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Media In China

Updated on March 6, 2013

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Media in China has gone through quite a transformation over the years.It has changed from Communism based to commercialization based.Before economic reforms transpired in the late 1970’s, the media in China was controlled mainly by the Party which produced mass propaganda and attempted to persuade their people (Zhao 2).Mao Zedong, a leader of the People’s Republic in China from1949 to 1976, once said “[The Party’s] job is to educate the people, to let them know their own interests, their own tasks and the Party’s general and specific policies.” (Zhao 26)In other words, Mao was utilizing agenda setting to let people know what was “important” and also attempting to use the media as a magic bullet to form citizens’ beliefs.Obviously, this resulted in biased media produced by the Party, with little emphasis on anything outside of politics.However, by the early 1980’s strides were being made to broaden the media to business information and entertainment. (Zhao 34)

Today, the media in China is much more commercialized, or “Westernized”, than in the past.However, there are still some factors that do not allow for a parallel comparison to the United States due to the fact that it is a Communist country.For example, China’s television media follows the West in terms of commercial placement for cost efficiency, but it differs in that the media is owned and controlled by the state (Wang 247).Clearly, this is a very notable difference because most of the television stations in the United States are owned by corporations or conglomerates that receive a large amount of their revenue based on advertisements that they allow to be shown.Also, since the Chinese government owns all of the stations, they must approve any type of foreign television channel that wishes to be broadcasted there.According to Jing Wang’s statistics in 2008, there are only about 30 foreign satellite channels that are allowed to broadcast in China since they are very critical of the content that is being showed (251).Even though the regulations on television in China have loosened quite substantially over time, it is apparent that the authorities still attempt to restrict certain corporations from having media access to their citizens.However, according to David Barboza of the New York Times in 2009, China is planning to become even more accepting of large outside corporations, such as Viacom and Time Warner, and being more lenient with state-owned companies getting outside financing so they can run on their own.

Television is the most popular form of media information in China. However, China has also modified the newspaper’s focus from centralization to localization.From 1979 to 1982 there were no local newspapers available to the public.However, since the emergence in 1983, there were 1,946 by the year 1997 (Lee 48).Based on the gradual rising trend shown, it can probably be assumed that there are much more than that currently.These statistics concretely show, in numbers, the attempt to broaden the media outlets and context during and after the aforementioned economic reform.Many of the local newspapers were written by the Communist Party before the reform, but after it the government decided that it would be beneficial to allow some private enterprises to manage localized news.Still, there is still quite a stronghold on what type of context can be sent out within the papers.

China has many methods in which they attempt to influence journalists to censor themselves rather than facing the consequences.Aside from the Chinese Communist party cutting off funding, the Council of Foreign Relations states on their website that the most common way is by dismissal or demotion of the writer(s).Also, the government will not hesitate to put accusations of libel on journalists who criticize the Communist Party “unfairly”.Other ways of manipulating the way columnists write, according to the CFR, consist of giving out fines, prison time and closing news outlets entirely.The attempts by the government to censor the writers are ultimately to minimize the amount of information that they do not believe the public needs to know about.Yet with technology emerging at such a fast pace it is difficult for the CCP to regulate all censorship.

The internet is heavily filtered in China, but there are only so much that the firewalls can prevent.According to a recent Reuters article in January, social pages such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all blocked in China and Google wants their search engine to be uncensored as well (Buckley and Eckert).As a result of the CCP’s beliefs, China unsurprising declined Google’s request.Based on the adaptations made gradually by the Chinese government with other forms of media access in the past, it can be predicted that the relatively new technology of the internet will not be so restricted in the future; whether it be from continued foreign pressure or citizen reform.Technology is progressing at rapid speeds and forbidden media will most likely be accessed by the Chinese residents whether the government tries to ban it or not.

While the Chinese have certainly made vast advancements in the media department, there are clearly further steps they could take to maximize their full potential. Staying within their standards of a Communist society, there are still improvements that they could make.For example, they could display trust in foreign television shows such as Nickelodeon’s “The Kids’ Choice Awards” without having such strict compromises (Wang 250).Just like the United States could sometimes show a little more restraint in their journalism, the Chinese could allow a tad more colorful, varied context.

Works Cited

Barboza, David. "China Yearns to Form Its Own Media Empires." Editorial. The New York Times. 4 Oct. 2009. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <>.

Bhattacharji, Preeti, Carin Zissis, and Corinne Baldwin. "Media Censorship in China." Council on Foreign Relations. 27 May 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.

Buckley, Chris, and Paul Eckert. "Media in China Dismiss U.S. Internet Push." Reuters. Ed. Sanjeev Miglani and Ken Willis. 22 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.

Lee, Chin-Chuan. Power, Money, and Media: Communication Patterns and Bureaucratic Control in Cultural China. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2000. RIC E-Library.

Wang, Jing. Brand New China: Advertising, Media, and Commercial Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2008. RIC E-Library.

Zhao, Yuezhi. Media, Market, and Democracy in China: between the Party Line and the Bottom Line. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1998. Print.


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