de Zuniga et al. 2009: 553–74; 2010: 36–51). Still others assert that social media make politics more accessible and symbolically empower 193

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citizens to participate through interactivity and the expansion of discussion networks that might be otherwise unavailable (McClurg 2003: 448–64). Meanwhile, representative empirical data are sparse, leading to conflicting conclusions about the link between social media and political outcomes in western nations. Positive interpretations contend that social media will bolster democracy, while negative interpretations either caution against evidence of significant changes or portend harmful effects such as widening gaps based on socio-economic privilege. There also is some evidence that the self-centred nature of much of social media participation in western nations could be negative for political participation (Fenton and Barassi 2011: 179–96). Similar to the observed trend in western media research, most studies that test the link between internet use and political participation in China are based on anecdotal evidence and theoretical discussions rather than empirical tests of concrete effects. Wang (2007), for example, discusses the role of online discussion forums in promoting political participation and collective action in China. He examines the role of online forums in three cases that took place in China between 2003 and 2005, and concludes that online forums and bulletin boards have been able to provide more diverse information than traditional media sources and that online posts exerted pressures on government and officials. Evidence for such conclusions, however, is not provided. Other studies on digital media published in China focused mostly on the characteristics of online public opinion (Kuang 2008: 35–8), mechanisms through which online public opinion forms and develops (Xiang and Cao 2008: 57–60) and how online public opinion can be controlled (Liu 2008: 18–21; Cui and Shen 2008: 45–7). Probably the most convincing empirical evidence supporting a connection between internet use and political participation in China comes from a study by Shen and his colleagues (2009: 451–76). Based on interviews with more than 6,500 Chinese respondents conducted by the World Internet Project in 2003, 2005 and 2007, the findings indicate a positive association between internet use (such as use of email, bulletin boards, news, instant messaging, chat and online gaming) and online expression (frequency of posting one’s opinion online). This positive association was partially mediated by the size of the respondents’ online network as measured by the number of friends they kept in touch with online. While these findings indicate direct effects of internet use on political engagement in China, the authors note that only one-tenth of the online users in their study were active content contributors in online forums. They conclude that ‘while acknowledging the repressive nature of the state power, this study suggests the incremental structural change brought to society by the internet through expanding users’ social network could cultivate an active online opinion expression environment’ (Shen et al. 2009: 467). The few remaining studies that have analysed the link between internet use and political participation are based on student samples – and therefore are less representative. One example is Chu’s (2006) comparative survey study conducted in 2004, which tested the potential link between media use and participation among 510 university students in China and the United States. Her findings indicate that exposure to online news was positively associated with public affairs knowledge and political participation in both countries. Similarly, Wei et al. (2011: 90–6) showed that Chinese college students who engaged in more internet activities not only had higher levels of political knowledge, but also tended to be more active users of participatory internet applications such as microblogs and other social networking sites. A more detailed study conducted by Wei (2014) among 549 Chinese college students in 2011 found that those who read newspapers, received news through social media and belonged to political online groups also were more politically active offline. At the same time, those who listened to radio news, received news through social media, posted on political blogs, talked about politics on social media and belonged to political online groups were more politically 194

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active online. In addition, students who read newspapers and talked about political issues on social media knew more about political affairs. Overall, Wei’s study provides fairly convincing evidence that more internet use is indeed associated with higher levels of political engagement both offline and online. However, Wei (2014) also notes that political participation among the students featured a fairly limited range of offline and online activities. For offline engagement, the top three activities were joining a student organisation (66.5 per cent), offering volunteer work (60.3 per cent) and working for a political organisation (30.1 per cent). According to the author, a common trait of these political activities is that they are all sanctioned by the Chinese government. Various state-controlled organisations, such as political youth groups organised by the Communist Party or community-centred resident committees (juweihui) aim to socialise young Chinese citizens in ways that are consistent with China’s dominant political ideology and social values. In contrast, more independent participatory behaviours such as signing a political petition (6.4 per cent), contacting a politician or government official (3.5 per cent), attending a public rally or demonstration (3.6 per cent) or writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper (4.4 per cent), were far less common among the students. It was therefore not a surprise that similar engagement patterns were observed in the students’ online participation. The top three online activities were watching political videos (60.8 per cent), communicating with others about politics online (41.5 per cent) and forwarding links to a political video or news article (38.6 per cent). On the other hand, potentially controversial activities, such as signing an online petition (4.0 per cent), sending emails to government officials (3.6 per cent) or starting political groups online (7.5 per cent), were fairly uncommon.

Conclusion This chapter provides an overview of the digital media environment in China and what promises it might hold for those who want to actively participate in this nation’s public sphere. The growing reach of social media, mobile phones and cheap laptops in China indicates that online access is becoming quickly the norm for most citizens. Already, more than half of all Chinese citizens use social media every day, and each year about 10.0 per cent more users join popular social networking services such as Qzone or Renren. Microblogs have become important outlets for public opinion and serve as alternative news sources that often contest the official discourse in China’s mainstream media. The constant flood of information that is generated and distributed by hundreds of millions of Chinese online users every day have created conditions that make it possible to undermine people’s trust in the state-run media. While a number of content analyses have shown that political blogs contain guarded critiques of the Chinese government, most scholars agree that social media influence the political process in China mostly indirectly by providing people with a forum to discuss political issues that might not find their way into the official state-run media. Because of their size and ability to adapt quickly to any attempts at censorship, microblogs have become an important public sphere in China that should not be underestimated. On the other hand, the Chinese government is also concerned about the speed and ease with which people can organise into active political groups through social media which are difficult to monitor and censor. As political observers have pointed out, social media may produce negative political effects if the Chinese government uses them to infiltrate political groups, track down political activists and distribute propaganda online (Morozov 2011). We believe that many Chinese online users have become more sophisticated in their attempts to undermine such efforts to control and censor the internet. One good example of 195

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such sophistication is the subversive use of online videos by netizens who have learned to create and distribute satirical content online despite tight censorship rules. Despite the fact that the rapid growth of social media provides an opportunity for China’s citizens to participate in the political process more directly, empirical evidence of traditional measures of political effects remains elusive. Studies about digital media in China are still the exception and actual tests of the potential effects of internet use on political participation are exceedingly rare. Instead, most Chinese scholars have preferred theoretical discussions of online public opinion and descriptive analyses of microblogs and other social media in China. Our review identified only four major studies that have empirically tested the associations between internet usage and political engagement (Chu 2006; Shen et al. 2009: 451–76; Wei et al. 2011: 90–6; Wei 2014). The encouraging conclusion is that all four of these studies found positive associations between internet use and political engagement. Shen et al. (2009: 451–76), for example, found that people who are more active online also tend to be more likely to express their opinions online. Similarly, Wei (2014) provides fairly convincing evidence that more internet use is associated with higher levels of political engagement both offline and online. In Wei’s 2011 survey study, college students who received news through social media, read or posted on political blogs, belonged to political online groups or talked about politics on social media, were more active online and offline. Finally, we must acknowledge that is difficult to assess the true political potential of the internet in China. The political environment in this complex nation does not allow citizens to be as active politically as they might be in societies where freedom of speech is guaranteed. Many Chinese netizens are afraid to publicly express their opinions for fear of prosecution or simply because they do not want to get into trouble with the authorities. These conditions make it difficult for scholars and pollsters to measure any true effects of online usage in China. It also would be a mistake to overestimate the power of China’s online community simply because it is so large. China’s 618 million online users do represent the largest group of internet users in the world – but large numbers do not necessarily translate into political power. What is also needed are netizens who are willing to participate in the political process, who are active rather than passive consumers of information and who use digital media not only for personal entertainment and diversion but also for political activism. In addition, the political environment must be open enough for users who are highly engaged to be able to participate without fear of reprisal. Research has shown that China’s political system has created a huge number of passive online users who are mostly interested in entertainment and socialising rather than in political activism (Leibold 2011: 1023–41). China’s focus on economic growth during the past 30 years also has given rise to a generation of young consumers who participate in society primarily through like-minded friends, family and anonymous internet activities (Rosen 2010: 509–16). Damm (2007: 373–94) argues that the Chinese digital media environment has produced ‘isolated niches’ in which citizens create narrow online identities that reflect their interests and their interactions with like-minded social contacts. At the macro-social level, these niches lead to a more fragmented and localised society. It would therefore be a mistake to assume that Chinese online users are primarily driven by the desire to engage in the political process.

What needs to be done next? The question whether the internet and its various digital communication tools can significantly influence the democratisation process in China has fascinated Chinese and western scholars alike for many years. As we have pointed out repeatedly, there are plenty of studies that discuss the 196

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theoretical implications of online activity in China. However, very few studies have tested the impact of internet use on political change in China. The few studies that focus on political activism are descriptive and focus on content analyses of microblogs and other social media in China. Consequently, what is needed most are more studies that empirically test the potential links between online usage and political engagement at the individual-user level. The strongest evidence would come from public opinion polls conducted among representative samples of respondents in China. Special emphasis should be placed on avoiding samples that are drawn among college students or residents of major cities in China – such samples are convenient, but very likely overestimate the political engagement of average Chinese citizens because they contain too many respondents with higher levels of education and income. We also believe that there should be less emphasis placed on content analyses of social media. While such analyses are important, they provide descriptive information only. Instead, future studies should combine content analyses with survey research which allows more useful conclusions about what is available, how such content is consumed or used, and what effects it might have on people’s perceptions or political change in general. Moreover, because the amount and type of political content found on China’s social media is likely a function of citizens’ willingness to express themselves and the government’s effectiveness to suppress and censor information at certain points in time, content analyses only provide a limited understanding of what is going on in China’s cyberspace. Of course, none of these studies would mean much if they lack a theoretical framework. Western scholars of online media have developed a number of theories that explain the function of the internet in democracies. However, theories that can explain the function of online media in the more authoritarian context of China are sorely lacking. As Guobin Yang (2011) somewhat sarcastically points out ‘change has been under way in China for years, but in forms more subtle than most people outside the country understand’. Thus, instead of assuming direct effects of online usage on political change in China, we need to pay more attention to social and cultural factors that might interfere in such a relationship (Kluver and Banerjee 2005: 30–46). As discussed above, Chinese internet users might not be necessarily interested in political activism, and might engage in the political discourse in ways that are not readily apparent to scholars who are mostly familiar with western media systems. In short, what are needed are theories that better fit China’s specific social, cultural and political environment. Finally, we would like to encourage studies of online media that have not been explored much yet. The political use of online videos in China, for example, has not received much attention beyond the studies that have explored the impact of egao videos. The large number of user-generated videos about the Daioyu Islands, for example, shows that China’s netizens have begun to open new spaces of public discourse that support the expression of public opinion in ways that can potentially reach millions of viewers. Moreover, because most of these videos have a rather nationalistic tone, such political content can freely circulate on the Chinese internet without being censored by the government. Thus, analysing the impact of such pro-China online expressions might offer a new perspective for better understanding the political effects of online usage in China. When researchers attempt to examine the Chinese digital media environment and its effects on political engagement, they are confronted with a mixture of rapid user adoption, growing platforms of online information exchange and cultural conditions that complicate the society in which those developments are taking place. However, these same factors provide exciting opportunities for producing a better empirical understanding of these crucial relationships. We therefore encourage more studies that embrace the impressive wealth of information available to build stronger theoretical explanations for how Chinese use the online world to engage politically. 197

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12 Online Chinese nationalism and its nationalist discourses Yiben Ma

From the boycott of the French supermarket Carrefour in the time leading up to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 to the anti-Japan demonstrations over the disputed Diaoyu Islands in 2012 and 2013, we have witnessed the scale of Chinese nationalism and its controversies. The merger of Chinese nationalism and the internet has also drawn scholarly attention to a fiercely debated topic – online Chinese nationalism. During these incidents, the internet not only facilitated the dissemination of nationalistic information and the mobilisation of people, but more noticeably produced an interactive means for shaping and reshaping nationalist discourses (also see Willnat, Wei and Martin, Chapter 11 in this volume). Online Chinese nationalism is far more complicated than a simple addition of Chinese nationalism to the internet; rather it is a fusion of modern information technology, national identity and ideology. McLuhan (2013: 20) asserts that ‘the medium is the message’ in the sense that media or technology brings ‘change of scale or pace or pattern’ to human affairs. The advent of the internet brings an interesting dimension to understanding how this timeless, interactive and decentralised communications technology could bring changes to the modality and dynamism of Chinese nationalism, the expression and discussion of nationalist ideals and actions, and the relations between different nationalist players. No matter how online Chinese nationalism is studied, whether seeing its outgrowth as a signal of an emerging civil society (e.g. Yang 2009a) or as a form of public opinion shaping Chinese foreign policies (e.g. Reilly 2012; Shirk 2011: 1–37), the phenomenon can hardly be understood without taking two perspectives into account. First, while investigating the potentials of the internet to bring changes to various aspects of Chinese nationalism, equal attention should be paid to the historical, social and institutional context out of which online Chinese nationalism comes into shape. Second, any study related to nationalism concerns two indispensable parts, namely the state, with which the masses identify their loyalty; and the masses who translate their nationalist consciousness ‘into deeds of organised action’ (Kohn 2005: 19). Taking both facts into consideration, this chapter aims to first of all embed the concept of Chinese nationalism into a historical, social and institutional context and explain how the concept has evolved and transformed over time in both official and popular discourses. Then it sheds light on the ‘Chinese internet’ per se – the immediate soil where online Chinese nationalism grows. It inspects the peculiarities of the internet that configure the production, dissemination 203

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and discussion of online Chinese nationalism. Finally, it endeavours to set up interrelations between Chinese nationalism and the internet by examining the extent to which the internet brings changes to the expression and discussion of Chinese nationalism, and challenges the relations between official and popular players over nationalism issues.

Contextualising Chinese nationalism The advent of nationalism and its concept Nationalism is a relatively new term to China, and China did not regard itself as a country until only around the turn of the twentieth century when it was forced open by western imperialists. Before that, China adopted a Sino-centric view that saw itself as the only civilisation in the world and others as uncivilised ‘barbarians’. Chineseness was defined by the acceptance of a shared pattern of cultural values; that is to say, it is the identification with the Confucian principles that distinguished Chinese from non-Chinese. From this perspective, China was not a country based on modern understandings of nation-state, but a cultural entity that was largely dominated by Confucian ideologies. China’s status as the only civilisation in the world was severely challenged and the sense of crisis rose steeply when it was defeated by the west and Japan. China’s defeats spurred its intellectuals to rethink the world order and China’s relations with other cultures, and they believed that China needed nationalism to hold all the people together to fight against the invaders. The introduction of nationalism from the west and the use of nationalism to urge reforms and revolutions ‘heavily informed by nationalist ideology’ (Feng 2007: 49–59) signalled a significant transition from ‘a culturalism to a nationalism, to the awareness of the nation-state as the ultimate goal of the community’ (Duara 1993: 2). Both Liang Qichao, an advocate of constitutional monarchy, and Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Qing dynasty and founded the Republic of China in 1912, shared the belief that nationalism was key to the survival of China during the time of foreign invasions. Sun’s stress on nationalism was manifest in his political philosophy the ‘Three Principles of the People’ – nationalism, democracy and people’s livelihood – which later became the ruling ideology of the Chinese Nationalist Party (i.e. Kuomintang or KMT). Under the banner of anti-imperialism and national unification, the KMT led by Chiang Kai-shek ‘reduced the extraterritorial privileges enjoyed by foreign powers’ (Chen 2005: 40) and ‘largely accomplished the goals of nationbuilding’ (Feng 2007: 49–59), though Chiang’s preoccupation with the suppression of the communists and his reluctance to fight against the Japanese undermined the KMT’s nationalist credentials. On the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong used anti-Japanese nationalism to successfully rally the nationalist sentiments of the massive peasantry and fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese army in northern China. Arguably, it was not communism but largely the CCP’s nationalist appeals that consolidated the CCP’s role in the modern history of China. The CCP’s emphasis on national independence and territorial integrity was detected in the major policies after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for example Mao’s attempt to recover Taiwan by military force and his sending troops to Korea to resist American aggression (Chen 2005: 42). Chen (2005: 53) argues that ‘even socialist internationalism could not sideline Chinese nationalism’, and Mao’s determination to protect China’s independence was also demonstrated by the Sino-Soviet border war in 1969. Mao’s militant, revolutionary and anti-imperialist style of nationalism subsided in the 1980s and the nature of Chinese nationalism changed, but this did not mean that succeeding Chinese leaders were less nationalistic than Mao. Although territorial integrity and independence remained the ultimate national interests, China abandoned the ‘ideological fervour’ and adopted 204

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‘confident nationalism’ which believed that China could regain ‘its former greatness through economic growth, based on the import of foreign technology and ideas’ (Oksenberg 1986: 503). Since nationalism was introduced to China, it has always been a matter ‘of the political renovation for nation building’ (Lin 2006: 35). Many China scholars have attempted to give a definition to Chinese nationalism. For instance, Suisheng Zhao (1998: 290) generally defines it as a ‘state-centric conception of nationalism’ which advocates political and social solidarity based on the territorial state. The notion ‘Chinese nationalism’ conveys a predominantly civic meaning, and it is interpreted in Chinese as aiguo zhuyi, which literally means ‘loving the state’ (Zhao 1998: 290), implying ‘loyalty to geographically unified and ethnically diversified China’ (Motyl 2001: 84). However, giving a precise definition of ‘Chinese nationalism’ is next to impossible because, on the one hand, ‘the nation is itself a tool of definition’ (Conversi 1995: 77), and, on the other hand, it is ‘situational’ (Zhao 2004: 19) since Chinese nationalism has different foci and agendas from time to time, and could be defined differently by different nationalist players depending on their political considerations. Instead of providing a definition, it might be fruitful to contextualise modern Chinese nationalism by examining a broader background against which it has evolved. Choosing the late 1970s as a starting point is significant because national identity is always ‘constituted by interaction’ (Triandafyllidou 1998: 599) and that period was the time when China began to normalise its relationship with the world. As nationalism cannot be adequately understood without pondering two indispensable elements – the nation and the mass – it is necessary to discuss Chinese nationalism on both official and popular levels, and see how it is perceived in each discourse over time.

