Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media: Contents and Abstracts


The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

Edited by
Professor Gary D. Rawnsley and
Dr Ming-yeh Rawnsley

CONTENTS

List of tables

List of figures

List of contributors

Members of the Editorial Board

Editorial Note

Acknowledgements


Introduction
Gary D. Rawnsley & Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley


Part I: The Development of the Study and the Structure of Chinese Media


1. (Re)-Focusing on the Target: Reflections on a Trajectory of Studying the Chinese Media
Yuezhi Zhao


2. China, Soft Power and Imperialism
Colin Sparks


3. Evaluating Chinese Media Policy: Objectives and Contradictions
Rogier Creemers


Part II: Journalism, Press Freedom and Social Mobilisation


4. Western Missionaries and Origins of the Modern Chinese Press
Yuntao Zhang


5. Setting the Press Boundaries:  The Case of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group
Chujie Chen


6. Chinese Investigative Journalism in the Twenty-First Century
Hugo de Burgh


7. From Control to Competition: A Comparative Study of the Party Press and Popular Press
Hsiao-wen Lee


8. Press Freedom in Hong Kong: Interactions between State, Media and Society
Francis L. F. Lee


9. Media and Social Mobilisation in Hong Kong
Joseph M. Chan and Francis L. F. Lee


10. Citizen Journalists as an Empowering Community for Change: A Case Study of a Taiwanese Online Platform ‘PeoPo’
Chen-ling Hung


Part III: The Internet, Public Sphere and Media Culture


11. Politics and Social Media in China
Lars Willnat, Lu Wei and Jason A. Martin


12. Online Chinese Nationalism and Its Nationalist Discourses
Yiben Ma


13. A Cyberconflict Analysis of Chinese Dissidents Focusing on Civil Society, Mass Incidents and Labour Resistance
Athina Karatzogianni and Andrew Robinson


14. Workers and Peasants as Historical Subjects: The Formation of Working Class Media Cultures in China
Wanning Sun


15. An Emerging Middle Class Public Sphere in China? Analysis of News Media Representation of ‘Self Tax Declaration’
Qian (Sarah) Gong


16. Expressing Myself, Connecting with You: Young Taiwanese Females’ Photographic Self-Portraiture on Wretch Album
Yin-han Wang


17. Against the Grain: The Battle for Public Service Broadcasting in Taiwan
Chun-wei Daniel Lin


18. Public Service Television in China
Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley and Chien-san Feng




Part IV: Market, Production and the Media Industries

19. The Changing Role of Copyright in China’s Emergent Media Economy
Lucy Montgomery and Xiang Ren


20. Gamers, State and Online Games
Anthony Y. H. Fung


21. The Geographical Clustering of Chinese Media Production
Michael Keane


22. The Politics and Poetics of Television Documentary in China
Qing Cao


23. Contemporary Chinese Historical TV Drama as a Cultural Genre: Production, Consumption and the State Power
George Dawei Guo


24. Live Television Production of Media Events in China: The Case of the Beijing Olympic Games
Limin Liang


25. Negotiated Discursive Struggles in Hyper-Marketised and Oligopolistic Media System: The Case of Hong Kong
Charles Chi-wai Cheung




Part V. Chinese Media and the World


26.  Internationalisation of China’s Television: History, Development and New Trends
Junhao Hong and Youling Liu


27. Decoding the Chinese Media in Flux: American Correspondents as an Interpretive Community
Yunya Song


28. Chinese International Broadcasting, Public Diplomacy and Soft Power
Gary Rawnsley


Chinese Glossary: Selected Chinese Names and Terms

Chinese Dynasties at a Glance

Index



CHAPTER ABSTRACTS


1. (Re)-Focusing on the Target: Reflections on a Trajectory of Studying the Chinese Media
Yuezhi Zhao


