Media reform and democratization in post-Mao China : a television case study

Huang, Y. 1993. Media reform and democratization in post-Mao China : a television case study. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleMedia reform and democratization in post-Mao China : a television case study
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsHuang, Y.

Social reform movements in the communist state are a simultaneous, dialectical Process of the revival of socioeconomic dynamism on the one hand, and the abandonment of Party-state praxes on the other. As a result, the Party-controlled media system is bound to proceed to organic transformation. However, by using the medium of television as a key example, this thesis seeks to demonstrate that, under the conditions of Deng Xiaoping's particular and contradictory reform programme and in the context of Chinese society, Chinese mass media have created their own pattern of media transition that is unparalleled by that of other communist states, particularly those under the Gorbachev-style reform programme. The main characteristic of the
Chinese case is that the growth of the industry and the reform of the media institutions have spontaneously become a twofold theme governing the whole process of post-Mao media development.
Therefore, its adopted policies and strategies, institutional
transactions, media performance, structural changes and the ways of delivering resources and increasing productivity, have all been conducted and constrained within that framework. The style of media transition in post-Mao China is not radically revolutionary, but evolutionary. It entails growth that incrementally redefines reality, producing its own dynamics and conflicts.
The evidence of the thesis suggests that Deng Xiaoping's reform formula for the Chinese mass media --- an unintended
contradiction of promoting the growth of the media industry and rationalizing its performance without allowing the parallel development of institutional democratization and fundamental changes of the power structure of Party's media --- cannot obtain its intended objective. Rather, it tends to produce a boomerang effect: although it can protract the process of media democratization, the new social forces, the changing economic relations and political culture in post-Mao China have provided the solid foundation for a further change with the overall media reform tendency continuously gaining momentum. The historical logic and irony become explicit here: Deng's reform programme, as a desperate resort to save the Party-state system and to prevent the advent of democracy, has turned out to be the midwife of far-reaching societal transformation and democratization in China. Thus, despite the sufferings and frustration of the 1989 Beijing pro-democracy movement, the present course of social reform is almost impossible to reverse.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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