Official nationalism The late 1970s witnessed a high rate of economic modernisation as a result of Deng Xiaoping’s reform policy. However, according to Zheng (1999: 17–18), this ‘was not without its cost’, because decentralisation caused by economic reforms weakened the central power to deliver Marxism or Maoism as an ideology for regulating local societies, and hence gave rise to an ideological vacuum. This gave space to such as capitalism, individualism and political liberalism. The declining faith in socialism and the subsequent student-led pro-democracy protest in 1989 taught the CCP that the official doctrine of ‘Marxism–Leninism was no longer effective in mobilising loyalty and legitimising the state’. The party also realised that it ‘should base itself firmly on Chinese nationalism’ – the only important value shared by the regime and its people (Zhao 2000: 17–18). To restore popular loyalty, the CCP launched the ‘patriotic education programme’ which was particularly intended for ‘the younger generation’ (He and Guo 2000: 26), and stipulated a patriotic curriculum be taught at school on a daily basis including attending flag-raising ceremonies and learning the CCP’s heroic history and achievements. The effect of this, as Chun (1996: 126) claims, is to transform nationalism ‘from the realm of high politics to the level of everyday routine’, but Wu (2007: 124) suspects the real effectiveness of the topdown campaign by criticising how it simply regards those young people as passive receivers of propaganda. Given that students receive such education from kindergarten to college, its effects cannot be underestimated because such education not only confers identity on them (Gellner 1983: 36), but also helps individuals ‘find their primary identification with the nation’ (Ramirez and Boli 1987: 3). The years after the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union were critical for China, and it increasingly ‘found itself at the centre of an international siege’ (Tok 2010: 24). However, this plight provided the CCP a great opportunity 205

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to gain domestic support by appealing to nationalism. In portraying China as a country embraced by ‘internal chaos’ (neiyou) and ‘foreign aggression’ (waihuan), the CCP constantly projected the idea that only a strong centralised state under its leadership could prevent China from threats both at home and abroad. Furthermore, Beijing’s failure to win the bid for the 2000 Olympic Games and extensive criticism it received on human rights and Tibet also assisted the CCP in instilling ‘an aura of victimisation and international conspiracy within the expectant nation’ (Tok 2010: 24). However, such ‘international conspiracy’ did not become vivid until the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, which provoked nationalistic sentiments among the Chinese people and underpinned their beliefs that western countries would never give up containing China. Although the CCP needs nationalism to help ‘set the national agenda to suit the party’ (He and Guo 2000: 30), nationalist sentiments are carefully manoeuvred since, as Kristof (2001) remarks, nationalism is ‘not just for conferring legitimacy on the government but also for taking it away’. The party knows well that either to suppress popular nationalism or to encourage it may backfire. That is to say, if the party uses too strong a mechanism to tame nationalism, the CCP’s nationalist rhetoric will be fiercely questioned and therefore ‘causes the party to lose face and authority before the Chinese people’ (Gries 2005a: 181). If, on the other hand, it is too soft, popular nationalism may grow out of control and have strong impact on the social stability and economic well-being that the party claims to deliver. As Zhao (2005: 131–44) observes, the official version of Chinese nationalism is ‘pragmatic’ in essence. At the domestic level, the CCP consolidates its nationalist identity by sustaining a high rate of economic growth and creating a prosperous life for the people. At the international level, it advocates ‘peaceful development’ while resorting to nationalism when China’s core interests are violated by foreign threats. As China is increasingly integrated into the world community, playing the nationalism card has become extremely difficult. As Downs and Saunders (1998: 120–1) recognise, ‘power constraints and the contradictions between domestic appeal to nationalism and a development strategy that relies heavily on foreigners mean tradeoffs exist between nationalism and economic performance’. This requires the leadership to formulate a foreign policy that can simultaneously balance both objectives (Shirk 2007: 68), but in reality such a balanced foreign policy is hard to reach. Its commitment to the world as a peaceful riser and the promise to the home audience as a defender of national honours can sometimes put the government into an ‘irreconcilable conflict’ in which it has to accept the consequences of either nationalist frustration or the impact on its opening-up policy. The Chinese government opts to block information which it thinks can ignite popular nationalism in order to reserve some room for secretive negotiation and avoid being hijacked by nationalistic public opinion; arguably, the expansion of internet usage has made it increasingly hard to do so. While, on the other hand, by reiterating the return of Hong Kong and Macau and the hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the CCP promotes ‘confident nationalism’ (Oksenberg 1986: 501–23) and attempts to convince the domestic audience that under the leadership of the CCP China will restore the past glory of the Chinese nation and overcome the ‘century of humiliation’ (Gries 2004 and 2005b: 251–6).

Popular nationalism From the above, Chinese nationalism has been explained from a statist point of view. In other words, it was the Chinese political elites who introduced and interpreted the concept of nationalism and mobilised people’s nationalist sentiments. However, Chinese nationalism cannot be fully understood without taking the popular nationalists into account. The popular version 206

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of Chinese nationalism is more complicated, and Pye (1996: 90) observes that popular nationalism in China tends to ‘vacillate between the extremes of xenophobic distrust and unqualified admiration of all things foreign’. Therefore, anti-traditionalism and anti-foreignism have been two strands of popular nationalism in China since the 1980s. The anti-traditionalist nationalism was popular in the late 1980s, and these nationalists inclined to blame Chinese tradition as the fundamental cause for China’s socio-political problems and simultaneously ‘used images of the west as examples of the new civilisation summoning China’ (Zhao 1997: 728). Such a self-demeaning tendency was denounced by the government as ‘a dangerous example of “spiritual pollution” that blindly advocated total westernisation and boosted national nihilism’ (Zhao 1997: 728). Notwithstanding, in Zhao’s opinion those anti-traditionalists were ‘assertively nationalistic’ because their ideal was to summon the Chinese people to ‘rejuvenate the nation by assimilating nourishment from the west and by demanding a fundamental change in the state of the Chinese mind’ (Zhao 1997: 728). The waning of anti-traditionalism was not only attributed to the fact that it failed to find ‘a replacement for Chinese tradition that could provide a satisfactory form of identification’ (Zhao 2004: 137), but also to the official ‘patriotic education programme’ that de-romanticised western values and emphasised their incompatibility with Chinese conditions. Although people were cynical towards the official warnings of the threats from the west during the early years after the suppression of the anti-traditionalist trend, they tended to concur with the official propaganda that the west intended to prevent China from becoming a strong country. This tendency was exemplified by the popularity of a book entitled China Can Say No (Song et al. 1996). The authors of the book express resentment towards the USA for its alleged hostility and continuous criticism of China on human rights and Tibet. People tended to shared the official view not only because of the massive state propaganda and patriotic education campaign, but also because of a number of incidents. For instance, NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 19991 and the Sino-US jet collision in 2001,2 which lent credence to the suspicion that western countries were hostile to China. However, it is not correct to blame media commercialisation as the only factor fanning the flame of nationalism. Technically speaking, it was not difficult to ban the book if the government did not want it at all. Although the government’s instrumentalist flow with popular nationalism may bring short-term grassroots leverage which advantages itself in diplomatic negotiations, it can cause frustration among popular nationalists and hence harm the government’s credibility. As Lagerkvist (2010: 201) explains, popular nationalists expect ‘sincerity and long-term nationalist commitment from the government’, not ‘occasionally giving the green light for patriotic outburst and later putting out the fire of public opinion when it no longer suits policy’. The outburst of Chinese popular nationalism is also driven by a dualistic complex of victor and victim psychology. It consistently reminds people of China’s great achievements in the past and its long-suffering tragedies at the hands of imperialists since 1840. When China is depicted as a victor, its glorious past becomes a memory of supremacy; whereas, when China is depicted as a victim, it becomes a reminder of past humiliations. Although the government has been reiterating the narrative of past humiliation through education and state media, as Gries (2004: 20) explains, it is not correct to shed light only on the party propaganda while trivialising ‘the roles that the Chinese people and their emotions play in Chinese nationalism’. In fact, such a ‘pessoptimist structure of feeling’ (Callahan 2010) that interweaves China’s sense of pride and sense of humiliation is indispensable in the making of Chinese nationalism in both official and popular contexts, and both actors agree that becoming a strong nation is the only way to rejuvenate China and wipe away its past humiliations. 207

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Today the CCP worries about the rise of liberal popular nationalism. Radically different from the official nationalism which stresses a close connection between the Chinese nation and the CCP, liberal nationalists draw a clear division between the party and the nation. Although their demand for a strong state to defend China’s interest and dignity appear to be in accordance with the official nationalist rhetoric, it does not mean that they share the nationalist agenda. According to Suisheng Zhao (2005: 137), liberal nationalists claim that ‘in the arena of international competition, Chinese people should defend their national rights’, while ‘in the domestic arena, they should fight for their personal rights of participation against the authoritarian Communist State’. This argument dismisses the common interpretation that sees the CCP’s instrumental manipulation as the sole factor contributing to the rise of popular Chinese nationalism, and explains why the CCP was so cautious in coping with popular nationalist sentiments. The study of Chinese nationalism requires attention to official and popular nationalism because both contribute to the holistic image of Chinese nationalism. Although official and popular nationalists tend to share a common goal for building a better and stronger China, they have different ideals and agendas. Nationalism is used by the CCP to legitimise its leadership and unite its people, and political elites have been adjusting nationalist strategies and agendas according to their own needs and the people’s reactions. Popular nationalists attempt to seek in their own voice, but due to the government’s monopoly of nationalist politics they can be easily muted if the government thinks they exceed what is acceptable. The extent to which popular nationalists can realise their goals largely relies on how government responds to these nationalist appeals; but the government’s instrumentalist attitudes towards nationalism can hardly guarantee a consistent answer to popular nationalists. Since the internet redefines the way ordinary people can engage in the politics of nationalism, the question is how independently popular nationalists can seek their own nationalist objectives.

The landscape of the Chinese cyberspace The enormous expansion of internet usage in China and its purported decentralising properties have depicted a different landscape from traditional media in terms of ‘applications and impact’ (Sassi 2001: 89), and brings opportunities to create ‘democratic, participatory realms devoted to information and debates’ (Langman 2005: 44). By examining the peculiarities of the Chinese internet, the following section aims to explicate the question: What is the Chinese internet out of which Chinese online nationalism comes into being? The internet in China has expanded dramatically, with 457 million users by the end of 2010, but according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) the penetration rate still remains relatively low at 34.3 per cent. Moreover, there is a huge disparity between regions (Beijing has the highest penetration rate of 69.4 per cent and Guizhou the lowest with only 19.8 per cent) and between urban and rural users which is 72.7 per cent vs. 27.3 per cent. Usage is dominated by young people aged from 10 to 29, constituting up to nearly 60.0 per cent of the total internet population in China. The internet is predominantly used by well educated people, among which 58.8 per cent have senior middle school degrees and above (CNNIC 2011). As the above data suggest, the internet in China is mainly used by young, urban and highly educated people. Therefore, the online community in China is a special stratum of the public, and hence we should consider that the online population cannot fully represent the whole population. An exponential increase in internet usage does not necessarily signal an increasing interest in political discussion among users. Internet utilisation in China is noticeably personal, 208

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entertainment-oriented and apolitical, and according to the CNNIC (2011), the majority of people surf the internet to acquire information, download music, communicate with friends, play online games and for shopping. The concerns of young internet users on private life have resulted in a low level of interest in public issues; and in lieu of thinking that people are interconnected in the same virtual society, it is realistic to say that they are living in various ghettos differentiated by the lifestyles with which they identify. From this perspective, it could be said that people are less active and less politically motivated than most internet advocates have imagined. Although Chinese netizens represent only one-third of the overall Chinese population and their online behaviours are to a large extent entertainment-oriented and fun-seeking, this does not mean that their voices, ideas and thinking are not significant to the Chinese society as a whole. The interactive and anonymous internet has led to a growing interest in public affairs such as environmental protection, food security and civil rights among Chinese netizens. Moreover, Chinese netizens are increasingly using the internet to supervise the government, expose corruption and misconduct and for challenging government policies, although criticism of the central government and top leaders is still nearly impossible. China launched a ‘Government Online Project’ to enhance government efficiency and transparency; and Chinese top leaders including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao often paid visits to the ‘Strong Nation Forum’ – an online forum affiliated to the CCP’s mouthpiece newspaper the People’s Daily – to chat with netizens, to show that the central government cares about, and listens to, online opinion. Regardless of this, control is an inevitable theme of the Chinese internet. Gary D. Rawnsley (2008: 129) notes that ‘the greatest obstacle to the democratic potential of the internet remains non-technological, namely governments who consider this communications system a threat to their political power and thus seek to constrain its use’. Although Xiao (2011: 209) proclaims that total control of the internet is impossible, this does not mean that governments have lost their grip on the internet (Hachigian 2001: 118–33; Harwit and Clark 2001: 377–408; Morozov 2011; Yang 2009b: 17–33). Much attention has been paid to the government’s waning capacity to exercise ‘hard control’ while underestimating its growing power of ‘soft control’. Deutsch (1966: 82) agrees that ‘it might make sense to think of government somewhat less as a problem of power and somewhat more as a problem of steering’. In China, as Brady (2008) notes, the government invests enormous effort in the production and distribution of online propaganda in order to ‘guide’ public opinion. This tendency is particularly exemplified by the use of online commentators, known as the ‘fifty cent party’ (wumaodang) who, according to Bandurski (2008: 41–4), are a group of people hired by the government authorities mainly to offset voices that are negative to the government ‘by pushing pro-party views through chat rooms and web forums’; in return, they receive RMB 50 cents (c. US$0.08) for each message they post. From this perspective, it is true, as Morozov (2011: 117) proclaims, China has turned ‘the internet into the Spinternet – a web with little censorship but lots of spin and propaganda’. Resistance is also a significant theme of the Chinese internet. Chinese netizens have various skills such as using codes, euphemisms and symbols to circumvent, expose and even ridicule the government’s control. As Herold (2011: 1–20) and Li (2011: 71–88) both observe, the Chinese internet resembles a carnival, because it provides Chinese people some freedoms they cannot enjoy offline. According to Bakhtin (1984a and 1984b), carnival is a subversive place where hierarchy, privileges and prohibitions are temporarily suspended, and ‘carnival gesticulation’ and ‘outspoken carnivalistic word’ are not only allowed, but also celebrated. This is because the anonymity of the internet gives ‘masks’ to users and protects them from being identified. More 209

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importantly, it is the sense of belonging that empowers and legitimises carnivalistic behaviours as people realise that others are celebrating, shouting and laughing in the same way. The carnivalistic internet is where people turn official slogans, symbols and ideologies into a laughingstock as a counter-hegemonic strategy. Carnival provides a place for discontented people to unleash their anger and disappointment, but it only reconfirms the fact that they have nowhere else to get their messages through offline. Although Chinese netizens have much greater levels of freedom on the internet, their freedom does not go beyond the virtual space. The government increasingly regards the internet as a ‘safety valve’ (Xiao 2011: 203) to relieve social tension before extreme actions may arise, so they give internet users some freedom to ‘celebrate’ carnivals, as long as they do not lead to massive protests in the streets. All the features of the Chinese internet discussed above help sketch out the peculiar ecosystem out of which online Chinese nationalism emerges. On the other hand, these features not only shape but also give meanings to the online behaviours in Chinese cyberspace. Over one-third of the Chinese population have access to the internet and usage is dominated by young, urban and well-educated people. This circumscribes the likely online population to whom online Chinese nationalism appeals and who initiate the bottom-up nationalism. The generally apolitical, self-centred and individualistic nature of Chinese netizens also helps understand some distinctive characteristics of online Chinese nationalism. For instance, during the Beijing Olympic torch relay in 2008, these young netizens were the main force protesting against the perceived ‘western bias’ that tarnished China’s image. As Lagerkvist (2010: 195) finds, Chinese netizens are ‘pragmatic, materialistic and nationalist all at the same time’, but it is these characteristics that make popular nationalism often appear ‘inconsistent and ad hoc itself’ (Lagerkvist 2010: 200). Those young people appeared to be anti-west during the protests and they used strong nationalist language to condemn western hostility against China and urge people to boycott western products. Given that those young people are nationalist on the one hand, and pragmatic and concerned about personal life on the other hand, such nationalist passion does not necessarily lessen their yearnings for western lifestyle. As a result, when they realise that the nationalist waves begin to recede, they may continue to buy foreign goods and apply to study in western countries. The internet does enable ordinary people to ‘experiment with their public opinions’ (Liu 2005: 149), and create avenues for them to challenge the government. The constant tussle between the netizens and the government for de-controlling and re-controlling nonetheless establishes a dimension of thinking of online Chinese nationalism not as a purely spontaneous and bottomup movement that can challenge the official dominance of nationalist politics, but as a struggle where both official and popular players compete for narratives.

Online Chinese nationalism: a challenge to the CCP? Theorists on nationalism like Breuilly (1993), Brass (1991) and Hobsbawm (1992: 1–14) all tend to agree that nationalism is a consequence of social engineering led by state elites and it is used as a tool to authorise ‘state action’ and ‘secure the support of the masses’ (Ozkirimli 2000: 108). I do not deny the role state elitists play in the shaping of nationalism, but the topdown model which sees people as passive receivers of propaganda omits the dynamics from below. Moreover, it is clearly inadequate when nationalism is embedded into an online context, for the internet creates possibilities for ordinary users to disseminate and publicise their nationalist claims as counter-forces against the top-down manipulation. Since the internet provides opportunities for both state and users to compete, it is essential to include both top-down and bottom-up frameworks into the study of online Chinese nationalism. 210

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Memory is a key ingredient in the formation of national identities, and how memories are narrated is of great importance to the shaping of nationalism. As mentioned earlier, the CCP invests enormous energy in building itself as a true nationalist, and its heroic achievements and histories, especially its role against Japanese invasion during the Second World War, have been extensively propagandised and repeated through mass schooling and mass media. The official dominance of nationalist discourse is largely contingent upon the CCP’s ability to maintain a set of collective memories that favours its ruling. However, the prevalence of the internet and the popularity of interactive sites such as forums, blogs and microblogs (weibo)3 undermine the CCP’s control on the narration and interpretation of collective memories, as these sites provide avenues for ordinary people to tell, circulate and share different versions of memories. For instance, for decades, as the then ruling party in China which retreated to Taiwan after its defeat by the CCP in 1949, the role of the KMT in the war against the Japanese invasion has long been obscured in the official discourses of the CCP. Internet users have been retelling the history of China’s war against Japan, and the call to critically re-evaluate the KMT can been constantly heard. The CCP’s version of the war, which amplified its own role as a defender of national dignity while underplaying the KMT as a corrupt and incapable party, is under challenge, and the appeal for rehabilitating the KMT in the war can encroach upon the CCP’s nationalist histories. In contrast, as Zhang (2009: 86–102) elucidates, the influence of a different memory discourse can hardly shake the CCP’s legitimacy due to the apolitical nature of the majority of internet users and the government’s grip on memory politics. Zhang (2009: 100–1) considers further that although the internet gives some freedom to netizens to narrate different memories, such memories can only become ‘at best a subcollective memory or fragmented memory for a certain group, not the national collective memory at all’. The government can filter any memories that jeopardise its own version, and the censorship in fact helps entrench collective memories favoured by the leading political elites. Although the Chinese internet is rigorously censored, the functionality of censorship should not be overstated. It is worth noticing that censorship can backfire, and it does not always succeed in blocking people from knowing something. Internet users can learn that they have been censored, for instance from the automated system message reminding them the posts they are about to upload contain sensitive content, or from the notice sent by the web administrators warning them of the removal of their posts due to violation of some online regulations. Instead of obstructing information, censorship may result in the reverse – it tells users that there must be something that the government does not want its people to know, and hence stimulates inquisitive users to seek the ‘truth’. Moreover, frequent censorship is a reflection of the government’s incapability of managing information, and in the long term it also exhausts government’s credibility, because people may perceive that what is censored, no matter true or false, is the truth that the government intends to hide. Realising this, the CCP is increasingly using soft control methods like the ‘fifty cent party’ to neutralise rather than simply block information that deviates from the official line. By publishing and pushing comments that favour the official stance, these commentators intend to create a prevalence of pro-government online opinions as if the comments are grassroots, spontaneous and independent from political manipulation. However, as the existence of this special workforce is no longer a mystery, and the language they use to persuade other online audience is often too official and bluntly progovernment, the title ‘fifty cent party’ is increasingly used as a derogatory term to label and laugh at those who blindly share the position of the government. Many scholars have discussed the potency of communications technologies in nation building and the formation of identity. For example, Benedict Anderson (1983) points to the mass consumption of newspapers as a way of imagining community. Deutsch (1953: 72) likewise 211