In the context of China’s rapid transformation in a turbulent global system since the late 1970s, to study the Chinese media is to shoot at a target that appears easy to focus on at first sight, but is in actuality rather elusive. On the surface, the target appears static as there has not been any radical transformation in the basic structure of the Chinese media system after more than thirty years of reform. Upon closer examination, however, the target has both undergone dramatic mutations in its shape and shed much of its original colour. Moreover, in the context of a highly unstable and rapidly evolving global order, the target has not only repeatedly defied conventional expectations in terms of the direction of its movement, but also is realigning its geopolitical  relations with other objects and streams of flow in the global media universe. Which direction to look at? What does the target look like at a particular moment? What lenses to use and how to aim? What kind of shooting guns do we have in hand and are they adequate for the purpose? No less important, isn’t it the case that the shape and colour of the target, our ways of approaching it, even the very language we use to define and describe it, very much depends on who we are and where we stand as scholars? Finally, beyond the imperative of surviving the academic curse of publishing or perishing, what is this analysis for? This chapter re-examines the author’s own academic endeavour in the field. It is an exercise of intellectual self-reflectivity and it discusses both the substantive and methodological issues involved in studying the Chinese media.


2. China, Soft Power and Imperialism
Colin Sparks


This chapter is primarily concerned with developing an approach that facilitates the understanding of the international cultural impact consequent upon China’s rise. The author compares two major approaches — soft power vs. cultural imperialism — from the point of view of their utility in helping us understand current developments. It begins with a brief statement of the two positions and makes some comparisons between their claims. It then considers them from the point of view of their ability to illuminate a number of key problems raised by the role of culture in international relations. These approaches, both developed with the US experience very much in mind, are shown to be lacking in some important dimensions necessary to explain current developments. Neither on its own is sufficiently developed as to provide an adequate theoretical framework to study the contemporary situation. In response to these shortcomings, an attempt is made to use these insights to develop a theoretical framework that is adequate to solving the problems presented by the distinctive features of the Chinese case.


3. Evaluating Chinese Media Policy: Objectives and Contradictions
Rogier Creemers


In recent years, there have been great changes in the Chinese media environment which have been mainly driven by technological and commercial developments. Social media have flourished, the film sector has expanded and commercial television stations have grown ever more successful. However, in China’s particular political-legal environment, these developments pose challenges to government and policy making, as the media administration aims to reconcile political objectives, such as maintaining legitimacy, social objectives, such as youth protection, and economic objectives. Furthermore, the party’s supremacy in political and legal matters has created a situation where overarching constitutional notions, which can underpin the structure of governance, are absent. At the same time, it is clear that there is a strong institutional structure to govern the sphere of public communication which has its own underpinnings and dynamics. How then can we make sense of the content and structure of this Chinese media governance apparat? This chapter answers a double question. First, it will analyse the central philosophical underpinnings of the current Chinese communication order as well as their historical origins. Second, it will illustrate how the current governance structure — both in terms of institutional structuring and content of media rules — is set up in order to implement these objectives. Finally, it will briefly analyse the severe problems the government faces implementing media regulation in the rapidly shifting Chinese environment.


4. Western Missionaries and Origins of the Modern Chinese Press
Yuntao Zhang


China can lay claim to being the oldest print civilization in the world. However a modern culture of journalism and publishing was in fact a relatively late arrival, coinciding with the import of modern printing technology from the west. For over a thousand years, Chinese journalism was dominated by the official gazette called DiBao (Peking Gazette). This organ of the imperial state comprised edicts, news of government appointments and court affairs, and served a small privileged readership. It was not until 1815 that what could be considered the first modern periodical (though not strictly speaking a Chinese publication) was to appear in China. This was the work of two British missionaries, Robert Morrison and William Milne, and it marked the beginnings of a process, spanning the nineteenth century, in which a group of predominantly British and American Protestant missionaries pursued a strategy of evangelism centred on the development of journalism, publishing and printing enterprises in China. This chapter provides a short outline of this process and some reflections on its wider cultural consequences.


5. Setting the Press Boundaries:  The Case of the Southern (Nanfang) Media Group
Chujie Chen


This research is concerned with the dialectic relationship between political-economic constraints and journalistic agency that contribute to the transformation of journalism. We should ask what kind of factors gave rise to the outspokenness of the Nanfang subsidiary papers and how their journalists pushed the limits of the permissible in China. Though much attention has been paid to the Nanfang newspapers, relatively few consider Nanfang as a whole and the intra-organisational relations within the group. This chapter synthesises existing studies on journalistic practices at Nanfang and its maverick subsidiary papers in particular. Overall, this chapter attempts to examine (1) the political-economic settings where Nanfang is located; (2) the relationship between the parent newspaper Nanfang Daily and its maverick subsidiaries in terms of organisational culture, division of labour, and the flow of human resources; (3) the strategic rituals used by the press to cope with or even bypass the severe restrictions imposed by power holders; and (4) the implications of strategic rituals for media autonomy.


