The public and the popular media in China

Lee, H.W. 2010. The public and the popular media in China. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleThe public and the popular media in China
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsLee, H.W.

The focus of this research is whether the Habermas’ ‘bourgeois public sphere’, which is characteristic of Western society, can be extended to China. My main contribution is to demonstrate that the concepts of ‘sentiment’ and ‘reason’ are central to any discussion of the public sphere in China. This is in sharp contrast to the West where rational discussion and the rule of law are the twin foundations of the classical discourse of the public sphere.

China’s society is distinct from Western democracies the West in at least two fundamental ways. In the first place, the political system remains ‘communist’ with a single party controlling all of the media. As a result, the degree of freedom of thought and speech is extremely limited, and there is no obvious way in which the mass media can act directly as a forum for free and informed discussion of public policy. Secondly, whereas the rule of law is understood as a central element in Western democratic culture, it has a subordinate place in Chinese culture.

These assumptions are examined through a study of the readership of the Popular Press and through text analysis. How the Popular Press engages with the general public, how the general public reads and judges media messages, and crucially whether the Popular Press could employ an indirect approach working to constitute an ‘imaginary’ public in China were the discoveries.

In the end, this study concludes that while China’s cultural, political and economic system of control is the main factor leading to the restriction and dissent of the general public, a ‘reasoning’ popular public might, in time, be shaped through their reading of controversies in political and public affairs in the Popular Press.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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