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declares that ‘people are held together “from within” by communicative efficiency, the complementarity of the communicative facilities acquired by their members’. The internet not only provides an opportunity for people to imagine at ‘long-distance’, as ‘nationalism no longer depends as it once did on territorial location in a home country’ (Anderson 2001: 42), but also serves as an effective medium that interconnects and holds together more easily those who share the same nationalist ideals, agendas and courses of action. The internet creates new mechanisms for Chinese people to imagine and maintain the country, and they have been using it increasingly to publicise nationalist information, practice and reinforce nationalist identities and rally nationalist support, especially when they believe China’s national interests and dignity are under threat. This tendency was evident in 2008 as the international torch relay of the Beijing Olympics encountered massive protests in Europe, especially in Paris. Regardless of the protests about human rights issues in Tibet during the torch relay, the official Chinese media still tended to obscure the scale of protests and reporting was minimal. On the contrary, the CCP promoted national pride by showing the domestic audience how harmonious the torch relay was, and how much support and welcome China received. For China, the Beijing Olympics was considered a symbol of national pride, and how the world received the international torch relay was tied closely to the nationalism of the Chinese people. Hence the way each city received the Olympic torch was observed closely by Chinese nationalists, as they saw the quality of reception as a criterion for gauging if the receiving country was friendly to China. Knowing this, the CCP had to downplay the protests the Beijing Olympics encountered, because if the real stories of the chaotic torch relay were told, the feelings of frustrations and anger would give rise to popular nationalism. This would impair the peace-loving and friendly image China wanted to project to the world. More importantly, as the Chinese government promised its people that a glorious Olympics could showcase China’s pride and win international applause, too much attention on oppositional voices could certainly endanger its ruling legitimacy. However, the CCP’s agenda of promoting ‘confident nationalism’ and its capacity to control the flow of nationalist information was soon challenged by those overseas Chinese students who personally witnessed the torch relay events and uploaded a great quantity of texts, pictures and videos to various internet forums and social networking sites. The internet not only allowed them to imagine the community by sharing with millions of compatriots back in China what they saw and experienced in the torch relay, but also to take on some independent role in the politics of nationalism. The participation of online popular nationalists in the politics of nationalism was first of all manifested in the framing of the nationalist incidents. In contrast to the official media where the torch relay in Paris was largely represented as a welcomed and supported event by the French, popular nationalists framed it as a chaotic event, with China facing protest and criticism; China’s national pride suffered. For those who aimed to share their personal experiences of the torch relay in Paris, they often employed strong language to inform other Chinese of a hostile France that attempted to humiliate China. Online nationalists also appealed to compatriots in other countries where the Beijing Olympic torch was to be received to protect the ‘holy flame’ that represented China’s glory. Overseas nationalists shared their experiences of escorting the torch, and discussed together further plans for better protection of the relay. Many overseas Chinese, especially study abroad students, were mobilised to escort the torch in San Francisco and Canberra. The internet enhances Chinese people’s ability to imagine the nation and can mobilise nationalist audiences. Furthermore, the internet also creates chances for people to express as well as reinforce their nationalist identities. As the ‘real’ stories about the Paris leg of the torch 212

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relay reached more and more people, fierce discussion on internet forums took place. From shouting out xenophobic slogans such as ‘Down with France’ to debating the boycott of the French supermarket chain Carrefour, condemning France for its alleged hostility to China and expressing hatred towards France was a predominant theme throughout discussions. The attitudes of Chinese online discussants towards France’s hostility bifurcated dramatically and seemed to take two extreme forms, that is to say, people felt extremely anxious about France’s hostility and believed that the reason France dare humiliate China during the torch relay was because of China’s weakness. They constantly retold and reproduced the memories of past humiliations at the hands of western imperialists to elevate a sense of national crisis. On the other hand, some people felt the protests reflected China’s growing strength, and believed that France was jealous of China. No matter which explanation they favoured, online nationalists shared the belief that France was hostile to China and it was China’s enemy. Hence defaming France became a common technique in online discourse. Its colonialist past provided abundant themes to shame France, and online nationalists constantly attacked France by emphasising the crimes it had committed during the colonial age. France was described as a barbarian, savage and cruel country. The more enthusiastically they express hatred towards the enemy and the worse they defame the enemy, the more nationalist they feel. Before the torch relay incident in Paris, France in general enjoyed a favourable reputation in China. Indeed France was often seen as a role model because of its lead in various areas like technology and education. However, the objectivity and rationality of admitting France as a respectable country gave way to the emotional expression of feeling hatred. Pye (1992: 68) points out that ‘hate and hostility are not only more openly acknowledged but they are extolled as positive virtues of the political activists’. Expressing one’s hatred towards France became the passport for confirming nationalist identity. While it is important to notice that using the Beijing Olympics to promote confident nationalism at home and China’s image as a peaceful actor abroad was undermined by a prevalence of critical feelings towards France on the internet, it is also worth admitting that the online freedom of expressing nationalism indicated governmental approval. The online call to boycott the French supermarket Carrefour in response to France’s perceived hostility did not stimulate much interference from the government, and some even urged the government to take tougher measures. In addressing online popular nationalism, the Chinese government showed some level of responsiveness to the claims on the internet. For instance, when the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked if the Chinese government supported the internet campaign for the Carrefour boycott, she responded ‘it’s true that some Chinese people expressed their views and emotions in the past few days, but there is a reason for this. This is actually something the French side should ponder over.’4 From the early attempts of downplaying the protests in Paris for fear that the rise of popular nationalism may damage China’s international image, to the overt co-optation of the online nationalist sentiments in the official discourse, there was a shift in the nationalist attitudes of the CCP which showed that the party’s nationalist policies could change according to its political needs. The CCP’s instrumentalist co-optation of online nationalism could lever its negotiation with its French counterpart, and enhance its nationalist image among the domestic audience. More importantly, what this example shows is that the government could no longer leave the online nationalist claims unaddressed. Whether or not it agrees with the policies proposed by internet users, the government has to first of all identify with the people by affirming their nationalistic passion. As explained in the previous section, although the Chinese online population only represents approximately one-third of the overall population, the CCP has showed considerable 213

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attention to online opinion. This is because, as Shirk (2011: 241) clarifies, unlike democratic countries where politicians ‘rely on elections and on polls of scientifically selected representative samples’, politicians in authoritarian countries have to rely on ‘being attentive to the people who feel so strongly about something that they might come out on the streets to protest’. Moreover, as Zhao (2008: 174–5) observes, the outburst of popular nationalism can align with other forms of discontent. The CCP shows some tolerance of carnivalistic voices and behaviour on the internet and allows some online freedom for people to vent their discontent, but it becomes extremely cautious if online discontent is transformed into real protests on the streets. This explains why the CCP started to censor the internet when the online initiative to boycott Carrefour became a concrete plan. Fearing that the internet could quickly mobilise people to form massive demonstrations that could endanger social stability, the government called for people to remain calm and warned them to guard against extreme behaviours that external hostile parties could take advantage of. To cool down nationalist sentiments, the word ‘Carrefour’ became a sensitive word on the Chinese internet, and any online content that could possibly stir up nationalism was blocked. To conclude, what makes the internet special for the study of Chinese nationalism is that it challenges the traditional thinking of nationalism as a top-down manoeuvre, and provides a chance to look at nationalism from a bottom-up perspective. The internet not only enables popular actors to engage in the politics of nationalism but also to compete with the official actors for nationalist discourses. The intermeshing of both actors is increasingly shaping the ways online Chinese nationalism can be understood. The internet provides various opportunities for ordinary Chinese to assume an independent role in shaping nationalist discourse. However this does not mean that the official control of nationalist discourse is completely menaced; the government is consistently developing control mechanisms and attempting to minimise claims and actions that undermine its authority. The control–resistance landscape does not necessarily suggest that it is the only interactional pattern between the two actors. They have different nationalist policies and advocates, but this does not prevent the government from co-opting online popular nationalism based on some common ground. Although censorship still remains the main method of control, the government is learning to engage cautiously with the online public. By doing so, as Qian and Bandurski (2011: 39) acknowledge, ‘the CCP seeks a powermaximising balance between censorship and propaganda on the one hand and responsiveness on the other’. The increasing level of the government’s responsiveness portrays a co-optation landscape of state–public interaction. The co-optation of online nationalism provides the government some ground to mobilise popular support, but the extent to which both actors could concord on nationalism depends on their own nationalist agendas. Online popular nationalism contradicts, co-opts and integrates with the official nationalism, and in the long term will coexist and intertwine with the official nationalism.

Notes 1 2 3 4

In May 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia five US guided bombs hit the PRC embassy in Belgrade and killed three Chinese reporters (Dumbaugh undated). In April 2001, a mid-air collision occurred between a US Navy intelligence aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet over Hainan Island, resulting in the death of a Chinese pilot (Paglia 2001). Weibo is a Chinese equivalent of Twitter. It allows user to post messages up to 140 characters, and is gaining great popularity in China. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu’s regular press conference on 15 April 2008. Available online www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t425858.htm (retrieved 10 December 2012).

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13 A cyberconflict analysis of Chinese dissidents focusing on civil society, mass incidents and labour resistance Athina Karatzogianni and Andrew Robinson

Introduction This chapter employs the cyberconflict perspective (Karatzogianni 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012a: 52–73, 2012b: 221–46; Karatzogianni and Robinson 2010) to offer an in-depth analysis of Chinese dissidents in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) focusing particularly on the 2000s. A distinction is drawn between socio-political (or active) social movement uses of the internet – which focus on organisation, mobilisation and the networked form of the medium itself – and ethno-religious (or reactive) social movement uses, which subordinate the medium to vertical logics. These are often expressed in terms of ad hoc mobilisations and tit-for-tat defacements and cyberattacks adhering to closed and fixed identities, such as nationality, religion and ethnicity. Cyberconflict is a synthesis of three overlapping theories of social movement theory (for socio-political movements), conflict theory (for ethno-religious movements) and media theory (the intersection of cyberconflict, capitalism and the state). This theory is applied in the context of a systemic structural analysis of capitalist power, in a context in which neoliberalism and regime maintenance are both mutually reproducing and undermining. While the internet, as a networked technology, is most appropriate for networked forms of power, it exists in a dynamic field in which hierarchies and hierarchy-network hybrids also proliferate, containing and channelling its emancipatory potential through strategies of recuperation, repression, inclusion and exclusion. More specifically, cyberconflict theory examines how politico-economic reforms, the media environment and e-governance have affected dissent in China (i.e. Communist Party ideology, constructions of social and political identities, representations of and by dissidents and link to e-governance; control of information, level of censorship; alternative sources; media effects on policy; political contest). A second cluster of elements of concern includes the effect of information communication technologies (ICTs) on mobilisation structures, organisational forms, participation, recruitment, tactics and goals of dissidents, as well as changes in framing processes and the impact of the political opportunity structure on resistances in China. A third, in relation to ethnic, religious and cultural dissent, examines how the Communist Party state 217

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and dissident group identities are constructed in relation to ethnic/religious/cultural difference, and the national and competing identities construction. Also, hacktivism (or invariably termed digital activism, tech activism, cyberactivism) and information warfare in China are discussed in a variety of settings, especially in relation to social networking media and contemporary dissent. To engage with these areas, this chapter is divided into three main sections. The first discusses the political environment in China to provide the context for dissent and involves a broad stroke consideration of neoliberalism in China with a further discussion on censorship and control in this environment. The second section maps networked dissent in terms of the impact and use of ICTs in relation to civil society, mass incidents and labour resistance, and shows how it links to broader resistance in the global mediascape. The final section concentrates on nationalism and the symptomatic repression of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as nationalism, which fuels and links to cybercrime and patriotic hacking.

Hypercapitalism and its discontents Critics suggest that neoliberalism in China has led to growing inequality and corruption (Arrighi 2007: 15–16). In effect, the transnationally led growth strategy has transferred resources en masse to private capital in coastal cities, so as to provide incentives to lure transnational capital (Wei and Leung 2005: 16–40; Yusuf and Wu 2002: 1213–40), an approach known in China as ‘building nests to attract birds’ (Zweig 2002: 60). Changes in the urban landscape, for example, show the replacement of corporatist and traditional spaces with spaces of information-economy capitalism (Fu 2002: 114). Transnational capital dominates urban areas both symbolically and economically, expressing itself in orthogonal growth (Gaubatz 1999: 1495–521). The arrangement of spaces along a functional capitalist level, with clustering of economic functions, is particularly apparent (Rimmer 2002: 1–8). Finance capital and landlords, aided by technocratic political leaders, become dominant classes within local power structures (Jessop and Sum 2000: 2288; Yusuf and Wu 2002: 1224; Chen 1998: 671–88). Transnational capitalist projects are unrestricted by state power (Wu 2000: 1363). The state is able to extract rents on transnational flows (Zweig 2002: 23–4), but suffers from increased dependency, as well as from the growing power of those on whom it depends to resist rent-extraction. As in all global cities, local elites maintain rent-extraction mainly through immobile infrastructure such as real estate (Brenner 1998: 15) which function as the source of monopolistic superprofit nexuses, allowing the extraction of above-market profits through non-reproducible conditions (Taylor 2000: 157–62). In China, such rent-extraction runs against traditional rights of state tenants, who local elites dispossess at will in order to accumulate revenue from corporate rents (Zhou and Logan 2002: 141). Furthermore, there is a discontinuity in global city emergence, with connectivity but not command-and-control functions (i.e. maintaining authority but with a distributive style of decision making) spreading to peripheral locations. Beijing for instance has much higher quantitative scores for connectivity than command-and-control (Taylor et al. 2002: 231, 238), while Hong Kong scores third in the world for connectivity, but lacks global command functions (Taylor et al. 2002: 234, 237–8). Chinese global cities, as with others in the global south, differ from their northern counterparts in being focused on attracting foreign investment (Wei and Leung 2005: 19–20; Shi and Hamnett 2002: 128). It can thus be argued that (coastal urban) China has become a dependent peripheral state within neoliberal capitalism, rather than an emergent hegemonic contender. This regime of accumulation is partly sustained in classic ‘Southern fashion’ (Wolpe 1972: 425–56) by the persistence of a largely non- or semi-capitalist agrarian sector, which underpins sub-reproduction-cost wages and resultant comparative advantage. This dual 218

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economy allows the hyperexploitation of undocumented migrants from rural to urban areas, with rural areas effectively treated as an internal periphery. Like other such models, it is destabilised by its simultaneous reliance on, and accumulation-by-dispossession at the expense of, the non- or semi-capitalist sectors. In addition, cities continue to rely on rural hinterlands (Lin 2002: 302). Some scholars write of a crisis of governance, with the regime seeing the effects of neoliberalism as introducing instability that threatens to produce ‘chaos’ (luan) (Kluver 2005: 78). Along with other means such as nationalism, e-governance initiatives have been introduced as an attempt to re-stabilise Chinese society. Part of the difficulty with the position of the internet in China is that it is simultaneously useful for neoliberalism and harmful to authoritarianism (hence to the specific form of neoliberalism prevalent in China). Rawnsley (2007: 42–57) argues that the internet’s horizontal, networked structure is appropriate to economic modernisation and hence necessary for China, but clashes sharply with a centralised, hierarchical governance system. Regime integration depends on mainly vertical structures. Hence, Qiu (2009: 10–11) suggests that the path-dependency of institutional legacies is the main reason for internet censorship. However, there are also real dangers. The regime is highly fearful of ‘linking-up’ (chuanlian), the formation of horizontal connections and solidarities between different sites, which was central to the Cultural Revolution and is seen as prefiguring society-wide mobilisation. The widely observed result is a self-contradictory relationship in which China both embraces the internet and fears and seeks to control it (Taubman 1998: 255–72; Qiu 2004: 101; Kalathil and Boas 2003; Endeshaw 2004: 41–57). Less widely noted is the basis of this contradictory policy in divisions between fractions of the Chinese elite, with growth-oriented technocrats pitted against state-control interests in the army, propaganda system and security agencies. The former care more about developmentalstate concerns, the latter about keeping power and winning any emerging cyberwars (Qiu 2004: 110). The latter institute policies which are unjustifiably costly in developmentalist or neoliberal economic terms, but which also serve as job-creation and import-substitution initiatives inside China (Qiu 2004: 112). China’s attitude to global information flows is thus self-contradictory. The regime both wishes for such flows for economic reasons, and fears that they could be its downfall (Bennett 2010). In particular, the regime is afraid of pro-democracy messages coming out of the global mediascape (Appadurai 1990: 305). Moreover, it has been noted that ‘[t]he Chinese government has chosen to address through information technology, problems of corruption, transparency and local government reform, and the development of poor areas’ (Kalathil and Boas 2003: 13). In effect, a controlled internet provides the possibility for feedback mechanisms, which fall short of accountability, and therefore fall within the regime’s view of stability. In part, this is an attempt to combat the culture of dissimulation by allowing a direct connection between the centre and individual citizens, bypassing local officials and allowing their surveillance by the centre (Kluver 2005: 85). These are a recent, computer-mediated variance of a wider reliance on ‘limited bottomup citizen participation’ as an accountability mechanism to control local officials, a practice which is dangerous for the regime, as participants often take up politicised issues (Minzer 2009: 82–3). Such mobilisation is aided by the fact that many local governments have been slow to take up computer technologies (Qiu 2004: 107; Tong and Lei 2010). Further, the regime is making increasingly sophisticated use of control modalities which combine commercialisation with government restriction, co-opting private actors to reinforce control. This process is creating a type of internet openness, which is restricted to entertainment functions (Qiu 2004: 113–14). Despite the apparent softening, repression is never far below the surface and seems to be constructed to pre-empt and premediate dissent in advance through 219

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the logistical closure of space and the multiplication of both formal and informal regulations. For instance, in November 2012 the congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was accompanied by at least 130 arrests of dissidents, others were placed under house arrest or exiled from Beijing; bans on pigeons, balloons, taxi door handles, ping-pong balls; remote-control aircraft restrictions on transport; and closures of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education, which offers advice to migrant workers. At least half the sex workers in the city were reportedly arrested and expelled from Beijing. The Ministry of Information Technology expressed the need to ‘seal the network’ (fengwang) during the party congress, and it was impossible to access the New York Times’s articles exposing the financial operations of Premier Wen Jiabao (Barboza 2012; Jacobs 2012a). ‘Unlucky’ words such as ‘death’, ‘die’ and ‘down’ were even banned from TV shows (Economic Times 2012). This general climate of repression – which is typical of major events in China – creates a generalised feeling of disempowerment, an inability to protest and even an existential gap between the regime and any possible opposition. The Economic Times (2012) quotes a microblogger: ‘In the face of these absurdities, we are powerless. It’s a reminder that no matter how ridiculous and comical, this is an era that we can’t laugh in.’ Ai Weiwei, an international artist and famous dissident, who is going to be discussed more extensively below, said his police minders allowed him to engage with anything except the coming party congress. ‘To be honest, it’s O.K. because it’s just an internal meeting for those people. It has nothing to do with me. Or with anyone else, really’ (Jacobs 2012b). Jiang Shao (2012), another leading dissident, summarises in one paragraph the political climate in the country: ‘Stability maintenance’ has been bolstered as a way to strip the rights of human rights lawyers, activists, petitioners and digital activists. This is a departure from the reign of President Jiang Zemin in the 1990s, which was characterised by its suppression of members of the China Democracy Party and Falun Gong practitioners. Methods of suppression under the recent administration have become more calculating than before, with authorities making blatant and extensive use of diverse and often harsher techniques to retaliate against activists, including abduction, enforced disappearance, torture, illegal detention in ‘black jails’, soft detention, forced ‘tourism’ (a form of residential surveillance away from home) and trumped-up charges like ‘disrupting public order’ or ‘tax evasion’. Such intimidation is focused on activists, and its degree of visibility to the wider public is debatable. The regime relies on an array of ‘deliberately vague and arbitrary regulations’ to maintain control (Rawnsley 2007: 42–57; Dickie 2007). In this context, signals such as Web censorship and news bias may serve to signal the limits to tolerated dissent at a particular time. Tuinstra (2009) suggests that Chinese users now rely on the internet as their eyes and ears regarding government policy and practice, creating risks to the government in interfering too much with it. Pye (2001: 148–54) suggests that Chinese leaders rely on informal decision making to maintain control. This echoes broader patterns of ‘shadow power’ typical of the global south. China’s cyberspace censorship regime has been deemed the most extensive in the world (see, for example, Chase and Mulvenon 2002; Dowell 2006: 111–19; Zittrain and Palfrey 2010: 15–35). China seeks to control the internet by funnelling connections ‘through a small number of statecontrolled backbone networks’, which are in principle vulnerable to censorship and surveillance (Kalathil and Boas 2003: 21). This is an attempt to combat the horizontal, rhizomatic architecture of the internet. It is continuous with the Maoist ideal of vertical control of communication (Kalathil and Boas 2003: 18). Nevertheless, the viability of such strategies long term and on a wider scale is questionable in the current global communications environment. This has led to an emerging policy of ‘not trying to control too much’ (Dickie 2007). It has been suggested that China is using its censorship systems ‘sparingly since this prevents a new generation of internet users from discovering the 220