6. Chinese Investigative Journalism in the Twenty-First Century
Hugo de Burgh


Rather than trying to define investigative journalism by its motivations and heroics, this chapter defines investigative journalism in China according to its method of approach and by the techniques associated with it, techniques that are not necessarily peculiar to investigative journalism, but which are characteristic of them. Some investigative journalists reject the very category, claiming that all journalism is or ought to be investigative, in the sense that checking and digging are intrinsic to good journalism. In general, however, Chinese investigative journalists are expected to display specific characteristics. They should be revelatory (provide new information, i.e. qishi xing, and expose hidden things, that is, jiefa xing); accusatory of bad people/organisations (qianze xing), and moralistic (implying that journalists apply higher moral standards, i.e. shuojiao xing); and finally, willing to take risks (fengxian xing). This chapter explains these characteristics in detail and discusses the particular skills and techniques employed by journalists to achieve their aims.


7. From Control to Competition: A Comparative Study of the Party Press and Popular Press
Hsiao-wen Lee


This chapter looks at how the newspaper industry in China has changed from being a party and government-led propaganda tool to become a more commercially market-oriented product. This will be achieved by first looking at four key influencing factors: (1) circulation, (2) advertising revenue, (3) distribution and (4) organisation of press groups. Second, the chapter explores how different variables impact on the news media: political control, market competition and professional performance. Then finally through the analysis of four news events during the period between 2005 and 2007, the discussions identify the various ways news coverage has been influenced. This chapter will argue that the popular market-oriented newspapers not only try to touch the party line when doing their reports, but also surrender themselves to wider commercial considerations.


8. Press Freedom in Hong Kong: Interactions between State, Media and Society
Francis L. F. Lee


This chapter reviews the politics of press freedom in Hong Kong by focusing on the interaction between the state, the local media and civil society. Without dismissing the importance of structural constraints, the interactional perspective emphasises the capability of actors to influence outcomes — the quality and quantity of press freedom in the present case — through negotiating, contesting, and/or collaborating with each other. Each player in the state-media-society triad has its own basic concerns and goals. Given their respective aims and perspectives, the players develop strategies to interact with each other. At the same time, the players also need to respond to changing social and political contexts. In particular, major political events may lead to changing perceptions of reality, and the players may alter their strategies as a result. Consistent with recent research on political developments in Hong Kong, this chapter treats the 1 July protest in 2003, in which 500,000 people protested against the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government, as a critical event that had significant repercussions on the China-Hong Kong relationship. Before 2003, China was largely willing to grant an ‘exceptional’ degree of press freedom to the city’s media. It relied on an informal system of politics marked by self-censorship and inducement to contain the Hong Kong press. While these elements persisted after 2003, the state developed new strategies to control and co-opt the Hong Kong press as the government began to intervene more openly in Hong Kong society. Yet civil society has also become more active in monitoring press performance, so that by 2013, Hong Kong’s press is more polarised and more proactive in voicing its concerns.


9. Media and Social Mobilisation in Hong Kong
Joseph M. Chan and Francis L. F. Lee


This chapter provides a conceptual overview of the roles played by the mass media and new media platforms in the formation of social movements and specific instances of collective actions in Hong Kong. It first discusses the characteristics and development of contentious collective actions in contemporary Hong Kong in order to provide the broader background against which the roles of media communications can be understood. It then examines important issues in the relationship between media and social mobilisation, such as how the professional news media cover social protests.


