The start of reforms in China presented a paradoxical situation to the Chinese media; the question arose as to whether the status quo would be retained or the media would adopt changes in line with economic reforms and a market based approach for the party controlled media. However, the advent of economic reforms in China did not incorporate subsequent democratic reforms of the media; these were and are still to some extent under government censorship and control. Consequently, the suppression of media democratization led to the liberalization of the media. As such, the media were forced to abandon their reliance on government for subsidization and revert to market forces in lieu of suppressed political freedom.
Therefore, the neoliberal Chinese government gradually eased its hold and censorship against the media. However, political issues and issues that are sensitive to the ruling party or those that may influence the public negatively towards the government are not allowed. While the party has control of the political content being published in the media, its policy toward social issues has a more liberal perspective; therefore, the media are not as restricted in contrast to political issues.
The diversified Chinese media are attributable to the reduction of government’s subsidizing the media’s finances. As a result, the media have to fund their operations through commercial activities such as promotions and advertising. The influence of the Chinese media is dependent on the ability of the media to represent information and news in a free and fair manner. However, aspects of the media content that are perceived as threatening to the supremacy of the party are censored. Though, the People’s Republic of China government dictates the nature of the content in the media through laws aimed at protecting the ruling party; it encourages the development of competitive journalism where the media compete for subscribers and market share through their content (IMS 7).
In most cases, the ruling party’s intention to control the extent, nature and content of the media being relayed to the public is not successful. The reason is that information filters through in spite of the government’s monitors and regulators being in place. As a result, significant amounts of information are then gathered and disseminated through various channels, which are not under government’s purview such as personal conversations and the use of cell phones.
Initially, the media has little if any influence on the people. This was a result of stringent governmental control since the government funded the operations of the media. However, the neoliberal China has created an environment where the media influences the public through investigative and candid media content (China). Significantly, the media have been able to grow in numbers. This is represented through the increase of the number of newspapers and the development of electronic media. In light of this, access to information has been significantly improved, where the media’s influence on the social and economic activities of Chinese people has been immense.
The traditional techniques used to censor the media have become ineffective as a result of changes in the social-economic and technological environment. However, the influence of the media has been subjected to regulation in lieu of the law. This curtails the media’s scope of reporting on matters relevant to political, national or state concerns by the ruling party. While there is freedom of the media, this is not viewed as an absolute right by the government. Therefore, it reserves the right to censor the content of the media if perceived to be inflammatory to the political elite and the ruling party (CECC 6).
The Internet characterizes an open source of information whose content cannot be easily controlled by the government. The advent of the Internet as a tool of the media in order to relay their content to people has created an audience which is not curtailed through governmental decrees and interference. As a result, the Internet presents unlimited access to information to all individuals with access to it. The Internet negates china’s long standing propaganda system, where the media provided the people with the information which had been scripted by the government (China). The aim of this was to control the political arena while preventing the scrutiny and criticism towards the government.
The development of interactive Internet websites such as chat rooms, social networks and blogs have enabled the exchange of information in a free manner without being subjected to biased scripted content presented by the government. Among the media companies that adopted the Internet in presenting news is the People Daily which recognized the potential for the Internet in increasing information accessibility and mitigates the loss of readership in newspapers (China). The use of the Internet has been wholly embraced by the media in China since it represents the most preferred source of information in the modern age. Consequently, the Internet has been able to influence the social economic environment in China through advertising, marketing and creation of job opportunities. The Internet has enabled the media to access readability, which under traditional publication methods could not have been realized.
The adoption of reforms and a market based approach towards economic development led to the commercialization of newspapers. As a consequence of commercialization, newspapers increased in number as a result of the government’s cessation to absolute control of the media. This developed a new market which had previously not been served with diversified content. In light of this, number of newspapers increased in order to service the vast Chinese population and acquire a share of the developing media market. As a result, newspapers engaged in competitive journalism where the most influential investigative journalists were sought in order to increase readability of the respective newspapers (IMS 23). Consequently, newspapers have illustrated boldness and condor in their representation of social-economic issues in China.
Newspapers have been able to influence people in reporting on sensitive social issues such as the spread and incidents of AIDs, while taking the government to task on sensitive issues such as public safety and political freedoms. However, a significant percentage of political and party sensitive content is censored by the government. Meanwhile, the Chinese media do not report significantly on sensitive content for fear of being persecuted by the government. Such issues are forwarded to the foreign media who are free and have the capacity to report such issues, for instance the issues relating to the SARS cover-up (CECC 1).
Impacts of Media in China
The media in China have been able to influence people as a result of the subsequent autonomy derived after the adoption of reforms and the advent of the neoliberal China. Due to this developed a diverse content, which has presented the Chinese population with variety and ability to make choices on the preferred media content. While, the autonomy of the media in China is applauded, it does not signify absolute freedom of the media in presenting political and social challenges in the country.
The Internet, for instance, has been under censorship as a result of its potential to facilitate dissidence in the general population against the government. Critics of the Chinese government have used the Internet to influence people’s perception of their government and highlight of social and political injustices prevalent in China (China). This has led to the Internet being censored to prevent the Chinese population from accessing websites, which have been classified by the Chinese government as inciting and inflammatory against the government. The censorship has included multinational search engines such as Google which has the capacity to provide any content being searched across the world.
Meanwhile, the neoliberal era has seen the government’s influence on newspapers being reduced significantly as a consequence of waning monetary dependency. The reason is that the newspapers generate revenue through advertising, promotions and circulation. The emergence of China as liberalized country is attributable to the Chinese media’s ability to market the country’s local products through social media, blogging, advertisements and promotions on the Internet and newspapers (China). This has led to a booming economy which is among the leading economies in the world today. Therefore, the Chinese media have influenced the social-economic environment towards a developed purchasing economy as a result of varied representation of information of various products through the media.
Meanwhile, the competitive media have been encouraged as a result of foreign media investments in China. Consequently, this has influenced the Chinese population through the presentation of improved diverse, aggressive and modern content factoring changes in technological, social-economic and political environments. Moreover, this has led to the abandonment of the scripted ideological content presented to people through the media by the government with the aim of influencing and controlling the political environment in China.
The Chinese media have evolved significantly since embracing reforms. While the government’s influence on the media content has waned, it still impacts on the reporting of significant political and social issues. The evolution of the media has led to the development of print, broadcast and electronic media. Significantly, the Internet has enabled the media to reach a wider population than the print or broadcast media could reach.
This has resulted from developments in technology and accessibility of the Internet on mobile devices, which have become a basic tool in information communication, in the modern world. Meanwhile, newspapers have embraced this technology through the creation of news websites, which complement print media but are updated consistently in real-time, therefore, presenting the readers with real-time information and updates. These developments of the media in China have afforded them significant influence on the social-economic and political activities in China.