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numerous ways netizens have figured out to thwart their efforts’ (Tuinstra 2009), in effect choosing a relatively lightly censored internet over a more heavily censored, and therefore more widely resisted, control system. It has also been suggested that the ‘Great Firewall’ has been replaced or supplemented with second- and third-generation forms of control based on corporate censorship, the normalisation of surveillance and state-sponsored information campaigns (MacKinnon 2010: 27). This makes the approach of simply enabling dissidents to circumvent first-generation blocking insufficient or even dangerous (MacKinnon 2010: 30). As a result of such measures, Yang (2009a) argues that China has moved from sovereign power based on ‘hard control’ such as internet censorship, towards disciplinary and bio-political power based on ‘soft control’ through using human actors’ self-censorship and responsiveness to cues. On the other hand, the feeling of efficacy inspires online protests. Surveys also reveal that people both trust the internet as a source of information, and feel it to be an open space in which their discussions are not restricted (Yang 2009a: 132). Tuinstra (2009) suggests that the internet obtains trust as an information source in China because western media are suspected of anti-Chinese bias, and Chinese media regarded as controlled. Information continues to reach Chinese internet users through social media and other sources, leading to a credibility gap which delegitimates the government (Rawnsley 2007: 42–57). However, scepticism is necessary regarding the effects of information flows. Quantitative research suggests that the credibility of official media is a much bigger correlate of political outlook than access to alternative information (Hu and Zhou 2002). Similarly, Thornton (2009: 202–3) suggests that problems of astroturfing and difficulties assessing the scale of dissent render it difficult for online movements to gain trust. The regime is also trying to steer online discussions through the use of paid astroturfers, known in China as the ‘fifty cent party’. It has been estimated that at least 280,000 astroturfers are paid by the Chinese regime, in addition to party members who do it for free, and independent bloggers co-opted by regime patronage (Bandurski 2008; MacKinnon 2010: 23–4). There is also a system of hiring college students to work part-time as internet police and censors (Qiu 2009: 11).

Transnational digital networks of dissent and protest The struggle is worthwhile, if it provides new ways to communicate with people and society. If someone is not free, I am not free. Ai Weiwei (quoted in Elmhirst 2012) Overall we feel that every person has a right to express themselves and this right of expression is fundamentally linked to our happiness and even our existence. When a society constantly demands that everyone should abandon this right, then the society becomes a society without creativity. It can never become a happy society. Ai Weiwei video interview with Lamborn (2012) The images and words that commenced this section show the global media literacy of celebrity dissident Ai Weiwei, which extends to the appropriation of the popular ‘Gangnam Style’ internet meme. This suggests that Ai is an artist and dissident who understands social media activism and knows how to obtain and retain the attention of a global audience. Ai Weiwei here shows himself to be more attuned to the global mediascape than the Chinese regime, which persists in its scepticism towards cyberspace and global media culture. It is thus not entirely inaccurate to say that Ai has ‘escaped’ through YouTube: he is able to exist within an alternative sociopolitical community through a computer-mediated transition to a global scale. 221

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Figure 13.1 Screenshot (no. 1) of artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style incorporating handcuffs in his dance routine Source: From video posted on YouTube by Triplenickel 25 October 2012 (Ai 2012).

Figure 13.2 Screenshot (no. 2) of artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style incorporating handcuffs in his dance routine Source: From video posted on YouTube by Triplenickel 25 October 2012 (Ai 2012).

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Figure 13.3 Twitter screenshot: debating Chinese dissidents and western values on Twitter, 30 July 2012

This type of dissident is partly a product of immaterial labour development in China. Intellectuals and artists, involved in what has been termed immaterial affective labour (Hardt and Negri 2000; Karatzogianni and Schandorf 2012), are often expected to be dissidents, and the correlation of dissent and intellectual status are expressed in artistic and literary awards to Chinese dissidents. This expectation of dissent is transmitted from the west via global discourse, and runs against a Chinese tradition expecting intellectuals to serve the state. Intellectuals in China move within a space in which limits to government tolerance constantly shift. China also has a division between Tizhi (official system) writers and Minjian (literally ‘among the people’, i.e. unofficial) authors. Minjian intellectuals often admit to being outsiders, but deny being dissidents or activists as they seek to stay just inside the margins of regime tolerance (Zhou 2005: 779–803). The Chinese regime is enthusiastic about international recognition of intellectuals, but unhappy when they use their status to demand reforms. For instance, when Mo Yan won a Nobel Prize for Literature, party propagandist Li Changchun observed that it ‘reflects the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China’ (Tatlow 2012a), ignoring Mo’s call for the release of Liu Xiaobo, a previous prize winner from 2010. Similarly, when Liao Yiwu won the German Book Trade’s Peace Prize, he accepted his award with ‘a scorching speech whose theme was: “This empire must break apart”’ (Tatlow 2012b). The style of transnational dissent discussed here, resonates with broader cases of scale-jumping as a means to appeal to the global community to protect human rights. Wanning Sun (2010: 540) explains the usefulness for the scale-jumping concept: Chinese media within the context of two related social processes: a growing social–spatial stratification within China on the one hand, and the formation of widespread but uneven translocal linkages on the other. Additionally, it may help us gain a clearer appreciation of how communication technologies and media practices either assist or inhibit the activity of scale-fixing or scale-jumping, activities that are engaged in by various players: the state, capital, individuals, and of course, media institutions. In other cases, such a rescaling has given considerable power to local actors whose political opportunities are blocked at a national level, through appeals using global human rights discourse (Sikkink 1993: 411–41). The internet encourages such scale-jumping. As Severo et al. (2011) argued, an internet posting moves an issue from a local to a global scale. This is partially the case in China as the regime is unable to control hacktivist groups located outside China (Qiu 2004: 113). This allows dissident groups to promote what Thornton (2009: 187–8) calls a ‘boomerang’ effect, with activism curving around local repression and indifference to generate foreign pressure on local elites. For instance, Ai Weiwei stands out as particularly able to use the global mediascape, first in his use of social media to solicit funds, and second in conforming to the model of ‘explicit’ dissident which the western press understands. He uses this mediaconstructed role to engage with an international audience. Ai has also attempted to articulate 223

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transnational dissident concerns with wider social unrest in China. In particular, he has taken part in campaigns over the government’s handling of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in which 90,000 people died. Despite this repression, Ai, like many Chinese dissidents, stops short of a democratisation agenda, instead calling for liberalisation. In this, he is in continuity with many Minjian intellectuals. However, he is too explicit to be Minjian, and is rather the style of dissident that the west understands and appreciates as he is explicit and connected at the international level via social media and artist circles in major cities around the globe. For example his art is exhibited internationally and a movie made about his activism was played at many international film festivals. Kelliher (1993: 380) has argued that to understand what was termed ‘the democracy movement’ (minzhu yundong or shortened as minyun) in its various phases (1987–89, 1986–87 and 1989) means to ‘examine how Chinese intellectuals conceived of democracy; what political role . . . assigned for themselves; and what sort of elite–mass relations prevailed within the movement, between intellectuals, on the one hand, and workers and peasants, on the other’. In his analysis, Kelliher argues that mainstream activists who dominated the movement focused on liberalisation, as in the establishment of rights to protect people’s freedoms from government interference. It was only radical elements of the movement who pushed for democratisation and popular sovereignty. It is worth diverting here to add that one of the major articulators of Chinese dissidence are political exiles and the diaspora in western countries, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan (for instance see Rawnsley and Rawnsley 2012: 398–403). Yet it is the historical context that can provide the answer to the – up until now – failure of protest, dissidents and resistance groups to topple the communist regime, effectuate reform or engage in any sort of dialogue with the elites forming the hierarchies of the state apparatuses. When an opportunity seemed to present itself in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2011, dissident calls for mobilisation seemed to meet with little popular response. This failure to construct an overarching, popular dissident project is partly a result of the authoritarian practices routinised in contemporary China, from internet surveillance to detention in labour camps to the everyday presence of street wardens and police. Another partial explanation is provided in the assertion by Kelliher (1993: 379–96) that one of the reasons has been dissidents’ demand for liberalisation, instead of democratisation. However, there are also problems in that the multitude, a thousand plateaus of dissent and rebellion – celebrity dissent, rural and labour unrest, and separatism – remains unarticulated under a common frame. This pushes dissent back into the arms of the regime. The Kelliher argument is significant also in another sense. Intellectuals monopolised the debate, creating an idea that excluded mass supporters, and were unable to talk to peasants and workers in a language they understood, while the urban–rural divide devastated prospects for a mass democratic movement (Kelliher 1993: 381). This democracy was limited in a sense to intellectuals to the extent that Kelliher argues that ‘the notion of elite democracy was a close cousin to the new authoritarianism (xin quanweizhuyi) – the hard government/soft economy variety, the notion that democracy would have to wait until the economy developed’ (Kelliher 1993: 381). Within China, moves towards contestation on the up–down axis can be seen in terms of the still more cautious emergence of a networked civil society. Guobin Yang’s voluminous work in particular makes a strong case that the internet is driving an emerging civil society or public sphere in China. Within China, tolerated civil society groups have emerged synergistically with the internet, facilitating participation (Yang 2003: 405). For example, the emergence of environmental NGOs ‘coincided with the development of the internet in China’ (Yang 2005: 58). Yang goes as far as to suggest that China is undergoing ‘a veritable associational revolution’ fuelled by the internet (Yang 2009a). The incipient, dynamic nature of local civil society has 224

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rendered it particularly prone to adopt online methods (Yang 2003: 406–7), with social uses emerging earlier than e-commerce and e-government (Yang 2003: 411). Guiheux (2009: 135–6) suggests that the internet has contributed to an increase in the number and range of political voices in China. The emergence of Chinese civil society, effectively an included stratum in negotiation with market and state, is still severely constrained by the context, though this has not prevented it from negotiating the relationship (Yang 2005: 66). Reese and Dai (2009: 221–31) observe that censorship now takes place against a background of global connectivity, with bloggers emerging as a media watchdog criticising censorship. The 2009 Panyu anti-incinerator protest in Guangdong shows the importance of modern technologies in generating pressure for protesters’ aims (Zhao 2011: 17–25). Suggesting that this is linked to the middle-class, upwardly mobile constituency of the protests, Katherine Zhao argues that the internet was used to get around regime censorship. Methods such as blocking websites, censoring newspapers and interfering with protesters’ transport arrangements proved insufficient given protesters are constantly evolving their use of ICTs. In addition, protesters were using modern technologies to disseminate live information, research and present alternative information, debunk government claims, and deter repression by filming officials (Zhao 2011: 20). New technologies create a means to challenge regime framing in such a way that the ‘rightfulness’ of protest can be articulated. She also draws attention to the post-representational nature of the protest in which, when told to select representatives for negotiation, the crowd chanted: ‘We don’t want to be represented’ (Zhao 2011: 17). However, protest leaders seem in practice to have tried to keep the movement within non-transgressive bounds (Zhao 2011: 23). The internet is crucial in allowing such environmental movements to succeed. Ma Yan, an environmentalist who won the Goldman Prize, pointed to social media as being responsible for the frequency of environmental protests in China: ‘Social media is a game changer. People can educate themselves and share information’ (Larson 2012). A recent example of how social media accelerate protest is the protest against the building of a petrochemical plant in Ningbo. According to news reports, the protest by mainly middleclass residents, organised through microblogging, smartphone apps and social media, was successful in forcing the authorities to cancel the project within two days (Larson 2012). A similar case occurred in 2007, when residents in Xiamen used the internet and text messaging to coordinate a demonstration against the building of a chemical plant (Yang 2009a: 129). Another such protest – which succeeded without much government opposition – was directed against the extension of a train line, which would reduce house values and pose a health risk (Cunningham and Wasserstrom 2011: 17). The middle-class composition of the protest perhaps explains the widespread use of social media, but this protest also prefigures possible future mobilisations as the internet spreads to working-class and rural populations. It seems likely that the Chinese regime will have increasing difficulty in its strategy of using information blocks to impede social movements. Another successful example, mainly involving students, another group of ‘internet haves’, saw online protests rapidly diffuse around a murder at Beijing University in 2000. Protests on campus and online were closely coordinated, and the issue rapidly spread from the murder itself to issues of free speech online (Yang 2003: 469–72). Yang concludes that ‘the internet facilitates if not completely satisfies the key conditions of the emergence of popular protest’, overcoming information problems and offering speedy, low-risk means of communication (Yang 2003: 472). Research on participants in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong similarly suggest that the internet was an important mobilising channel, with 54.0 per cent listing the internet or emails as important factors motivating them to join a march (Ma 2009: 59). Protest organiser Ng Genebond first discerned widespread student concern about the ‘Article 23’ reform from web forums, 225

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then set up a website to promote the march (Ma 2009: 58). Kuah-Pearce (2009: 112) terms this part of the emergence of a ‘protest ideology’ and ‘protest space’ in Hong Kong, with antiglobalisation overtones. Another recent example of this was the Occupy camp in Hong Kong, which ironically was tolerated while sites in America and Europe were suppressed. The camp lasted nearly a year before finally being suppressed, making it the last major Occupy camp to survive (Bradsher 2010).

‘Mass incidents’ and labour resistance One recent phenomenon is the ‘large-scale internet mass incident’, which is a form of online protest usually used to censure government failures and corruption. The government has been forced to react quickly to such campaigns, and ‘rush solutions to appease public opinion’, as well as to channel them into e-government (Tong and Lei 2010: i–ii). The mass unrest phenomenon in China is difficult to quantify as most incidents are unreported. According to official sources, there are around 80,000 ‘mass incidents’ each year. The term ‘mass incident’ is regime-speak for a demonstration or revolt in which police repression or negotiation is attempted. Some of these cases involve ‘serious clashes between the public and the police’ (Li 2008). Such incidents have increased sharply, from 8,700 per year in 1993 to 23,500 in 1999, 58,000 in 2003 (Keidel 2005: 1), 80,000 in 2007 and 180,000 in 2010 (The Atlantic 2012). China has apparently changed recording criteria since then to avoid further such publicity (Goldkorn 2013). Commentators refer to the ‘extraordinary scale of social unrest’ shown by such clashes (Keidel 2005: 1). The majority of incidents are almost certainly rural, with many focused on issues of land grabs, corruption, abuse by officials or police, or pollution. Reflecting internet use patterns, these campaigns tend to express the political orientations of the middle class and students, but these concerns can also focus on the mistreatment of vulnerable people by the elite. Indeed, according to Guobin Yang, the three main issues of online campaigns are nationalism, misconduct by the powerful and harm to vulnerable individuals (Yang 2009a: 127–9). The trick with such mobilisations is to catch the attention and imagination of the mass of internet users who are mostly online for entertainment purposes. ‘The more outrageous the incident, the more likely it is to arouse the virtual crowd’ (Yang 2009a: 134). Responding actively to the space opened by tolerance of localised protests, ‘internet mass incidents’ have encouraged scrutiny at a local level. Local officials are put under mass surveillance for slips of the tongue, corruption and so on (Tong and Lei 2010: 5–6). Other campaigns target police abuse. Like street protests, it has been suggested that online protests of this kind serve as a means to vent frustration against wider problems (Tong and Lei 2010: 10) and that they are at root about ‘the dark side of economic transformation’ (Yang 2009a: 130). The modalities of such protests have been hotly debated. In terms taken from new social movement theorists Poster and Melucci, Yang (2009a: 129) argues that such campaigns are ‘symbolic challenges’. Their main significance is in allowing the public to reframe issues. In contrast, Minzer (2009: 105) argues that, in a system where performance targets matter more than formal laws or legal rights, ‘disgruntled parties’ have learnt that internet campaigns and mass petitions or protests (which put local leaders in violation of targets) are more effective than formal processes. The success of such protests shows both the regime’s fear of widespread dissent and its preparedness to make partial concessions to head it off. In a cautionary analysis, Zheng (2008) warns that the most effective campaigns have been those that do not challenge the regime itself, instead dividing different factions of the regime against each other. When regime legitimacy is at stake, a repressive response it still typical. Activism is thus typically complicit with the regime’s use of the internet as a regime feedback mechanism (p. 165). Conceding on 226

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such issues can be a way to prolong CCP rule without enacting substantive reforms (MacKinnon 2010: 11). The mechanism of scale-jumping is also central to such protests, which often target local issues or problems, but bypass local power blockages by operating on a national scale. Such developments have led to hopes that democracy is slowly emerging through everyday networks. In contrast, Wang (2009: viii) has concluded that ‘the internet is unlikely to offer democratic hope for China’. This is because most users do not take part in political activities, as they participate in government-sponsored activity due to nationalism (Wang 2009: ix). He suggests that Chinese netizens are most likely to protest against foreign forces, in continuity with grassroots nationalism (Wang 2009: 39–40). The regime seems to encourage this channelling of discontent by being relatively tolerant of such protests (Wang 2009: 104). Internet use does not statistically predict protest participation (Wang 2009: 112), though this is perhaps to be expected given the correlation of internet use with high social status. Western-based websites often act as redistributors of underground dissident material (Abbott 2001: 103). For instance, the Epoch Times, a Falun Gong-linked newspaper, claims to have distributed one of its texts to 2.3 million Chinese users, and drawn 15 million into its campaign to renounce CCP membership (Thornton 2009: 179). Thornton also suggests that the Epoch Times acts as an amplifier of successful actions (2009: 184). Hence, resistance to the Great Firewall continues to take subversive forms. According to Qiu (2009: 13), ‘[t]he global networked nature of such oppositional forces is the most fundamental source of frustration’ for China. However, activists outside a closed political context have limited leverage over regimes (van Laer and van Aelst 2009: 246). In related cases within China, students use media such as bulletin board systems (BBSs) to re-post controversial material in protest at its censorship (Zhou 2006: 218). In 2009, Chinese users overran a German website called the ‘Berlin Twitter Wall’, using it to get around censorship (MacKinnon 2010: 2). In addition, the fluidity of the internet has proven useful to both sides, as in the case of the purported resignation of official Meng Weizai, in which resignations and denunciations were exchanged by the two sides (Thornton 2009: 179–81). Such contestation on the up–down axis seems particularly risky, however. There is something of an anomaly that mass workers’ protests often occur without serious repression, but visible dissidents like supporters of Charter 08 can be sentenced to a decade in jail. Much depends on whether a protest can be framed in terms drawing on the regime’s own heritage – for instance, strikes against foreign companies (Cunningham and Wasserstrom 2011: 15–16). The regime also seems harsher on protests which ‘have the potential to draw support across generations, across classes, and across the country’ than on those focused on local issues (Cunningham and Wasserstrom 2011: 18). Further, Chinese workers continue to be subject to the hegemony of the market and of the state (Blecher 2002: 287). Pun (2005: 194) argues that global capital and market mechanisms have inflicted an unprecedented wound on society and that migrant workers have not become a new working class because the state has impeded their emergence: ‘Dagongmei, as half peasants and half proletariat, are displaced subjects produced by the hybrid conjugation of state and market machines.’ Lee (2007: 71) discusses a range of protests emerging from Chinese workers, differentiating them into a number of categories: protests against wage and pension arrears; neighbourhood protests over public services; bankruptcy and redundancy protests; protests against corruption and abuse. Despite the diversity of issues, Lee suggests there is an underlying continuity beneath workers’ grievances. ‘The common denominator underlying these incidents is a pervasive working class feeling of betrayal by the state and victimisation by the market economy’ (Lee 2007: 71). In this sense, these are protests of desperation. Lee looks at how workers frame themselves in 227