10. Citizen Journalists as an Empowering Community for Change: A Case Study of a Taiwanese Online Platform ‘PeoPo’
Chen-ling Hung


In 2007, Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS) established the PeoPo Citizen Journalism Platform to encourage public participation in news production. As a friendly web2.0 platform, PeoPo was designed for citizens to report and share news stories online. In addition, training curricula and courses are provided to empower Taiwanese citizens and organisations so that they are capable of reporting on important environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues. PeoPo’s efforts attracted attention from the mainstream media and international news organisations. Philipe Harding of BBC World News has commented that PeoPo could be a model for citizen journalism and ‘one of the best strategies for extending public media service in the digital era’. Why can PeoPo be influential? How is the platform designed and operated? What are the impacts on participants from the viewpoint of empowerment? What implications does it have on our understanding of the media, online journalism and citizen participation? To answer these questions, this chapter applies the concepts of participatory communication and citizen journalism to examine the development and influences of PeoPo. The discussion includes a brief analysis of this platform and interviews with the platform manager and its citizen reporters. This study thus aims to analyse the practice and influences of PeoPo and how this model would advance our understanding of citizen journalism.


11. Politics and Social Media in China
Lars Willnat, Lu Wei and Jason A. Martin


This chapter takes stock of the current state of the internet in China by analysing what digital media are available, how they are used within China’s unique political and social environment, and what effects they might have on political engagement among ordinary Chinese. In doing so, the authors rely on as much empirical evidence as possible, even though they realise that this is a fairly new and unexplored topic among China’s scholars. The chapter begins with a description of internet access in China, followed by a more detailed look at the availability and use of social media and blogging. It then discusses the growing significance of online video in China’s public sphere and how this medium has become an important tool for undermining the government’s efforts at controlling social media. Finally, the chapter reviews the current literature on the potential link between social media and political engagement in China.


12. Online Chinese Nationalism and Its Nationalist Discourses
Yiben Ma


No matter how online Chinese nationalism is studied, whether seeing its outgrowth as a signal of an emerging civil society or as a form of public opinion shaping Chinese foreign policies, the phenomenon can hardly be understood without taking two perspectives into account. Firstly, while investigating the potentials of the internet to bring changes to various aspects of Chinese nationalism, equal attention should be paid to the historical, social and institutional context out of which online Chinese nationalism comes into shape. Secondly, any study related to nationalism concerns two indispensable parts, namely the state, with which the masses identify their loyalty; and the masses who translate their nationalist consciousness ‘into deeds of organised action’. Taking both facts into consideration, this chapter aims to first of all embed the concept of Chinese nationalism into a historical, social and institutional context and explain how the concept has evolved and transformed over time in both official and popular discourses. Then it sheds light on the ‘Chinese internet’ per se - the immediate soil where online Chinese nationalism grows. It inspects the peculiarities of the internet that configure the production, dissemination and discussion of online Chinese nationalism. Finally, it endeavours to set up interrelations between Chinese nationalism and the internet by examining the extent to which the internet brings changes to the expression and discussion of Chinese nationalism, and challenges the relations between official and popular players over nationalism issues.


13. A Cyberconflict Analysis of Chinese Dissidents Focusing on Civil Society, Mass Incidents and Labour Resistance
Athina Karatzogianni and Andrew Robinson


This chapter employs the cyberconflict perspective to offer an in-depth analysis of Chinese dissidents in the People’s Republic of China focusing particularly on the 2000s. A distinction is drawn between socio-political (or active) social movement uses of the internet — which focus on organisation, mobilisation and the networked form of the medium itself — and ethno-religious (or reactive) social movement uses, which subordinate the medium to vertical logics. These are often expressed in terms of ad hoc mobilisations and tit-for-tat defacements and cyberattacks adhering to closed and fixed identities, such as nationality, religion and ethnicity.


14. Workers and Peasants as Historical Subjects: The Formation of Working Class Media Cultures in China
Wanning Sun


Economic reforms, industrialisation, urbanisation and migration since the 1980s have given rise to what is now often described as the ‘new working class’ in China. But is there such a thing as a working class media culture, and if so, what shape and form does a working class media culture take? What are the political, social and economic contexts in which a working class media culture comes to exist? And finally, if there is such a thing as the working class media culture, then what is the relationship between class analysis and media studies in China, and indeed how should future research agendas be shaped by these concerns? This chapter addresses these questions.


