Global Media Worlds and China, Vol. 20 - 2013, No. 4
Retrospection, Prospection and the Pursuit of an Integrated Approach for China’s Communication and Journalism Studies
Transcending a one-dimensional paradigm of globalisation, this article provides a kind of archeological analysis of communication and journalism studies in China. It examines the historical trajectory of the introduction of Western communication theories since the early 1980s, the articulation of Western theories and the initiatives of Chinese intellectuals of the time, and the complex social contexts of a transitional China in which a dominant US-based administrative paradigm has prevailed for decades. As a result of this articulation, communication and journalism studies in current China are widely considered an organic part of the leading paradigm of neoliberalism, and less attention has been paid to seeking alternative paradigms, or at least to rediscovering the distinctiveness of Chinese experience in the global sphere. To point out the limitations of this articulation, the article illustrates the increasing difficulties or misappropriations in using those Western theories to interpret the complex reality of both social and media transformations. A positive relationship between theories and practice prompts social justice and democracy rather than a tendency towards “uneven development” with growing social inequality. Therefore the article contends that China’s communication and journalism studies are standing at another historical crossroads today, compared with the time when Wilbur Schramm made his groundbreaking visit to Beijing in 1982. In pursuit of a reorientation in communication and journalism studies in the future, an integrated approach is suggested.
From establishing Confucius Institutes all over the world to mounting an advertising blitz in New York’s Times Square, the Chinese state’s multifaceted endeavour to strengthen its “soft power” has been highly visible and the subject of much recent political, journalistic, and scholarly attention. This paper locates the Chinese state’s “soft power” quest within historical and geopolitical contexts and explores the profound contradictions in its underpinning political economy and cultural politics. While this campaign’s state, industry, professional and moral imperatives appear self-evident and there are converging elite and popular interests in the project, its structural impediments seem to be insurmountable. Furthermore, there are irreconcilable tensions between a drive to pursue an elitist, technocratic, and cultural essentialist approach to global communication and a capacity to articulate and communicate an alternative global political and social vision that appeals to the vast majority of the world population in a deeply divided and crises-laden domestic and global order.
The creation of a global market has not only contributed to the globalisation of Western and, more specifically, American media around the world, but also opened up the media and communication sectors in large and hitherto highly regulated countries such as China and India. The resultant flow of media products from such countries has created more complex global information, infotainment and entertainment spheres. This article examines the increasing importance of China and India in global communication and media discourses and the challenge that the rise of “Chindia” poses for the study of media and communication. It argues that the globalisation of media industries and audiences, combined with the internationalisation of higher education – reflected in the changing profile of both faculty and students – requires a new approach for research and the teaching of media and communication. While global media and their study remain firmly embedded in a Western or, more accurately, American discourse, the new realities of the post-2008 world warrant a re-evaluation of how we define the global. The article concludes by considering what “Chindia” might mean in a de-Americanised media world.
China and the World’s First Freedom of Information Act: The Swedish Freedom of the Press Act of 1766
In 1766, the world’s first freedom of information act: His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press was passed in the Swedish Diet, largely through the work of Anders Chydenius. Few people today realise that this had something to do with China. The image of China as a distant utopia, a prosperous and politically stable country, had been created through accounts such as Jean Baptiste Du Halde’s four volume Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l’empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise. In Sweden, politicians Anders Nordencrantz and Anders Chydenius, basing their arguments on Du Halde’s descriptions, claimed that the freedom of writing, of the press and of information had been in existence in China since ancient times, and had largely contributed to the wealth and stability of China. In this paper I examine the political pamphlets written by these two Swedish politicians to show how they used China as an example to strengthen the arguments for a Freedom of the Press Act in Sweden.
The Beijing 2008 Olympics were widely considered to be China’s moment for improving its national image worldwide. However, the consensus both inside and outside China was that although the Olympics succeeded in advancing an image of an emerging powerful, prosperous, and well-organised nation, the message was hijacked by interest groups critical of government policies on human rights and Tibet, who were more successful in putting forward their positions in the international media than the Chinese government was. The article analyses the communications challenges that created obstacles for genuine dialogue on sensitive issues. In its post-Olympics assessment, the Chinese government acknowledged the weakness of China’s voice in international (especially Western) media and responded with a planned US$6 billion investment for strengthening its foreign communications capacity as part of its “soft power” initiative (first called for by President Hu Jintao in 2007).
Public diplomacy, nation branding and soft power are the theoretical notions used in this analysis of the Shanghai Expo 2010 and its reception in the Swedish media. This article studies the full coverage during 2010 of the Expo in the four main Swedish dailies. First, a general overview of the reports is presented and then a focused analysis of how the media texts deal with (a) reasons for arranging/participating (b) representation of China/Sweden (c) reporting about outcomes of the Expo and (d) reporting on the international exhibition phenomena. The major conclusion of the study is that Expo 2010 contributed to China’s “going global’” strategy in a specifi c way; rather than being used as a vehicle for China “going out’” in the world, it became a vehicle for Sweden, and the world, “going in” to China. Another observation discussed is that the international exhibition form was used to de-mediate interactions and relations, offering situated meetings in a unique event context as a node for further mediated communication.