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protests, including the ‘masses’ (qunzhong), ‘weak and disadvantaged groups’ (ruoshi qunti), ‘working class’ (gongren jieji) and ‘citizens’ (gongmin). He makes an argument that ‘class consciousness is muted’ because of problems arising from the identification of working-class power with state socialism. Since new workers (particularly migrants) must confront the domination of the capitalist class while also being excluded from the traditional categories of state socialism, this causes difficulties (Lee 2007: 195). Uneven development provides the driving force behind such unrest. While some are not directly economic, they are generally ‘reported as reflecting depressed economic conditions affecting the demonstrators’ (Keidel 2005: 1; Hung 2010: 336). Many protests are directly economic, focusing on issues such as pay, layoffs and water rights. Others focus on forced displacement, for instance due to desertification. Even ethnic conflicts often have an economic subtext (Keidel 2005: 2–3). Such problems arise from the shifts entailed by neoliberal reforms, and Chinese peasants and workers ‘attribute their difficulties to injustice and government incompetence’ (Keidel 2005: 6), an analysis brought to crisis point by corruption and misconduct (Keidel 2005: 7–8). The usual modality is for protests to target local injustices and demand central government support to resolve them. According to Keidel’s analysis, there are two layers to grievances. Most of their ‘basic energy’ comes from ‘dissatisfaction over the impact of economic reforms’, but this is often intensified by ‘widespread enterprise and government corruption and malfeasance’ (Keidel 2005: 1). The role of the internet is important in spreading information about such protests and making repression costly, because it may backfire and thus lead to larger protests. The Weng’an incident discussed by Li (2008) is a case in which the internet enabled a rapid spread of information, bypassing regime disinformation and denial. It was reported that 10,000 people attacked official buildings as part of a revolt resulting from a suspicious death blamed on local officials. The spread of images from the revolt required the regime to back down from its initial position of denial and to admit the existence of the revolt. Li goes as far as to argue that the Dengist strategy of using state violence against protests to prevent public demands is no longer effective, as the public has become ‘a power beyond law’. With incidents channelling bottled-up anger, and information now more accessible than before due to the internet, repression is no longer enough (Li 2008). This creates a spectre of the possible spread of revolt: the potential for revolution created by the digital materialisation of protest, theorised as the ‘revolutionary virtual’ during the Arab Spring uprisings (Karatzogianni 2013: 159–75). When this risk occurs, the regime no longer resorts mainly to the suppression of dissent, but instead channels unrest against local officials. As a result, in the case of Weng’an, ‘the primary target of official sanction was not the rioting townspeople but the local officials’ (Li 2008). According to Elizabeth Economy, protests are usually ‘local in nature and generally resolved with a combination of payoffs, arrests, and promises of future improvement’, occasionally supplemented by ‘action against local officials’ (Economy 2004). The regime relies on handling them ‘like brush fires’, treating each as an isolated case and containing any broader challenge. Economy suggests that this is being undermined by the growing scale of mobilisations, particularly against dam-building, which now cross local and provincial boundaries. Similarly, Lum (2006: 12) suggests that protests have become better organised due to internet and cellphone technologies. Ecological protests are beginning to link Beijing-based NGOs, which employ virtual communication and lobby for central government support, with militant villagers, who use tactics such as taking officials hostage. In one case, an NGO took villagers to a previous resettlement site to expose inadequate provision. In another, local students acted as bridging connectors to bring local issues onto the internet. Hence, growing connectedness is undermining the potential for control in the face of socio-political uses of the internet. If business-as-usual 228

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proves insufficient, the regime’s options seem to be more extreme repression or reform (Economy 2004). The modalities of internet use within this type of activism are mainly socio-political. Huang and Yip (2012: 201–23) examine the Panyu and Xiamen protests and suggest that the internet had four main uses: as information-disclosure platform, site of discussion, mobilisation structure and means to find external allies. This typology is typical of socio-political uses of the internet, which focus on mobilisation and network-building. Yang (2009a: 137–8) highlights three sociopolitical uses of the internet impacting on the offline world: the instantaneous advertisement of offline protests, the dissemination of online content as posters and the use of the internet as an organising space. Similarly, Cai (2008: 24–42) suggests that the pervasiveness of mobile phones and recording devices makes it more difficult for the state to resort to repression. The pattern can be traced through a number of revolts. Another example occurred in Guangxi Chuang autonomous region in 2007. Local officials launched a hard-line drive to enforce the one-child policy, including forced abortions and home demolitions, sparking local unrest in which official buildings were destroyed. This is another case in which policies were reversed due to unrest, although it is also notable that the harsh crackdown violated central instructions. Local officials were placed in an impossible position between hard targets and restricted methods, which led them to violate the latter. Similarly, in 2005 an attack by hired assailants on farmers protesting against a land grab, in which six villagers were killed, was captured on video and publicised on the internet, leading the regime to fire two local leaders and reverse the land grab (Lum 2006: 4–5). Even more spectacularly, in 2012 residents of Wukan successfully defeated a land grab by local politicians, seizing control of their village and expelling police. After five days, the government backed down and not only reversed the land grab, but also allowed villagers to elect their own local leaders (The Atlantic 2012). In 2010, a strike at the Honda Lock car parts factory by under-educated migrant workers revealed strikers to be ‘surprisingly tech-savvy’. Accounts were spread online within hours, action coordinated by website, videos of security guard brutality uploaded and stories of a previous labour victory accessed online. Strikers stopped using the QQ text messaging service after it was infiltrated by guards, but got around censorship by using code words and alternative networks such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (Barboza and Bradsher 2010). In another case, Severo et al. (2011) study the internet spread of a ‘Bloody Map’ showing patterns of violent evictions in China. The relatively positive outcome of some such conflicts is partly due to their recuperability. Because they are focused on the left–right axis and mainly local in scope (even though they function as a synecdoche for wider discontent), they can often be defused through local concessions. Nevertheless, such protests can be seen as shifting power relations without rupturing the dominant transcript, a key modality of infrapolitics (Scott 2012: 112–17). Protests are usually theorised through the model of ‘rightful resistance’ using dominant rhetoric and demands for realisation of existing rights and policies (O’Brien and Li 2006). Hung (2010) suggests that the growth of ‘mass incidents’ in China indicates that people fighting for their rights – known as the weiquan movement in Chinese – pose a greater threat to the regime than before, and that modern ICTs are part of the reason for this, with ‘at least some coordination of action/ movement’ (p. 331). He suggests that citizens ‘are now being awakened and empowered to set their own policy agendas both in cyberspace and physical life’ (p. 337). However, he also notes that such movements typically do not question regime legitimacy, instead pursuing rights within the dominant frame (p. 333). Furthermore, the fact that even western observers cannot establish the sites, causes, casualties or outcomes of most ‘mass incidents’ points to a continuing information problem. 229

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The impact of the internet extends to labour movements, despite their arising mainly among the information ‘have-less’. As Qiu (2009) observes, knowledge of ICTs is spreading ‘to a greater portion of society’, leading to ‘the formation of grassroots urban networks among have-less youth’. This has an amplifying effect on dissent, partially overcoming information problems: ‘The problems triggered by for-profit reform force angry youth to roar together – not only in Zhengzhou and Dalian but also online and in the blogosphere – to protest the unfair situations that they are thrown into. This time, their voices are heard’ (p. 140). Another example discussed by Qiu (2009: 194) about the power of blogs in the pre-social media period was the example of Uniden employees in a Japanese electronics plant in Shenzhen, where the workers used blogs to broadcast the progress of their collective action in 2004. Nevertheless, Qiu (2009) does not view working-class access to ICTs as constituting a sufficient condition for cultural and political empowerment: ‘Given the early formative stage of the technosocial emergence, it still has to involve larger segments of the urban society, including elite members, mass media, and institutionalised forces, especially the state’ (p. 243). However, a couple of limits have appeared to this type of dissent. There is substantial dissent among rural and labour groups, but their dissent does not overlap substantially with international celebrity dissidents. In general, popular groups are nostalgic for the Maoist period, and hence not necessarily critical of state authoritarianism. However, they tend to be sceptical of neoliberal economic reform and concerned about the problems (such as corruption and instability) which it has brought in its wake (Tang 2001: 890–909). Opinion surveys show declining satisfaction with neoliberal reforms, particularly among rural and working-class groups (Tang 2001: 896–904). In terms of the political compass, this locates them in the top left quadrant. Their grievance with the government runs mainly along the left–right axis, which places them diametrically opposite the celebrity dissidents. In Hu and Zhou’s (2002) values mapping, communism shares with post-materialism a spiritual rather than physical needs focus, which places both at odds with individualistic materialism, but differentiates them along an individualism–collectivism axis. Public opinion research in China suggests that there is no significant critical mass for change. Pro-regime attitudes are strongest on issues of social control with majority support for state authoritarianism, but weaker support for neoliberalism. However, people also report feeling increasingly disempowered, more so than during the Maoist or Dengist eras, as survey results have indicated a declining sense of political efficacy (Tang 2001: 890–909). Another limit is the relative inaccessibility of new technologies. Chinese internet use has been historically concentrated in the areas (coastal cities) and strata (urban educated middle class) that benefited from neoliberalism (Abbott 2001: 106). This stratification has been undermined as usage has spread, but nevertheless rural and labour strata remain relative ‘information haveless’. Today, around 29.0 per cent of the Chinese population has internet access (Tong and Lei 2010: i). However, 28.8 per cent of users are students, 28.5 per cent white-collar and professional workers, and 7.5 per cent government staff. Only 2.8 per cent are farmers, 4.4 per cent documented workers, 2.4 per cent migrant workers and 9.8 per cent unemployed (Tong and Lei 2010: 3). Hence, ‘those who may benefit the most from counter-hegemonic uses of the net may be precisely those who have least access to it’ (Warf and Grimes 1997: 270). People in these groups tend to be digital ‘have-nots’ or ‘have-less’. However, Qiu (2009: 243) documents the spread of the internet to the ‘have-less’, leading to a working-class network society used both for self-betterment and labour control. He also suggests that the spread of the internet today is insufficient for labour empowerment, with internet use still relying on alliances with other forces. Finally it is important to note that migrants are excluded from protest. A large portion of the population is migrants from rural areas who, lacking an urban hukou (i.e. registered residency) and corresponding right to live in the cities, are equivalent to undocumented 230

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migrants in other areas. Local migrants rarely develop a sense of community in their locality as they lack rights, and they are often blamed for social problems by other residents.

Nationalism, ethnic, religious minorities and the cybercrime frame Since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, the Chinese regime has constructed a new ideological basis in a nationalist narrative aggressively promoted through media, propaganda and education (S.S. Zhao 1998). Key aspects of this narrative include a golden age of national greatness, the ‘Century of Humiliation’ when greatness was destroyed by imperialists and internal division, and a current re-emergence as a major power. Emergence is articulated somewhat anomalously with economic growth, and seen as dependent on national unity and the prevention of chaos. National division and disorder are seen as sources of misery and weakness, usually caused by foreigners (Zheng 1999: 13–15). Nationalism in China includes elements of pride about economic growth, and a narrative blaming state weakness for earlier humiliations (Zheng 1999: 2, 17; also see Ma, Chapter 12 in this volume). The promotion of nationalism has allowed a relatively free cyberspace to nevertheless remain firmly under regime control. Nationalism is a powerful force in Chinese cyberspace, which includes the aggressive promotion of nationalist discourse throughout the Chinese diaspora, and the crowdsourced reproduction of a narrative of stolen greatness and revival (Wu 2007). Chinese survey respondents were almost twice as likely to protest over foreign compared to domestic threats (Wang 2009: 179). Nationalism is often seen as counteracting the tendency for cyberspace and indeed protest more broadly to become sites of dissent, with nationalistic netizens and protesters prone to follow the government line even when they have the power to counteract it. Indeed, there are recurring rumours that the regime encourages protests targeting foreign countries as a safety valve (Sinclair 2002: 26). Nationalism is used to encourage passivity and compliance in the face of unpopular reforms (Tang 2001: 908). Indeed, authoritarian beliefs seem to be actually increasing in response to the apparent success of Chinese development (Tang 2001: 899–900). Although this is usually seen as reinforcing regime control of the internet, it also creates spaces for autonomous political discussions through which users ‘challenge the state monopoly over domestic nationalist discursive production’ (Liu 2006: 144) and in which the nationalism stoked by the regime spills over outside its control (Hughes 2002: 205–24). Wang’s research suggests that nationalists are no less likely to protest against the Chinese government than others – the loyalty derived from nationalism seems to be offset by greater online political activity, with the internet effectively weakening the ‘taming effect’ of nationalist discourse (Wang 2009: 189–91). Hence, the internet can function as a route around ideological blockages. On the whole, however, it seems that the power of nationalism as a form of reactive networkformation allows the emancipatory potential of the internet to be countered. Networked power emerges, but takes increasingly reactive forms and is thereby plugged into dominant hierarchical power apparatuses. It is this pervasive nationalism that allows the regime and its supporters to discredit transnational dissidents by portraying them as pro-western and anti-Chinese. In the Global Times, which reflects the Chinese government’s views, Renping Shan (2012) asks dissidents to overcome their hatred, portraying them as irrationally hostile to the regime. He claims that dissidents are ‘closing themselves off’ to Chinese reform, that ‘Chinese are used to westerners using dissidents’, and that prizes for dissidents will fail to undermine relations between China and the west, as he assumes they intend. The logic here is that dissidents are dangerous, because of their potential to use the global mediascape to pressure for reforms. 231

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The major impact of the violence of nationalist discourses has been the repression of ethnic and religious minorities. The most extreme instances of repression have without a doubt occurred in Tibet and Xinjiang, which are the locations of strong separatist movements. The Chinese media have framed conflicts in Tibet and Xinjiang as ethnic conflicts, and have drawn on a powerful nationalist discourse in countering them. The repression of these protests and revolts has been particularly fierce, with hundreds rounded up and some protesters sentenced to death. Both movements, however, are highly active online, with networked online movements providing a context in which digital nationalisms are sustained in the face of repression. The Tibetan cause is particularly well situated. Powers (2004) conducted a Web search on Tibet and found that, of the first 230 uniform resource locators (URLs), all but three were proTibetan, the three being Chinese government sites (p. viii). He observes that ‘modern technology, including the advent of affordable desktop publishing and the internet, allows a people that has lost the war militarily to continue the ideological struggle through the production and reproduction of its version of events’ (pp. 3–4). The Tibetan exile leadership, including the Dalai Lama, use the internet to disseminate speeches and other material, and have generated worldwide movements such as the commemorative demonstrations on 10 March (p. 143). This strategy is at once socio-political, using the internet mainly to promote a particular view, and ethno-religious, establishing a conflict frame between two contending accounts. However, the regime has managed to mobilise nationalist counter-protesters to target Tibetan protests abroad, particularly during the Olympic torch relay protests of 2008 (Wang 2009: 158–9). In Australia, Chinese officials have also been caught sneaking copies of pro-regime works into bookshops (Powers 2004: vii). A similar process of survival through the internet is observed in the persistence of various suppressed spiritual groups such as Falun Gong and qigong groups. Exiled leaders were able to continue to issue directives to followers. Aided by public relations professionals in the west, such sects converted into ‘cybersects’ able to maintain a network of believers while remaining anonymous (Thornton 2009: 186). In the case of Falun Gong, Yuezhi Zhao refers to the group’s media as ‘rhizomatic’, ‘global’, ‘multilayered’, ‘interactive’ and increasingly computer-mediated, to the extent that ‘the internet has been instrumental to its more prominent emergence as a transnational global community’ (Zhao 1998 cited in Yang 2009b). Furthermore, they are even able, through an exemplary case of scale-jumping, to organise protests around the world whenever Chinese leaders visit (Tai 2006: 106). In one case, they were even able to hack into and broadcast on a local radio station in China (Thornton 2009: 198). Uighur nationalism in Xinjiang, in common with similar movements worldwide, is a historical construct arising from the educational activities of intellectuals, and took place prior to the rise of the CCP (Schluessel 2009: 383–402). Today, the internet continues such educative activity. Indeed, research suggests that the modern mediascape and related consumption are causing Uighur culture to thrive and expand (Erkin 2009: 417–28). In this context, Uighur are turning to the internet to construct narratives of national identity, a phenomenon referred to as cyber-separatism (Gladney 2004: 229–59). Compared to Tibet, the Uighur cause has proven unattractive in the west due to associations with Islamism, but has powerful resonance in Muslim countries, especially Turkey (Shan and Chen 2009: 15–16). Chinese commentators, reluctant to admit a national dimension, chalk the conflicts down to economic inequalities which persist in spite of affirmative action (Shan and Chen 2009: 14). In particular, minorities face disadvantages from lack of contacts in the Han-dominated national market, and tend to be outside the ‘modern’ capitalist economy. Local handicrafts and commerce are often decimated by Hanled modern industries, and Uighurs therefore believe that economic growth benefits only Hans (Shan and Chen 2009: 18–19). It has been suggested that the 2009 ‘Urumqi Riots’ in Xinjiang 232