15. An Emerging Middle Class Public Sphere in China? Analysis of News Media Representation of ‘Self Tax Declaration’
Qian (Sarah) Gong


This chapter draws on the concept of the public sphere to analyse the democratic potential of the news media in China. It emphasises that in addition to media autonomy, public deliberation based on plural social interests is another major dimension of media democracy. It analyses three news media that represent diverse social interests as well as the ‘journalism domain’ and ‘civic forum’ sectors of the public sphere. Through analysing their representation of a recent tax policy which aims to reduce income inequality, this chapter examines their autonomous civic deliberative function as well as their representative function of plural social interests, drawn from the revisited public sphere concept. It then critically discusses the potential of an emerging middle-class media public sphere in China, which falls short in its inclusion of a wider range of diverse and pluralistic social interests.


16. Expressing Myself, Connecting with You: Young Taiwanese Females’ Photographic Self-Portraiture on Wretch Album
Yin-han Wang


This chapter is part of a broader research project that examines Taiwanese girls’ identity through internet self-portraiture. The empirical data presented in this chapter is based on interviews with forty-two girls aged 13–20 who post self-portraits on Wretch, the most popular social networking site in Taiwan when this project commenced. Interviews were conducted between February and November 2010, mostly through online instant messaging but also a few conducted face-to-face in southern Taiwan. While self-portraiture can be explored from many perspectives, and is sometimes hastily dismissed as pure narcissism, this chapter takes an approach that seeks to understand online self-portraiture as a form of mediated interpersonal communication. The author brings together perspectives on personal photography, mobile communication, and personal relationships in offline and online contexts, and examines the role of self-portraiture — as a kind of visual self-disclosure — in girls’ online and offline interpersonal communication.


17. Against the Grain: The Battle for Public Service Broadcasting in Taiwan
Chun-wei Daniel Lin


This chapter engages with the debate around the expansion of Taiwanese Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) in three main areas of inquiry and conceptualisation: (1) the role of PSB from the perspective of critical political economy, (2) the media in transitional societies with specific reference to Taiwan, and (3) the politics of media representation in the Taiwanese context. One strand in the classic arguments in favour of PSB is particularly addressed in this chapter, that is, the question of what role (if any) PSB can and should play in a televisual environment where consumer choice has been extended by the proliferation of cable and satellite channels. This chapter examines if channel plurality addresses market failures and what distinctive role PSB can play in a multi-channel age. While political and market forces threaten ‘the cultural citizenship’ which stands for citizens’ rights of ‘access to the information and social participation’, one important focus of this study is on the alliances and networks formed by civil society groups or by business interests, and the ways these formations attempt to intervene in the policy marking process by building public and media support and influencing legislators. The competing claims of various groups about the expansion of PSB are the central focus of this chapter.


18. Public Service Television in China
Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley and Chien-san Feng


This chapter traces the development of public service television in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It unravels the endeavours by Chinese elites to reconcile competing concerns from different sections of the society in implementing Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) within the Chinese context. The authors use the term public service television to include both Chinese public television channels and public interest television. A study on the development of public service television in the PRC reveals to a certain extent how China actually functions, that is, not necessarily as a single-minded and highly efficient unit but as a fragmented entity within which lie multiple, and often self-conflicting, interests and directions. Moreover, while an examination of China’s internal debate on public service television may reaffirm a universal value of PSB in modern public life, it also raises fundamental questions: does PSB only exist in democracies? Can a non-democratic country such as the PRC creates its own version of public service television and if so, how will the Chinese audiences benefit from it?


19. The Changing Role of Copyright in China’s Emergent Media Economy
Lucy Montgomery and Xiang Ren


This chapter introduces the changing role of copyright in China from a historical perspective. It begins by briefly tracing the history of copyright, from a censorship related system associated with the emergence of the printing press in imperial China, through modernisation during the Republican period, abolition under communism, and finally to the introduction of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) first copyright law in 1990 and the nation’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001.


