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


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.

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