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were spread by a ‘ripple effect’ arising from ‘the power of modern communications, such as cell-phones and internet’, which explains for instance why an initial fight in Guandong was so quickly translated into conflict in Xinjiang (Shan and Chen 2009: 15). Shan and Chen (2009: 15) suggest that the regime had learnt from the Tibet unrest of 2008, rapidly shutting off cell phones and the internet, but allowing access by foreign media. Nationalism also leads to emerging forms of cyberconflict. Nationalist hacktivists react intensely to international conflicts, emerging quickly to coordinate mobilisations. Their ‘collectivist tendencies and links to state and corporate establishments’ set them aside from western hacktivists (Qiu 2004: 116), and also clearly mark them as an ethno-religious cyberconflict group. It takes the form of a recurring ‘short-term political spasm’, which emerges quickly and aggressively, and disperses quickly under state pressure (Qiu 2004: 116). In short, China is managing to contain the internet not only through repression, but also through the constrained flourishing of forms of online self-activity which are marked by mimicry and conformity to the dominant discourse. This model is unstable, requiring both the continuation of Chinese economic growth (the absence of which would cause a legitimacy crisis), and a failure to obtain its goal (the achievement of which would lead to a post-materialist culture and resultant antiauthoritarian movements similar to the 1960s in the global north). The successful use of nationalism allows China to rely on hackers to take part in cyberconflict from a pro-government perspective in the event of conflicts with America, Taiwan, Japan and so on. This is considerably different from the basically hostile relationship between western regimes and locally based hacker communities. China has taken part in crackdowns on piracy and hacking, but in an unenthusiastic way, reflecting the ‘killing the chicken to scare the monkeys’ principle. In 2010, China responded to international criticism by arresting three hackers, but the move was denounced as ‘window dressing’ by Canadian cybersecurity expert Ronald J. Deibert (Bradsher 2010). China also claims to have arrested hundreds of domestic hackers, but focused this crackdown on hacking of Chinese victims. There is an exception for anti-regime hacking, which on occasion has even been met with death sentences (Abbott 2001: 103). Compared to most western countries, however, China continues to be a relatively welcoming environment for hacking, and also for commercial cybercrime activities. In effect, China seems to be adopting an approach of predominantly seeking to tolerate and recuperate hackers, in contrast to the western response of seeking suppression. This situation potentially serves to locate China at the cutting edge of technological development, as well as providing military advantages. It allows China to draw on local hackers to gain advantages in asymmetrical warfare and to carry out interstate cyberconflict. It also serves to keep hackers out of the dissident milieu, keeping them focused on ethnoreligious forms of cyberconflict which are useful to the regime. Hacking as a form of asymmetrical warfare is encouraged by Chinese military strategists (Qiao and Wang 2002; Karatzogianni 2010: 4). The Chinese government uses hackers to attack the records and accounts of dissidents based outside China (Chase and Mulvenon 2002: 71). For instance, after the 1999 organisation of a demonstration online by Falun Gong, the regime engaged in cyberattacks against related websites abroad, ‘transform[ing] cyberspace into something of an electronic battlefield’ (Wacker 2003: 66). The best-known incident, announced in January 2010, was massive hacking of Google from inside China targeting both dissident gmail accounts and Google’s source code (Karatzogianni 2010: 1). China also appears to be using hackers to ‘steal’ American software (Karatzogianni 2010: 5), aiding technological leapfrogging and breaking superprofit monopolies. If China has an emerging sector to power its rise to hegemonic status, it may well turn out to be the quasi-black market mass production of virtual and real-world goods in an environment 233

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of loose enforcement of copyright laws – an environment that is already allowing Chinese companies to leapfrog technological and immaterial gaps and undercut monopolistic western prices with generic versions of consumer goods. Similarly, despite crackdowns China remains particularly prone to piracy, which was crucial to the transfer of internet technologies to China in a context of global quasi-monopolies (Qiu 2004: 107–8). China reportedly has one of the highest piracy rates in the world, with a 95.0 per cent piracy rate for movies far exceeding US and EU levels, and the USA claiming significant trade losses as a result (Eschenfelder et al. 2005: 317–31). Another example of overlaps between illicit internet activities and the regime was the story revealed in 2011 that prisoners in labour camps were being forced to play online games as part of the vast ‘gold farming’ industry run out of China (users play online games in a repetitive way so as to generate in-game currency, which companies sell for real-world money). If China is able to emerge from dependency, it may be that it takes the form of a particularly large, and correspondingly difficult to control, ‘island in the net’, ironically creating a climate for the new forms of virtual productivity which have long been theorised by cyber-libertarians, under the nose of one of the most authoritarian censorship regimes in the world.

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14 Workers and peasants as historical subjects The formation of working-class media cultures in China Wanning Sun

Economic reforms, industrialisation, urbanisation and migration since the 1980s have given rise to what is now often described as the ‘new working class’ in China (Tong 2012; Qiu 2009; Qiu and Wang 2012: 159–92; Leung and So 2012: 84–104). But is there such a thing as a working-class media culture and, if so, what shape and form does a working-class media culture take? What are the political, social and economic contexts in which a working-class media culture comes to exist? And finally, if there is such a thing as the working-class media culture, then what is the relationship between class analysis and media studies in China, and indeed how should future research agendas be shaped by these concerns? This chapter addresses these questions: in the first section, I discuss the master-to-subaltern transformation in the cultural politics of identity construction and provide an outline of the main media and cultural forms and practices that are associated with the new working classes in contemporary China. In the second section, I consider the empirical, methodological and analytical implications of adopting a class analysis perspective and, in so doing, provide some thoughts on the shaping of media and communication studies as a field. I argue that, for the same reason that labour sociologists cannot agree on the level of class consciousness among China’s workers (Chan and Siu 2012: 105–32; Leung and So 2012: 84–104), it is difficult to generalise about the connection between new media and communication technologies and the level of workers’ class consciousness. At the same time, I suggest that although the development of a working-class media culture is uneven and its contour somewhat unclear, its impact could be far-reaching and its social–political implication is not to be dismissed. This discussion cautions us against, on the one hand, an essentialist idea of a pure and authentic working-class media culture and, on the other hand, a dismissive view about the long-term political, social and cultural impact of working-class media practices.

From proletarian to subaltern: working-class media practices It is now widely agreed that three decades of economic reforms have transformed China from one of the most egalitarian societies in the world to one of the most unequal societies in Asia 239

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and the world (Sun and Guo 2013: 1–11; Whyte 2010; Lee and Selden 2009; Zang 2008: 53–70; Davis and Wang 2009). The impact of socio-economic stratification has been extensively documented in the work of sociologists, economists and political economists. The main beneficiaries and agents of the social– economic growth in the decades of economic reforms since the early 1980s are ‘cadres, managers, and entrepreneurs’, or what have come to be described as China’s ‘new middle class’ (Goodman 2008: 24). In contrast, workers and peasants, once members of the ‘most progressive forces of history’, representing the ‘most advanced forces of production’, have lost their status as the most favoured social groups. ‘There is no denying that large sections of the working class have lost their privilege and joined the new poor since losing their “iron rice bowl” and becoming detached from the CCP’s historical mission’ (Guo 2008: 40). The consequences of this process of class restructuring are indeed far-reaching. Workers and peasants are now described as members of the ‘disadvantaged groups’ (ruoshi qunti). Profound social changes have forced the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to make necessary adjustments to its rhetoric on class discourses. Surveying the analyses of social restructuring by China’s social scientists, Yingjie Guo identifies two crucial processes by which social classes are categorised and explained. The first is the deliberate evasion of class struggle discourse. This strategy resorts to acknowledging the reality of socio-economic stratification in reform-era China but proposes the doctrine of social harmony as a strategy of managing class conflict. The second is the process by which intellectual work circumvents rather than raises class consciousness. With the class struggle discourse made inoperable, the entire society is now urged to look up to the middle classes as exemplary of preferred values, lifestyles and behaviours (Guo 2008: 51). The Chinese workers in the neoliberal era of capital accumulation are not a monolithic entity. Noticeable differences exist in terms of grievances, pattern of mobilisation and collective action, and subjective identity between rural migrant workers and state-enterprise workers, and between workers in private and joint-venture factories in south China, and rust-belt state workers in north China (Lee 2007; Leung and So 2012: 84–104). However, across the board, in terms of media representations of the Chinese worker, we have witnessed dramatic shifts in narrative strategies, discursive positions and ideological agendas. The identity of the worker has changed, along with the political, social and economic meaning of work. ‘Workers’, which once denoted dignity and ownership of the means of production, are now widely described as dagong individuals, denoting casual labourers for hire in the capitalist labour market. In the socialist era, workers engaged in labour (laodong), which gave them dignity, pride and moral legitimacy; now they are rural migrant workers (nong min gong, meaning peasant worker), who exist as cheap labour, which is either in excess or short supply, and who are in constant need of selfimprovement in order to make themselves qualified for capitalist production (Yan 2008; Pun 2005; Sun 2009). Whereas in the socialist era they were the proletariat vanguards in possession of supreme moral leadership, they have become the object of urban and middle-class sympathy and compassion. We now are confronted with a most uncomfortable and, to the CCP, inconvenient truth: the workers and peasants may have become the masters of socialism, but are now occupying the bottom of the social hierarchy. Workers, particularly rural migrants, are now often described as people from diceng (literally meaning ‘the very bottom of the rung’) and this description evokes a spatial metaphor of a vertically arranged social hierarchy. Thus, in reality if not in rhetoric, and truer about some individuals than others, we can say that workers’ socioeconomic status has regressed to where it was before their historical fanshen. Literally meaning ‘turning over the body’, the term fanshen evokes a corporeal metaphor to connote the complete change of political identity, whereby the downtrodden have finally stood up to become speaking subjects. Fanshen therefore has the ‘extended meaning of casting off economic and political oppression and assuming full citizenship’ (Hershatter 2007: 87). Made 240

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familiar to western scholars through William Hinton’s influential book of the same title, a documentary account of the revolution in a single Chinese village (Hinton 1997), the notion of fanshen draws on Mao’s famous logic that ‘where there is oppression, there will be rebellion’, and is essential to the successful mobilisation of class consciousness, a crucial dimension of the revolutionary cause (Cai 2010). What is noteworthy is that while the ‘position reversal’ (fanshen) discourse was widely resonant with and widely used by workers and peasants in the socialist era, diceng, in contrast, is a term mostly used by urban middle-class academic and cultural elites to describe those below them. For instance, novels and poetry about rural migrants, often written by migrants themselves, are described as diceng writings (diceng xiezuo) and diceng culture (diceng wenhua). In addition, those at the bottom rung are perceived to be morally inferior, lacking in civility and ill-equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary for China’s modernisation and integration into the global economy. In the grand narrative of modernisation, the worker is no longer cast in the role of moral leadership; instead, the worker is often found wanting in ‘intellectual capability and personal quality’ (suzhi). In contrast to the discourse of dignity, the discourse of suzhi functions in the narrative of ‘elite modernist technologies’ (Jacka 2006: 56) as both an instrument of neoliberal governmentality and a technology of the self (Yan 2008; Anagnost 2004: 189–208). Eschewing the Marxist notion of class in terms of the relations of production, suzhi codes the class-based difference between rural migrants and the urban middle class. Furthermore, suzhi ‘works ideologically as a regime of representation through which subjects recognise their positions within the larger social order’ (Anagnost 2004: 193). Given that migrants construct their identities and understand their experience in reaction to and within the framework of state and popular discourses (Jacka 2006; Sun 2009; Yan 2008), the experience of migrants and the formation of migrants’ subject positions must be understood within the context of their differentiated levels of acceptance of and identification with dominant discourses, which have inevitably cast the rural migrant as being in need of suzhi development (Yan 2008). The worker is no longer a morally righteous proletarian; instead, the worker is a shadowy figure who moves across the increasingly ‘polysemic and hybrid’ discursive universe of post-Mao China, where ‘official propaganda, middle-class social reformist sensibilities, and popular concerns for hot social issues all jostle to be heard’ (Zhao 2008). As a social identity that is increasingly subject to myriad discursively and visually mediated configurations, the migrant worker exists in the contested and fraught space between the government’s tokenistic representation, market-driven urban tales inundating the popular culture sector, independent, alternative or underground documentaries on the transnational art circuits, and various forms of cultural activism engaged in by nongovernmental organisation (NGO) workers and their intellectual allies. In addition, all these ideological sites must decide on the extent to which they draw on a socialist cultural politics of the working class. Widespread socio-economic stratification has not only led to the marginalisation of the workers in a material sense, it has also given rise to the ‘culture of inequality’ (Sun 2014: 168–85), evidenced in the hegemonic language of the urban, consumer-oriented middle class, along with the marginalisation of workers’ and peasants’ voices. In other words, if the proletariat cultural practices shifted from the tactics of the resistance of the weak to assume the position of the powerful in the revolutionary narratives (Cai 2010), such power dynamics have largely been reversed in the reform era. However, this does not mean that workers and peasants in the revolutionary discourse spoke their own language; in fact, they were using the vocabulary provided by the state, and their proletariat speech acts were sponsored and organised by the state. Rather than seeing this state–people relationship as that of top-down indoctrination, Hershatter points to a mutually appropriative dynamic, whereby the people were able to borrow 241

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the official language to make sense of their own past experience of exploitation and subjugation. For Hershatter, as well as literary critic Xiang Cai, the real failure of a socialist proletariat culture is due not so much to the imposition of an official language of class domination and class struggle onto the people. Rather, it is the tendency of the official language, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, to become increasingly ‘homogenising’, ‘unilinear’, caricaturised, falsified and ‘overblown’ (Hershatter 1993: 108). Nor does this mean that Chinese workers in the neoliberal labour regime are resigned to returning to their position prior to the revolution. In a wide range of ideological spaces and discursive sites, and in different shapes and forms, workers again assume the pre-revolutionary position of resistance and rebellion, albeit in a much more technologised and mediatised form. Workers’ media practices demonstrate wildly varied levels of agency and political consciousness. They range from opportunistic engagement with the mainstream media for purposes of protecting or defending workers’ rights and interests, to active participation in media activism aimed at productive alternative, even oppositional, discourses. For instance, staring at the hegemonic power of the mainstream media, aggrieved migrant workers often make the ‘choiceless choice’ of threatening to jump from tall buildings on construction sites in order to force management to pay wages owed to them. Workers’ decisions to insert themselves into media spectacles by staging ‘extreme actions’ testifies to workers’ understanding of how to exploit media logic, but at the same time they are acutely aware that the effectiveness of their tactics are subject to the vagaries of politics (Sun 2012a: 864–79). These media spectacles, as well as workers’ involvement in them, highlight the David-versus-Goliath power imbalance that marks worker versus state/capital relations, as well as the complexity of the structure-versus-agency dialectic. Workers’ media practice also takes the form of adopting new media and communication technologies to produce alternative materials as testimonials to work conditions, labour disputes and the everyday reality of marginalisation (Xing 2012: 63–82). For instance, migrant workers have become increasingly savvy with the use of new media technologies to protect their rights and publicise individual experiences of injustice, including workplace injuries, failure to receive wages and unacceptable working and living standards (Tong 2012). Qiu (2009) refers to these incidents as ‘new media events’. Contrasting them with televised events, rituals and ceremonies, which are sleek in presentation, grand in scale and often take place in important spaces, Qiu argues that these media practices, enabled by the internet and new media technologies, nevertheless have the capacity to raise public awareness and effect real social change, even though they are small in scale. Worker activists also engage in various forms of creative practice, such as dagong poetry and fiction. Whereas one could be forgiven for thinking that dagong life in the industrial heartland, notorious for its low pay, high levels of alienation and punishing effects on the body and soul, is hardly the ideal stuff for poetry, the truth is that long work hours and lack of tertiary education has not stopped many literary-minded workers from creating poetry for self-expression. For many worker-poets, writing poems is no longer an idle pursuit. It is about finding meaning and purpose in an otherwise meaningless existence (Sun 2012b: 67–88). Many lines from dagong poetry, for instance, have been transformed into lyrics by activist songwriters and performers, enabling them to be ‘read’ and performed in a variety of formats. Sun Heng, a well-known worker-singer and songwriter from the New Worker Art and Cultural Festival in Picun, rural Beijing, regularly puts music to dagong poems and performs them for migrant worker audiences. Also, lines from dagong poetry are often chosen to accompany the visual presentations, installations and exhibitions showcasing the work and living conditions of workers, leading to a range of highly dispersed and unpredictable modes of distribution, available to both workers and urban 242

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consumers. Finally, most worker-poets utilise online spaces, particularly blogs, to publish their work and engage in dialogue with readers (Sun 2012c: 993–1010). This approach allows these writers to bypass the conventional institution of publishing. At the same time, the online reputation of some of these writers has led to book contracts with more traditional publishers (Sun 2013: 27–42). Both dagong poetry and dagong literature seek to create alternative spaces where workers’ suffering and experiences with social and economic injustice and exploitation can be narrated. In doing so, they effectively create a new space – albeit much more mediatised and in many cases virtual – to act out the new proletariat speech act of ‘speaking bitterness’. The noticeable difference with its socialist antecedent is that rather than ‘speaking bitterness of the past and savouring the current sweetness’ (yiku sitian), these new, mediatised and technologically enabled genres of speaking bitterness are records of the bitterness and suffering here and now. Although many worker-poets and worker-novelists have left the assembly line in the factory to work in ‘white-collar’ jobs, some – especially those connected with labour NGOs – make a point of identifying themselves as dagong writers, and see it as their mission to advocate for workers’ interests and class positions. Migrant workers write blogs on dagong lives, and activists and leaders from the worker community effectively use weibo (a microblogging platform similar to Twitter) to inform, mobilise, organise and coordinate collective actions against capitalist management (Qiu 2012: 173–89; also see Willnat, Wei and Martin, Chapter 11 in this volume). Other activists produce visual materials, including videos, documentaries and photography for the primary purpose of raising awareness among the wider community, as well as class consciousness among the workers. Although these grassroots media practices can hardly compete with mainstream media in terms of the scale of production and level of exposure, they nevertheless represent some nascent media forms and practices that have been made possible by the advent of digital visual technologies and online spaces (Sun 2012d: 83–100; 2012e: 135–44). It has been observed that with the exceptionally high level of uptake of mobile phones and social media platforms such as QQ (Chinese version of Skype) by rural migrant workers, engagement in new media practices has become an integral aspect of the very fabric of the everyday experience of the worker, especially workers that belong to the younger generation (Qiu 2009). In other words, workers’ media practices should no longer be considered as external to workers’ socio-economic experience as industrial labourers. They are part of the same experience. This account of the media practices favoured by workers is admittedly sketchy. Qiu and Wang’s comparison (2012: 159–92) between the workers’ cultural spaces of rural migrants in Beijing and state workers in Anshan points to divergence between rural migrant workers and state workers in terms of cultural practices and media strategies. At one end of the spectrum, witnessing media practices favoured by migrant workers which do not prima facie present themselves as active acts of opposition, one can be forgiven for thinking that mobile technologies, online technologies and social media function more as ‘opium’, diverting workers’ attention to mundane pursuits instead of making commitments to political and social causes of ‘liberation’ (Tong 2012). In some cases, rather than a tool of empowerment, the mobile phones belonging to rural migrant workers can be used by their employers for purposes of control and microsurveillance (Wallis 2013). Like their urban consumer counterparts, migrant workers spend much time in internet cafés and on their personal computers and mobile phones playing games and reading fantasy novels or ‘how to succeed’ self-help books. They also, like their urban counterparts, enthusiastically use camera phones to create a digital form of ‘autobiography’ and ‘self-portraiture’ (or ‘selfie’), with meticulous attention to and reflection on the body (Gai 2009: 199–202). Rural migrant women working in the service sector in Beijing have been found to 243

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use their phone-cameras to produce images that make sense of their displacement and to document the transformations in their lives (Wallis 2013). At the other end of the spectrum, citing the examples of factory workers using mobile phones, blogging and social media in successful organisation of strikes, collective actions and other interests-protecting activities, one is tempted to subscribe to a more hopeful view of empowerment of the worker afforded by new media technologies (Qiu 2012: 173–89).