20. Gamers, State and Online GamesAnthony Y. H. Fung


Freedom of the press and plurality of ideas have been enduring issues in the study of the media. Recently, attention has turned to the cultural industries, sometimes also known as creative industries. Broadcasting industries, music industries, film industries, animation, online game industries and other internet-platform run industries are examples of cultural industries. All these cultural industries in total have started to accumulate huge profits and achieved considerable growth. In view of the economic potential and market, and hence strong cultural influence, the state realises that its influence and control should be extended to these industries. This chapter explains how the Chinese authorities attempted to extend their manipulative logic over the emerging creative or cultural industries. Specifically, this chapter focuses on the government’s effort to (re)gain control over the online game industry, a rapidly growing and highly profitable new media platform in which the state has had no experience in terms of both content production and control.


21. The Geographical Clustering of Chinese Media Production
Michael Keane


This chapter examines the geography of audio-visual media production against the backdrop of China’s attempt to modernise and professionalise its media institutions. The author begins with a brief summary of key changes that have transpired before asking what these changes mean for researchers of China’s media. In contrast to many accounts of China’s media that begin with the political imperative, the chapter argues that commercial reforms of the media system are the key driver of change. The chapter then looks at examples of the realignment of regional media production in television, film and animation before focusing on how Beijing and Shanghai have competed to be media industry centres. 


22. The Politics and Poetics of Television Documentary in China
Qing Cao


The roots of documentary film run deep in China’s political history. However, the commercialisation drive of the media industry in the 1990s dislodged documentary film from state monopoly. Since then it has expanded substantially in function, subject matter, style and voice. The partial de-politicisation of the media industry has released the pent-up creative energy of media professionals. The current popularity of TV documentary, in contrast to the tired dogmatic propagandist films, signifies a structural change in political communication, in state-society relations and in the dynamics of socio-political transformation. Nonetheless, documentary films like all other forms of media are centrally controlled, and subject to the direct administrative supervision of the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT). In early 2013, in an attempt to tighten its control of proliferating documentaries, the SAPPRFT issued a new regulation centralising the management of topics by publishing an officially proved list every six months. These developments over time reveal both the dynamics of change in the Chinese media and the evolving relationships between political control, market forces and socio-economic transformations. This chapter documents and discusses this development through a chronological and thematic account of the history, structure and key issues of documentaries. Emphasis is given to intrinsic linkages between TV documentaries, their roles and functions and the political, historical and socio-economic context.


23. Contemporary Chinese Historical TV Drama as a Cultural Genre: Production, Consumption and the State Power
George Dawei Guo


This chapter examines the genre of the historical television drama from both the production and the consumption perspectives. The first section focuses on the Chinese television drama industry. The aim of this section is to look at how the Chinese television drama industry has been categorising and evaluating historical drama since the 1980s. The author divides the evolution of Chinese historical drama into three stages: 1984–1992, 1992–2004, and 2004–present. At each stage, the meaning of ‘the historical’ has been conditioned by certain literary, production, scheduling and regulatory circumstances. The discussion on the audience response is based on empirical audience research that the author conducted between 2007 and 2008. The author argues that to a large extent the three audience types — conservatives, culturalists and realists — reveal the respondents’ awareness and perception of state power in their cultural practices of watching the historical drama.


24. Live Television Production of Media Events in China: The Case of the Beijing Olympic Games
Limin Liang


The countdown to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, widely seen as China’s ‘coming out party’, started almost as soon as the city won the Olympic bid in 2001. An important component of this countdown was the media planning within China Central Television (CCTV), which is the state broadcaster and the Olympic TV rights holder in mainland China. The coverage would eventually amount to approximately 3,000 hours of programming across nine TV channels. Drawing from literature on media events and cultural production, this chapter engages with an understudied topic in media events scholarship: the relationship between plans and improvisation at different stages of live broadcasting of a mega event. Related to this, the chapter looks at the perception of ‘uncertainty’ in live television production as well as the strategies developed by media agents to cope with it. Regarding the component of ‘improvisation,’ in particular, the chapter revisits the concept of ‘what-a-story’ in news reporting and uses as a case study, sprinter Liu Xiang’s unexpected withdrawal from the race, as an example to illustrate the dialectic relationship between plan and improvisation.


