The Changing State-Media Relations Since the Chinese Economic Reform

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.1.01 (Tower One)
Xuan Jin, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Why would the Chinese authoritarian state treat liberal media differently for similar reporting on politically sensitive topics? In my paper, I used a matched pair of two newspapers — the more conservative yet repressed World Economic Herald (WEH) in 1989 and the more proactive but tolerated Southern Weekly (SW) in 2013 — to answer this question. I showed that the changing patterns of political authority between state and media led to the different outcomes. I argued that in the 1980s the state relied primarily on personalistic authority such that when the WEH’s editors defied censorship they posed a direct and personal threat to party leaders. Since the 1990s, however, the state has gradually developed its bureaucratic power, which provides rule-based mechanisms through which the SW could negotiate its reporting. While the dominant literature in political science has focused on the party-state’s censorship strategies (e.g. King et al., 2013) and media literature has largely examined the media system itself, especially its marketisation and globalisation process (e.g. Zhao, 1998 & 2008), I used comparative historical and narrative analysis methods to make a sociological argument, which does not only shift the subject of study towards the interactions between state and media, but also attempts to analyse the transformation of political authority in post-Mao China more generally. My study, therefore, contributes to the existing literatures on state-building, authoritarianism, and media that are rarely placed in dialogue with each other.