Working-class media cultures: implications for future research So far, this discussion has traced the disappearance of the master-of-the-nation discourse and the subjectification of proletariat subjectivity in media and cultural expressions. It has also outlined a range of media and cultural forms, practices and content which bear the trademark of the oppressed, marginal and subaltern. It shows that workers, formerly the rulers and masters of the nation, have once again taken up the ‘weapons of the weak’. At the same time, the discussion also illuminates a number of themes that are worth bearing in mind in future research. First, working-class media forms and practices exist only in response to and in juxtaposition with mainstream media, including both official and commercial media. Second, the cultural politics of identity construction engaged in by both the ideological mainstream and the working classes in contemporary China are necessarily played out by referencing – critically, appropriatively and even ironically – its socialist antecedents. Third, the media forms and practices favoured by the working classes in the state-sanctioned neoliberal market economy are shaped by new media and communication technologies. In so far as the construction of the worker’s identity is concerned, this is a shift from a proletarian to subaltern identity. While the former aims to reinforce the idea of workers as members of the most progressive social forces whose values, beliefs and behaviours are to be emulated by the less progressive social classes, such as the intellectuals, the technocrats and the bourgeoisie, the latter has the main purpose of resisting hegemony and creating alternative spaces to the mainstream, while simultaneously gaining voice, visibility and recognition. As Xinyu Lü, a Marxist scholar at Fudan University, Shanghai, observes sharply, Chinese workers and peasants, who used to be the political and moral backbone of socialist China, so large in number and so indispensable to its revolutionary history, have well and truly become the ‘subaltern’ class in the Chinese contemporary polity (quoted in Zhao 2010a: 9). This reallocation of discursive resources to accommodate the interests of the urban middle class is reflected in the media practices of the ideological mainstream, which in turn predetermines the research focus of media and communication studies. For instance, there is a surfeit of research interest in China’s transnational, urban middle class as producers, intended consumers, subject matter and beneficiaries of economic reform. These include, for instance, media’s role in perpetuating the values and lifestyles of urban, middle-class consumers, discussions on the prospect of a bourgeois public sphere or civic society brought about by the use of digital, social media among the urban middle class and, of course, China’s going-out ambitions and its soft power agenda. Furthermore, there seems to be a tendency to engage in research in these areas as if they were discrete and unconnected with the pressing issue of socio-economic stratification in China. Yet, to demonstrate the hidden connection between these lines of enquiry and the issue of class inequality is precisely what makes research in Chinese media studies empirically significant. As Chinese media and communication scholar Zhengrong Hu observes, one has to wonder, as China goes full-steam ahead with its efforts to present its voice and image to the world, how this unified and positive voice and image – as a correction to the excessively western portrayals 244

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of China – can possibly incorporate the diverse interests of various social classes (Hu and Ji 2012: 32–7). Similarly, Yuezhi Zhao argues that class analysis is central to our understanding of the media and cultural sector, since this sector is not only the site of production and economic exchange, it is also the means of social organisation and the site of subjectivity formation (Zhao 2008: 76). For this reason, she argues that media and communication scholars must explore the ways in which transnational capital and domestic forces intersect to shape China’s communication sector (Zhao 2008: 18). At the same time, she also stresses the importance of studying how the media and communication sector shapes the subjectivity and class consciousness of China’s highly segmented working class, arguing forcefully that the ‘rise of China’ cannot possibly be sustained in the long run without the rise of China’s lower social classes (Zhao 2010b: 544–51). Despite the fundamental difference in the ways in which workers and peasants are represented in the two historical eras, there is little attempt to show how a retrospective review of the socialist period can be productively informed by and benefit from the hindsight of the ensuing era, which has witnessed economic reforms, market liberalisation, the reappearance of class conflicts in social life and the disappearance of the theme of class struggle in official discourses. Xiang Cai’s groundbreaking book, Revolution/Narrative (2010), a deconstructive reading of major literary works in the period 1949–66, is a conspicuous exception. In this book, Cai examines in especially fine-grained manner the discursive construction of the worker identity, the meaning of labour and purposes of the industrial modernisation in the socialist regime of truth. But such attempts have been limited to literature. In the field of media and communication studies, in comparison with the emerging body of work on the media’s coverage of workers in the reform era and workers’ activist media practices (both of which inform the discussion of this chapter so far), there is little work on the question of how workers, labour and industrial work are represented in mass media in the three decades prior to the start of the economic reforms. For instance, although we now have some knowledge of how urban commercial cinema constructs marginal social identities such as rural migrant workers (Sun 2012f: 6–20), in comparison, we know little of how films set in factories in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (and there are quite a few) negotiate the relationship between workers, party leaders and technical experts. In addition, while we have witnessed a flourishing of scholarship on the New Documentary Movement in China which focuses on rural migrants, industrial workers, gays and lesbians and other marginal identities such as HIV victims (e.g. Berry et al. 2010; also see Cao, Chapter 22 in this volume), how its predecessor, the ‘special topic’ documentary (Lü 2003), constructs workers and the significance of their labour against the background of national self-reliance and socialist modernity is relatively unclear. Similarly, we know that some young technology-savvy workers, equipped with digital camera phones, have taken up amateur photography as a way to document their work and their lives, and in doing so generate an invaluable visual source from which to understand the class experience of this social group which is large in size yet seriously underrepresented in mainstream visual culture (Sun 2012e: 135–44). Interestingly, this research also indicates that in terms of aesthetics and style of representation, some of these self-representations seem either reminiscent of, or consciously evoking, the visual idiom from the revolutionary representations. Yet to establish the historical continuity and disjuncture between the two eras calls for a more systematic analysis of news photos as a historically specific signifying practice. How, for instance, did news values in socialist journalism, including photojournalism, inform news media’s coverage of workers’ activities and achievements in publications such as the People’s Daily and the Worker’s Daily? Knowing answers to these empirical questions is a matter of urgent intellectual and political concern for a number of reasons. First, socialist media relied heavily on visual technologies, particularly in the form of news photos, propaganda documentaries and films for purposes of 245

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mass mobilisation, moral education and political propaganda. In comparison with literature, which required some levels of literacy, or art, which was accessible to only the more cultured echelon of society, visual media representations such as the newspapers, special topic newsreels and films offered more direct ways of reaching mass audiences. Screening propaganda films, documentaries and special newsreels was a crucial means of political socialisation through the organisational mechanism of the workplace and the school. For this reason, leaving a vast discursive site largely unexamined means not knowing how visual media contributed to the socialist legacy of proletariat culture. Second, many of the contemporary cultural practices engaged in by subaltern groups adopt or appropriate the language of earlier socialist cultural forms and practices. They look to socialist cultural expressions as sources of political, moral and cultural repertoires (Xing 2012: 63–82). Hence in order to understand fully both the cultural politics of the workers’ current cultural struggles and the prospect of their cultural struggle, it is important to revisit historical practices by situating them in their particular historical context, as well as through the retrospective lens of the radically transformed social, economic and political reality of today. It is precisely for this reason that Yuezhi Zhao issues a clarion call for media and communication scholars to ‘re-root the area in history’, so that we become more ‘mindful of China’s revolutionary history and the ways this history casts a long shadow over today’s reality’ (Zhao 2009: 177). Finally, but not least importantly, a long-range prospect of the working classes’ social destiny is unlikely to emerge unless we consider the metamorphosis of the social construction of class experience from the socialist to the current neoliberal era of capital accumulation. In the introduction to his book The Long Revolution, Raymond Williams (1971) speaks of a ‘cultural revolution’ as the revolution of the third kind, following the democratic and industrial revolutions. The cultural revolution, argues Williams, is a particularly ‘long revolution’, and is the ‘most difficult to interpret’. In the same way that, as Williams (1971: 12) argues, ‘we cannot understand the process of change in which we are involved if we limit ourselves to thinking of the democratic, industrial, and cultural revolutions as separate processes’, we cannot understand the process of change in the long revolution if we limit ourselves to thinking of workers’ media and cultural practices in historically discrete or isolated terms. Sociologists of labour also caution against taking an ahistorical perspective, given that the formation of class, the emergence of class consciousness, labour movements and social movements are believed to take a much longer time span than two or three decades to take full shape (Chan and Siu 2012: 105–32). There are of course conceptual and methodological implications for pursuing this line of enquiry regarding the relationship between class analysis and media studies. It requires us to go beyond the framework of propaganda, which so far has dominated our understanding of the socialist mass media, with its preoccupation with the issue of political control, censorship and ideological indoctrination. Also, this requires us to reconsider the role of the Chinese state in the formation of proletariat cultural legacies. As Zhao (2009: 177) explains, this calls for a ‘recognition of the Chinese state as one forged in the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist social revolution, with a historically grounded popular base of legitimacy, not as an absolutist state which the European bourgeois fought against historically’. It requires media scholars to take a cultural–political approach to address a specific concern with questions of media forms and media practices, including delving into the cultural politics of the proletariat worker identity, in a range of media forms whose discursive and visual mediation of the worker identity has so far largely eluded scholarship. It involves asking important questions, such as who has access to the means of producing, shaping and perpetuating the political lingua franca; what signifying practices are dominant in a given space and time; and what are the origins of the discursive power to name, label and define working-class identities? It also explores the common narrative forms, tropes 246

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and strategies adopted to transform a group’s perspectives into common knowledge that ‘we’ all share, as well as the process by which private and personal longings, dreams and desires become ‘public allegories’, making certain social groups’ desires and longings more legitimate than others (Rofel 2007). Given the master-to-subaltern identity transformation of the working classes, the question of how media and communication research can productively engage with the notion of subalternity must be put on the agenda. Developed most prominently in Indian and Latin American societies, and mostly in the contexts of race and ethnicity, subaltern analysis is concerned with making the invisible visible and giving voice to subalterns ‘who cannot speak’. It is becoming an increasingly attractive approach among those concerned with issues of agency, voice and identity in China, albeit in radically different social contexts (Pun 2005; Yan 2008). In her research on prostitution in Shanghai in the early twentieth century, China historian Gail Hershatter observes that the theorisation of subalternity, although developed in the colonial history of South Asia, can be productively engaged to explore relations of subjugation of the oppressed people at the intersection of gender, class and the Chinese state. Hershatter rightly cautions us, however, that any attempt to engage with the concept of subalternity must start by appreciating its ‘multiple’ and ‘relational’ nature. For the same reason that the Indian nationalist elites and subaltern politics were intertwined and hence the question of who is a ‘subaltern’ is relational (Guha and Spivak 1988), tracing the shift from what Paul Clark (2008: 142) calls the ‘proletarian nobility’ to subalternity in the Chinese context must also take into account a wide range of complicating factors, including the sometimes convergent and other times divergent interests of the state, NGOs, the urban middle class, transnational intellectuals and Chinese workers. Rather than take the presence or existence of subalternity as given, we must ‘take seriously the categories through which historical subjects make meaning of their own experience, the degree to which subalterns both legitimate and subvert hegemonic categories’ (Hershatter 1993: 106). In the case of the Chinese rural migrant worker as a subaltern figure, two things are particularly worthy of note and further enquiry. The first relates to the issue of subaltern position. Comparing various cohorts of factory workers in China convinces Rofel (1999: 98) that the identity of the subaltern selves is not ‘intrinsic in the relations of production’. For this reason, rather than accepting claims of subalternity as given, we must ask questions about how subalternity is ‘culturally produced, embraced, performed, challenged, and denied’ (Rofel 1999: 98). This, argues Rofel, does not mean marginalised social groups such as China’s workers and peasants stand outside of and against power. Instead, one must ask how subaltern practices are ‘lodged within fields of power and knowledge’ (p.168). This caution is particularly worth heeding, given that the migrant labouring body, useful to the market for its capacity to produce surplus value, has also become a field of intense symbolic struggle between various class positions. The state, capital, international NGOs and transnational cultural elites all want to speak on behalf of China’s rural migrant workers. Yet, at the same time we cannot assume that all rural migrants identify with the position of subalternity. In fact, the issue of position in these diverse constructions is necessarily couched in ambiguous, complex and contradictory terms. Given this, it is essential to identify ways in which rural migrants position themselves in relation to state propaganda, middle-class consumers, media professionals and cultural elites, as well as the ways migrant worker positions are expressed and managed in relation to one another within the worker cohort, including urban workers in state enterprises, currently laid-off factory workers now subsisting on welfare and rural migrant workers as dagong individuals. The second relates to the issue of subaltern movement and activism. As this discussion has delineated, the shift from the master to the subaltern position is by no means merely rhetorical and its impact cannot be overestimated. As the Marxist discourses of the proletarian class were 247

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abandoned in favour of neoliberal discourse of individual improvement, workers have been robbed of the power to effectively transform their own situation (Carrillo and Goodman 2012: 10–26). In other words, while some scholars and journalists outside China invest their hope for political change in China’s newly emerging working class, they may to some extent have overlooked the fact that this class has been so disempowered that their class position has more or less reverted back to the pre-revolutionary status quo. If this is a case of history repeating itself, we are indeed compelled to consider yet again the politics and the tactics of the weak, and subaltern’s strategies of ‘talking back’ to the ‘colonial master’. In the workers’ efforts to talk back to and negotiate relationships with such ‘colonial masters’, various types of media and cultural activism have arisen, and distinct working-class media cultures are formed in this process of negotiation and struggle. To media studies scholars interested in the relationship between class and media, these no doubt present themselves as the most pertinent lines of enquiry.

References Anagnost, A. (2004) ‘The corporeal politics of quality (suzhi)’, Public Culture 16(2): 189–208. Berry, C., Lu, X. and Rofel, L. (eds) (2010) The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Cai, X. (2010) Revolution/Narrative: The Socialist Imagination in Chinese Literature and Culture (1949–1966), Beijing: Peking University Press. Carrillo, B. and Goodman, D.S.G. (2012) ‘The socio-political challenge of economic change: peasants and workers in transformation’, in B. Carrillo and D.S.G. Goodman (eds), China’s Peasants and Workers: Changing Class Identities, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 10–26. Chan, A. and Siu, K. (2012) ‘Chinese migrant workers: factors constraining the emergence of class consciousness’, in B. Carrillo and D.S.G. Goodman (eds), China’s Peasants and Workers: Changing Class Identities, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 105–32. Clark, P. (2008) The Chinese Cultural Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Davis, D.S. and Wang, F. (eds) (2009) Creating Wealth and Poverty in Postsocialist China, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Gai, B. (2009) ‘A world through the camera phone lens: a case study of Beijing camera phone use’, Knowledge, Technology, Policy 22: 195–204. Goodman, D.S.G. (2008) ‘Why China has no new middle class: cadres, managers and entrepreneurs’, in D.S.G. Goodman (ed.), The New Rich in China: Future Rulers, Present Lives, London: Routledge, 23–37. Guha, R. and Spivak, G.C. (eds) (1988) Selected Subaltern Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Guo, Y. (2008) ‘Class, stratum and group: the politics of description and prescription’, in D.S.G. Goodman (ed.), The New Rich in China: Future Rulers, Present Lives, London: Routledge, 38–52. Hershatter, G. (1993) ‘The subaltern talks back: reflections on subaltern theory and Chinese history’, Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 1(1): 103–30. –––– (2007) ‘Forget remembering: rural women’s narratives of China’s collective past’, in C.K. Lee and G. Yang (eds), Re-envisioning the Chinese Revolution, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 69–92. Hinton, W. (1997) Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village, Berkeley: University of California Press. Hu, Z. and Ji, D. (2012) ‘Ambiguities in communicating with the world: the “going out” policy of China’s media and its multilayered contexts’, Chinese Journal of Communication 5(1): 32–7. Jacka, T. (2006) Rural Women in Urban China: Gender, Migration and Social Change, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe. Lee, C.K. (2007) Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt, Berkeley: University of California Press. Lee, C.K. and Selden, M. (2009) ‘Inequality and its enemies in revolutionary and reform China’, Economic and Political Weekly 43(52). Available online http://epw.in/epw/user/loginArticleError.jsp?hid_artid = 13014 (retrieved 17 February 2011). Leung, P. and So, A. (2012) ‘The making and re-making of the working class in south China’, in B. Carrillo and D.S.G. Goodman (eds), China’s Peasants and Workers: Changing Class Identities, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 84–104. 248

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Lü, X. (2003) Documenting China: The New Documentary Movement in China (Jilu Zhongguo: Dangdai zhongguo xin jilu yundong), Beijing: Sanlian Shudian (in Chinese). Pun, N. (2005) Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Qiu, J.L. (2009) Working-Class Network Society: Communication Technology and the Information Have-Less in Urban China, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. –––– (2012) ‘Network labor: beyond the shadow of Foxconn’, in L. Hjorth, J. Burgess and I. Richardson (eds), Studying Mobile Media Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone, New York: Routledge, 173–89. Qiu, J.L. and Wang, H. (2012) ‘Working-class cultural spaces: comparing the old and the new’, in B. Carrillo and D.S.G. Goodman (eds), China’s Peasants and Workers: Changing Class Identities, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 159–92. Rofel, L. (1999) Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China after Socialism, Berkeley: University of California Press. –––– (2007) Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality and Public Culture, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Sun, W. (2009) Maid in China: Media, Morality, and the Cultural Politics of Boundaries, London: Routledge. –––– (2012a) ‘Desperately seeking my wages: justice, media logic, and the politics of voice in urban China’, Media, Culture, and Society 34(7): 864–79. –––– (2012b) ‘The poetry of spiritual homelessness: a creative practice of coping with industrial alienation’, in A. Kipnis (ed.), Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 67–88. –––– (2012c) ‘Poetry of labour and (dis)articulation of class: China’s worker-poets and the cultural politics of boundaries’, Journal of Contemporary China 21(78): 993–1010. –––– (2012d) ‘Subalternity with Chinese characteristics: rural migrants, cultural activism and digital filmmaking’, Javnost – the Public 19(2): 83–100. –––– (2012e) ‘Amateur photography as self-ethnography: China’s rural migrant workers and the question of digital–political literacy’, Media International Australia 145: 135–44. –––– (2012f) ‘Screening inequality: injustices, class identities and rural migrants in Chinese cinema’, Berliner China-Hefte: Chinese History and Society 41: 6–20. –––– (2013) ‘Inequality and culture: a new pathway to understanding social inequality’, in W. Sun and Y. Guo (eds), Unequal China: Political Economy and Cultural Politics of Inequality, London: Routledge, 27–42. –––– (2014) ‘“Northern girls”: cultural politics of agency and south China’s migrant literature’, Asian Studies Review 38(2): 168–85. Sun, W. and Guo, Y. (2013) ‘Introduction’, in W. Sun and Y. Guo (eds), Unequal China: The Political Economy and Cultural Politics of Inequality, London: Routledge, 1–11. Tong, F. (2012) ‘The networked society and the making of the new working class’ (Wangluo shehui yu xing gongren jieji de xingcheng), unpublished MA thesis, Beijing University (in Chinese). Wallis, C. (2013) Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones, New York: New York University Press. Whyte, M.K. (2010) Myth of the Social Volcano: Perceptions of Inequality and Distributive Injustice in Contemporary China, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Williams, R. (1971, rpt. 2011) The Long Revolution, Cardigan: Parthian Books. Xing, G. (2012) ‘Online activism and counter-public spheres: a case study of migrant labour resistance’, Javnost – the Public 19(2): 63–82. Yan, H. (2008) New Masters, New Servants: Development, Migration, and Women Workers, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Zang, X. (2008) ‘Market transition, wealth and status claims’, in D.S.G. Goodman (ed.), The New Rich in China: Future Rulers, Present Lives, London: Routledge, 53–70. Zhao, Y. (2008) Communication in China: Political Economy, Power and Conflict, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. –––– (2009) ‘Rethinking Chinese media studies: history, political economy and culture’, in D.K. Thussu (ed.), Internationalising Media Studies, London: Routledge, 175–95. –––– (2010a) ‘Chinese modernity, media, and democracy: an interview with Lu Xinyu’, Global Media and Communication 6(1): 5–32. –––– (2010b) ‘For a critical study of communication and China: challenges and opportunities’, International Journal of Communication 4: 544–51. 249

15 An emerging middle-class public sphere in China? Analysis of news media representation of ‘Self Tax Declaration’ Qian (Sarah) Gong

Introduction This chapter draws on the concept of the public sphere to analyse the democratic potential of the news media in China. It emphasises that in addition to media autonomy, public deliberation based on plural social interests is another major dimension of media democracy. It analyses three news media that represent diverse social interests as well as the ‘journalism domain’ and ‘civic forum’ sectors of the public sphere. Through analysing their representation of a recent tax policy which aims to reduce income inequality, this chapter examines their autonomous civic deliberative function as well as their representative function of plural social interests, drawn from the revisited public sphere concept. It then critically discusses the potential of an emerging middleclass media public sphere in China, which falls short in its inclusion of a wider range of diverse and pluralistic social interests.