25. Negotiated Discursive Struggles in Hyper-Marketised and Oligopolistic Media System: The Case of Hong Kong
Charles Chi-wai Cheung


This chapter investigates how the extreme marketisation and oligopolisation of the Hong Kong media constrain and enable representational struggles over youth across different media sectors and theorise the counter-hegemonic potentials, influences and limitations of the counter discursive forces involved. The case study has wider relevance to understanding media pluralism in capitalism. First, discursive struggles over Hong Kong youth are rather unequal. This context of an unequal power struggle is not peculiar to youth, but to different degrees is shared by other powerless groups in Hong Kong and by other capitalist societies. Many scholars have expressed serious concerns about how extreme media marketisation and oligopolisation would disadvantage powerless groups. The case of Hong Kong youth can shed light on ‘what would be’ for powerless groups in such a media environment. Second, the Hong Kong case suggests that representational struggles may be neither intense nor insignificant, but are situated between these two extremes at a location termed by the author ‘negotiated representational struggles’. Negotiated representational struggles should not be dismissed as trivial resistance, as they periodically and sporadically pose challenges to the mainstream with strong and lasting counter-hegemonic effects.


26.  Internationalisation of China’s Television: History, Development and New Trends
Junhao Hong and Youling Liu


China’s television represents a highly complicated media system. Not only is it one of the largest television systems in the world and one of the world’s most powerful political and ideological machines, but more importantly it is also a very unique social manifestation. This chapter examines Chinese TV’s internationalisation and the various approaches used by the Chinese government for the internationalisation of television over time. The authors divide the internationalisation of China’s television into four intertwined paths: (1) importing media and cultural products from other countries; (2) co-producing television products with foreign media; (3) exporting television dramas to other countries; and (4) the new trend of internationalisation of China’s television, which is an aggressive strategy of expanding China’s media outlets and their informational and cultural products abroad.


27. Decoding the Chinese Media in Flux: American Correspondents as an Interpretive Community
Yunya Song


American journalists constantly experience tight constraints in China. However, very few academic studies have focused on how American journalists seek the information from the Chinese media, and how they interpret the messages encoded by their Chinese counterparts. The interpretive response of American journalists is not a matter of individual perception alone. While foreign correspondents are typically viewed as loners who set their own agenda, nowhere had the US press corps consorted as much as they did in post-Mao China. This chapter aims to identify what information sources are preferred by the US press corps in their use of Chinese media, and paints a longitudinal portrait of the Chinese media landscape ‘recoded’ by these American journalists. With the view that information seeking does not exist only in the incipient location of information, but also its ensuing ‘relocation’, the concern of this study has been not only with the initial retrieval of facts, but also with shared decoding strategies, to wit, the ways in which American journalists as an interpretive community evaluate and decode local media messages throughout the wider constructive task. Their choice of decoding strategies is not the result of individual self-serving, idiosyncratic renderings of texts but a collective appropriation of texts by virtue of dominant cultural assumptions to suit group interests.


28. Chinese International Broadcasting, Public Diplomacy and Soft Power
Gary Rawnsley


This chapter evaluates the relationship between China’s soft power strategy, its public diplomacy and its international broadcasting capacity. Understanding the connection between these three activities is important for public diplomacy, with international broadcasting as one of its instruments, represents the mobilisation and instrumentalisation of soft power resources: It helps us to understand how soft power resources are converted into behavioural outcomes. The principal themes of this chapter are: (1) the discrepancy between the messages disseminated by China’s international broadcasting stations and the perceptions of China by their audience; (2) the reactive strategy that has determined China’s international broadcasting must be a corrective to both western media reporting about China and the dominance of western media organisations in global news flows; and perhaps most importantly, (3) the question of trust and credibility that surfaces because China’s international broadcasting remains fully embedded within the state system.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

I am delighted to announce the publication of The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media, edited with Ming-Yeh Rawnsley. You can find links to the book here Routledge and at Amazon.

To whet your appetite and maybe persuade you to purchase a copy I post here my introduction this collection of essays in which I map out the structure of the volume and explain its approach.

Shooting ‘at a target that appears easy to focus on at first sight,
but is actually rather elusive’
— Yuezhi Zhao (Chapter 1 this volume) describing her experience of studying the Chinese media.