The public sphere and its usage in China Habermas’s seminal public sphere concept has been widely applied in media and communication research since his book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere was made available in English in 1989 (Butsch 2009; Dahlgren 1996; Dahlgren and Sparks 1991). Since 2000, the development of new media (the internet and online activism in particular) has further revitalised the use of the concept in search for participatory democratic politics in an age of ‘destabilisation of political communication’ marked by social fragmentation, mediatisation, decentralisation and political cynicism (Blumler and Gurevitch 1995; Brant and Voltmer 2011; Dahlgren 2001: 33–55; 2005: 147–62; Downey and Fenton 2003: 185–202; Trenz 2009: 33–46). Despite its popularity among media and communication scholars in the west, the public sphere concept seems to have limited direct usage in the study of democratic functions of the media in China, a country that still exercises control of and censorship over its media system. Much research investigating media and their democratic functions seems to have steered clear of the term ‘public sphere’, mainly because media censorship imposed by the Chinese government directly contradicts a fundamental 250

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condition of the public sphere – media autonomy – which is closely associated with liberal democratic media normative theories such as free press theory. Here I would like to propose that the revisited public sphere concept is a useful conceptual tool to study the democratic potential of the media in China. Much of previous research on media democratisation in China draws on western normative media theories such as press freedom and media autonomy which are the cornerstones of liberal democratic thought. While enquiries in press freedom and autonomy are important in the Chinese authoritarian context, other aspects of democratic public communication including pluralism, participation and deliberation are insufficiently addressed. In addition, the assessment of media autonomy in earlier studies (Chan 2002: 35–51; Huang 2001: 435–50; Zhao 1998) is often based on a dichotomisation of political control and market liberalisation, with an emphasis on the liberal potential of commercial forces. The above dichotomisation and conceptualisation provided an important analytical framework for studying post-reform media which had gained a high level of diversity throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but are insufficient in their own right for the current social condition – market forces and global neoliberalism have significantly transformed the state–society interface; rising middle-class and economic interests groups nurtured by consumer practices pose significant challenges to the ‘top-down model of public information dissemination’ (Donald and Keane 2002: 12). As real social power increasingly drifts away from the state towards the private corporate sector, the monolithic control of the state disperses and decreases simultaneously (Chen 2003: 143). This has given rise to an ‘interest-based social order’ in which power contestation has become multidimensional, multilayered and interwoven among different political, economic and cultural interest groups (Zheng 2004). The multiple sets of power relations in flux is the rationale behind the application of the public sphere concept to China, for it suggests a more plural and multidimensional approach towards media and democracy by looking at the autonomy of media practices and the pluralism of the expression of diverse socio-economic interests. Habermas (1989: 27) described his original idea of the public sphere as follows: The bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from above against the public authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the general rules governing relations in the basically privatized but publicly relevant sphere of commodity exchange and social labor. The medium of this political confrontation was peculiar and without historical precedent: people’s public use of their reason (öffentliches Räsonnement). The institutional basis of the public sphere that Habermas describes includes ‘an array of milieu and media such as clubs, salons, coffee houses, newspapers, books and pamphlets’, many of which manifest ‘Enlightenment ideals of the human pursuit of knowledge and freedom’ (Dahlgren 2001: 34). Today many of the media still function as a virtual public space to sustain mediated communication for an ever growing population. The public sphere which is situated within civil society, provides an interface where the ‘citizen confronts the state in his or her own terms, the place of publicity in privacy’, thus mediating ‘between the modern realms of the public and the private’ (McKeon 2004: 274). In his later writing, Habermas (1991: 398) provides more detailed explanation of the conditions of his public sphere concept: It is a ‘domain of our social life in which such a thing as public opinion can be formed. Access to the public sphere is open in principle to all citizens . . . Citizens act as a public when they deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion; thus with the guarantee that they may assemble and unite freely, and express and publicize their opinion freely’. These conditions 251

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including free assembly and expression and participatory parity have become normative ideals for democracies in the west. The original concept of the ‘bourgeois public sphere’ has been criticised from sociological, historical and feminist perspectives (Calhoun 1996; Fraser 1996: 109–42; Negt and Kluge 1993; Ryan 1996: 259–88). One of the main critiques of the bourgeois public sphere is that the singular form in Habermas’s original conceptualisation operates on a model of exclusion based on class, education, gender and race (Fraser 1996: 109–42; Negt and Kluge 1993; Ryan 1996: 259–88). According to Habermas, the idealised public sphere is an arena which does not discriminate against people of different social backgrounds or status, and which provides free access to the public. Critics argue that the participants in Habermas’s historical review are very small segments of the educated and middle bourgeois, or, to be more precise, bourgeois males (Fraser 1996: 109–42). The class character – bourgeois and educated interlocutors – of the public sphere gave rise to the problem of ‘universalism’ (Dahlgren 1991: 3) and excluded participation from other social classes. For instance, those who are illiterate and proletariats are excluded from the classic public sphere. In particular, Fraser (1996: 109–42) argues that different socio-economic conditions of the ‘interlocutors’ can determine if they can deliberate common issues as if they were social equals. Without participatory parity, the subordinate and under-presented groups tend to be ‘further disadvantaged in their encounter with dominant modes of communication’ (Goode 2005: 39). Other theorists support the view that equal socio-economic conditions constitute an important aspect of political equality, as ‘minimal economic security and welfare’ form basic dimensions of citizenship, and have great influence on the political dimension of citizenship (Dahlgren 1996: 137). In his later publications Habermas (1991: 438; 1998) responded to the critiques and embraced plural public spheres that include diverse social interests, identities and needs, acknowledging the ‘pluralistic, internally much differentiated mass public’. Such revision received positive responses from critical scholars (Dahlgren 2005: 147–62; Downey and Fenton 2003: 185–202; Lunt and Livingstone 2013: 87–96; Rasmussen 2013: 97–104), as late modernity has generated much socio-cultural diversities that require their own public spheres (Rasmussen 2013: 97–104). Meanwhile neoliberal reforms that swept across the world (including China) at the end of the last century have produced unprecedented levels of exclusion based on economic power and domination. For instance, neoliberalism in the UK and USA has led to a ‘power alignment’ that favours conglomerated economic elites over fragmented citizens (Dahlgren 2009: 50–1). The wider inclusion of diversity and pluralism has thus become an ever more crucial aspect in maintaining healthy public communication that provides access to marginalised and fragmented citizens. Many argue that the developments in the media system such as online activism can potentially enhance a wider inclusion and pluralism, and provide platforms for ‘alternative’ and ‘counter’ public spheres (Downey and Fenton 2003: 185–202; Kahn and Kellner 2004: 87–95). The wider inclusion of plural social interests in Habermas’s revisited public sphere concept is pertinent to China where neoliberal (with Chinese characteristics) reform has produced social inequalities between the east and the west, and urban and rural areas since economic reforms were introduced in 1978 (Baum 2004: 222; He 2000: 68–99).1 Social inequality and domination of the rich and powerful have marginalised the voice of the Chinese underclass that included peasants, rural migrant workers, urban low-earning families and urban retirees (Zhang 2005; Sun 2012: 864–79).2 In the meantime, with increasing social inequality, grassroots protests against deteriorating living conditions of the underprivileged social classes became an alarming signal to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) legitimacy (Derleth and Koldyk 2004: 748–9). To reduce income inequality,3 a tax policy, Self Tax Declaration, was introduced in 2006. 252

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According to this policy, people with a personal income of more than RMB 120,000 yuan (c. US$19,605) per year are considered ‘high income’ earners and are required to declare their incomes to local taxation bureaus and use higher tax rates. This policy is considered ineffective as grey incomes4 of the privileged social groups cannot be traced or taxed, and the tax policy has limited effectiveness with its main impact falling on the salaried Chinese public (OECD 2004: 35–6). This tax policy and its related everyday socio-economic concerns are selected as the prism through which media representation and discussion are analysed. The growing social inequality widens the gap between socio-economic groups in society and opens up conflicts of interests, and the problematic tax policy may have different impacts on people from different economic backgrounds. Issues explored include: whether the media can provide any kind of autonomous platform to facilitate public discussion of this policy as an issue of common concern; how the interests of different social groups are expressed and negotiated in the public space; and whether there is adequate pluralism in terms of interest expression. All of these questions are relevant to the analysis of whether the news media as the ‘journalism domain’ and ‘civic forum’ sectors of the public sphere can play any positive role in China (Dahlgren 2005: 153).

Analysis of media representation This chapter analyses three news media that represent diverse social interests. People’s Daily (Renmin ribao),5 West China Metro News (Huaxi dushi bao)6 and Southern Weekend (Nanfang zhoumo)7 are chosen to represent official discourse, semi-official discourse (tabloid) and semi-official discourse (broadsheet) respectively.8 As these media are under different degrees of state control and therefore have different degrees of autonomy and target different reader groups, I attempt to highlight the differences in their coverage of the Self Tax Declaration, with a particular emphasis on how these differences can be analysed against the conditions of the revisited public sphere concept. The empirical analysis takes a socio-linguistic approach and uses textual analysis to analyse the form and meaning, rhetoric, logic and word selection of news articles regarding the Self Tax Declaration collected from the three media from 2006 to 2007. The textual analysis is combined with interviews with journalists and editors conducted between 2007 and 2008. The dual-method approach reveals values and interests of the journalists which cannot be easily found in the media texts.

Urging Self Tax Declaration The deadline for the Self Tax Declaration was initially set for 31 March 2007 and later extended to 2 April 2007 because the outcome of the policy was not satisfactory – only 1.62 million people declared their tax in contrast to the anticipated 6 million high-income earners (People’s Daily 2007a). From October 2006 to April 2007, the People’s Daily and West China Metro News carried 9 and 40 news articles respectively urging the public to declare their income and tax. Early news articles from People’s Daily concerning the tax declaration contained information on who should declare tax, how to calculate taxable incomes and how to declare. The primary concern of the coverage by the People’s Daily was to make sure the tax declaration work was smoothly carried out by the local tax bureaus with the help of media. As the official newspaper of the CCP, it is unsurprising that the People’s Daily incorporated the political objectives of the government into its news agenda. On 23 March 2007, a news report titled ‘Declare incomes according to law, construct harmonious society’ from the People’s Daily begins with the following opening paragraph: 253

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Recently, Mr. Zhao, a manager from a foreign owned enterprise in Beijing received a special letter. ‘Dear taxpayer, If you receive annual income of more than RMB 120,000 yuan, please make sure you declare your tax in local taxation bureaus. Failure to do this may incur a violation of law [emphasis added].’ This is the letter sent by the taxation bureau in Beijing municipality to people with an annual income near or over RMB 120,000 yuan, reminding their duty of tax declaration. (People’s Daily 2007b) The revealed part of the letter from the Beijing municipality taxation bureau contains a message of urging and warning, as indicated by the emphasised make sure and violation of laws. The ‘make sure’ added in the sentence stresses a tone of urgency. The ‘failure to do this may incur a violation of law’ contains a warning. Little autonomy can be identified in the People’s Daily’s coverage of the issue as there is a lack of objective and critical investigation of the implication of the tax policy – why under one-third of the taxpayers anticipated have actually declared. It is evident that reports like this carry an agenda to help the taxation work of the relevant government department. A journalist from the People’s Daily explained to me about the guidelines for covering income inequality including the Self Tax Declaration: Our stories can talk about income inequality, but they cannot be ‘systematic’. For issues which are already having very negative influences among the public, such as house prices, we have to consider the degree to which we can report. There are no written rules or regulations for reporting the income disparity, but there is common sense – the perspective of the report has to be constructively critical. Otherwise there are only negative influences.9 The West China Metro News has a similar approach in its coverage of the Self Tax Declaration, namely to urge declaration. From March 2007 to April 2007, 34 articles were published on this issue with 3 on the analysis of the tax issue while the rest are on ‘how many people have declared tax’, ‘who has not declared tax’ and ‘the punishment of not declaring tax’. Only in a few news reports did West China Metro News play a limited role in investigating the inequality between underprivileged and privileged social groups in regard to taxation. The discrepancy between the reality (cleaners being taxed) and the intention of the tax policy (lower the exorbitant high incomes) was exposed in a story titled ‘Monthly income RMB 450 – cleaners pay taxes every month’ on 23 October 2006.10 Following the deadline of the Self Tax Declaration, the People’s Daily carried a report entitled ‘Embarrassed Self Tax Declaration’ on 4 April 2007. The report identifies salary earners as the mainstay of those who have declared tax, and private entrepreneurs, celebrities, freelancers and self-employees as high-income earners who failed to declare tax (People’s Daily 2007c). These latter groups have become officially framed as the ‘missing’ rich people in tax declaration, and the frame is widely used by other media outlets including the West China Metro News in the following story: Logically, the rationale behind the awareness of paying taxes is taxpayers get good public services and tax evaders get punishment. As far as the former is concerned, more tax money means better public services such as a welfare system that everyone can benefit from. Obviously, it is not the case in China. Regarding the latter, tax evasion prevails and the supervision is very difficult due to the grey income system . . . Why have salary earners become the mainstay of the taxpayers? Because their incomes are clearly stated on the payslips and 254

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it is easy to trace, while it is not so easy with the incomes of the private entrepreneurs and celebrities [emphasis added]. (West China Metro News 2007a) This frame has not mentioned high-ranking government officials and employees at managerial level in state-owned monopoly enterprises whose incomes are commonly considered high. The total omission of the two categories indicates that People’s Daily and West China Metro News are unable to act in an autonomous way as watchdogs because the collusion and corruption between government officials and business entrepreneurs for economic benefits is well documented (Chen 2003: 148; Transparency International 2013). Instead of probing into why tax declaration is resisted, which is reflected in the fact that only 1.62 out of 6 million people declared tax, both media have framed tax declaration as duties of citizenship, sidelining the discussion of the flawed payment system in which the rich rely on untraceable grey incomes.

Tax declaration, economic rights and political rights In the story ‘Embarrassed Self Tax Declaration’, the People’s Daily also identified four reasons for the undesirable outcomes of the tax policy: (1) taxpayers are unclear about the starting and finishing date of the financial year; (2) it is difficult to summarise the total annual income based on the variable forms of income; (3) enterprise taxation systems are not properly set up; and (4) there is a low degree of awareness of paying tax. The West China Metro News reprinted this part and combined it with another report from the People’s Daily and published it as a commentary on the same day with the title ‘Four main reasons for undesirable outcomes of tax declaration’ (West China Metro News 2007a). The four main reasons identified are the same technical issues while the other major deficiencies, such as the under-regulated payment system and grey income discussed above are absent. The reasons for the undesirable outcomes of the tax policy were covered from a different angle by the Southern Weekend on 19 April 2007. It listed four concerns that the public had in regard to the Self Tax Declaration: The meaning of the tax declaration . . . indicates transparency of personal incomes and properties and this should start from government officials. A significant number of government officials and their relatives have annual incomes of more than RMB 120,000 yuan and they should be an important group for tax declaration . . . [emphasis added] The netizens also doubt the legitimacy of the regulation which only went through discussion of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the State Council instead of the discussion of NPC and public discussion . . . the tax bureaus are still used to the old style of governing and supervising. They should provide service-based management . . . [emphasis added] The gross tax revenue in 2006 was RMB 3763.6 billion yuan. It is a huge amount of public wealth which the taxpayers entrusted to the public servants. However, the rights of speech, information, decision-making and participation are far from being adequate . . . [emphasis added] Facing the ‘illegal situation’ (people do not declare taxes), tax bureaus need to change the old mentality based on punishment to a new one that is based on guidance, and supervise the good thing of declaring personal taxes on the basis of adequate public discussion. (Southern Weekend 2007a) Unlike the coverage by the People’s Daily and the West China Metro News, the Southern Weekend made a clear reference to government officials and their relatives who should be the first ones 255

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to declare taxes. The article also refers to ‘government officials’ as ‘civil servants’, which indicates the difference between the associated roles, i.e. governing and serving. In addition, the legitimacy of the policy-making processes is questioned. As a result, the inverted commas in paragraph four indicate that taxpayers are not engaged in illegal behaviour because without the approval of the NPC, the legitimacy of the tax policy itself is questionable. This concern challenges the Chinese political system in which rule of law is still limited – government regulations and rules are made without being discussed and approved by the NPC. It is evident that these remarks go beyond the tax policy itself and discuss the democratic process of policy making. The Southern Weekend further discusses the processes of democratisation and citizens’ rights in social issues. The governance style envisaged in the article shows that a shift is needed from authoritarian government to a modern democratic government mainly providing public services. According to this idea, taxpayers as the sources of public revenue expect to enact their rights in being informed, expressing opinions and participating in decision-making processes. The political rights are thus associated with the issue of tax declaration. The demand for civic rights is based on economic contribution (public revenue) made by the citizens. The article also criticises the existing opaque policy making and heavy-handed governance style. The requests made in the report (rule of law, free speech, participation, policy making based on public opinion) are largely citizens’ democratic political rights. The newspaper made a clear connection between economic rights and political rights, and the elevation of the problems to the political institutional level makes the Southern Weekend an autonomous space for critical discussions of public policy.11

Contending the ‘rich’ The definition of the ‘rich’ is crucial for the implementation of the Self Tax Declaration as it provides justification for the policy in the first place. The media published a debate over who should be considered rich and therefore included in the ‘rich’ category in the income redistribution reform. The West China Metro News covered an interview between a middleclass person and the journalist on 9 April 2007 with the title of ‘Why I feel lost in the first year of Self Tax Declaration’;12 the interviewee expressed his confusion as follows: Am I rich? I earn a little more than RMB 120,000 per year, but my wife is unemployed and my child is in school. The money after tax needs to cover mortgage, car finance payments, expenses for my child and my parents . . . The new tax declaration does not differentiate family income or individual income, which is unfair to people like me . . . And where are the real rich people? Among the 1.6 million people who have declared their taxes, salary earners consists the major part. The rich people who declared their taxes such as private entrepreneurs, self-employed, freelancers and celebrities are very few . . . This makes me feel that the taxation bureaus can’t do anything to the real rich people whose income comes in various forms . . . (Interviewee) Experts believe that the personal income system has little transparency as income comes in different forms: cash, gifts and welfare. Those ‘grey incomes’ have for sure obscured the situation (Journalist). (West China Metro News 2007b) The ‘grey incomes’ identified by the journalist in the interview are related to the underregulated payment system in China. Various forms of income such as cash, gifts and welfare are considered as grey incomes particularly available to people vested with power. However, the 256

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real rich people referred to by the interviewee only include private entrepreneurs, the selfemployed, freelancers and celebrities, groups officially framed by the People’s