In the final stages of preparing this manuscript, the publishing team at Routledge asked us to choose the image we would like to use as a cover for the book. We considered a dozen possibilities, most of which depicted satellite dishes, flickering television screens, the new CCTV building in Beijing or the giant screens in Hong Kong’s Time Square — all rather pedestrian and uninspiring choices, we thought. However, we did find one photograph that spoke to both the vision and shape of the book you are now holding in your hand, and both editors immediately concurred that this should be the front cover. Take a look at it.



We see two young people — they could be Chinese — sitting in what appears to be an underground train … where? Hong Kong? Singapore? Shanghai? Taipei? London, perhaps? The girl is absorbed in her mobile telephone, the boy sitting beside her is focused on his tablet. They may be reading the news, updating their Facebook status, downloading music, finding a restaurant for dinner, chatting on weibo or playing games. For the editors, this image captured instantly the transforming landscape of Chinese media and communications: A 24/7 information environment defined by the convergence of platforms, multiple methods of vertical and horizontal communication, and the overwhelming sense that one can never be out of contact with friends or out of touch with the world. Technology has shattered the boundaries between personal and mass communications, private and public space, news and entertainment, culture and information, producer and consumer. It has destroyed the temporal and spatial constraints that in the past defined the structure and meaning of our day. Our lives — our friends, our diaries, our memories in photographs, our means of amusement and distraction — are now available in one handy package and accompany us everywhere. Where once we could only ‘download,’ we are all now encouraged to ‘upload’; just as soon as we got used to talking about ‘blogs’, along come ‘tweets’; Youtube users are now able to integrate their films with their Facebook accounts; we are coming to terms with the fact that clouds are no longer just those white fluffy things that float above us in the sky; and we are learning a brand new jargon of 4G, ‘apps’ and ‘android technology’.

Having surrendered to this new landscape, the editors — one obsessive Tweeter and one hardened player of Candy Crush — realised that the traditional approach to collecting and organising essays on the media had been rendered redundant. We could not include separate sections for print, television and film, for the convergence of platforms has made such distinctions obsolete. We refused to concede to fashion and label one section ‘New Media’: When do new media stop being new? For the generation who grew to adolescence after the 1990s, there is nothing new about the internet and social media. ‘New media’ is a tired classification used among the generations, including the editors, who can recall the dark times before the internet and email. Moreover, studies of journalism, culture, information and entertainment can no longer treat the ‘new media’ as separate categories, a sideshow, when journalists now blog, tweet and broadcast through the internet (how can media studies departments still justify delivering separate journalism and new media degrees?); and when new networks are choosing to upload major drama series made exclusively for the internet, turning their backs on more conventional methods of broadcasting (of course we’re thinking here of Netflix and the massive global hit drama series, House of Cards).

Neither could we group the chapters according to geographical focus, for space and time have far less meaning now than they did a generation ago. The rapid development of new communications technologies and their almost immediate adoption by users (as recently as 2013 a Chinese student said to one of the editors, ‘You still use Whatsapp? That is so old!’) shapes and is shaped by equally transformative processes in politics, economics and culture. Globalisation and communication can no longer be analysed as distinct creatures; and this dense interconnected and relational environment generates its own logic and new challenges — for users, producers and governments — that were unthinkable only a decade before this book appeared.

Globalisation and the new communications landscape also help us to understand the necessity of analysing multiple definitions of ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’. In this book we recognise China as a distinct nation-state that is officially called the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Our use of the term ‘Chinese’ in the title of the book refers to a culture and civilisation that is not tied to any particular territorial or political unit. It broadens the focus, allows for a more inclusive approach and permits our fellow contributors to discuss not only the PRC, but also Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the regional and global flows of communications and cultures. Thus we are concerned with three societies which adopt very different perspectives on what the media can and should do, and how they can and should operate. Rogier Creemers in Chapter 3 notes that this debate is particularly pronounced in the PRC where the policy environment and the governance of the media are designed to help the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintain its own position, namely ‘monopolising the public debate within the Chinese territory. This extends to the production of documentaries and historical dramas (Cao and Guo in this volume) in which continued government supervision has provoked the cultural industries into adopting a cautious approach to creating programmes. Hong Kong’s media are facing a set of unique challenges that reflect the politically-guarded nature of news journalism (encouraging a growing culture of self-censorship among reporters) framed by the territory’s peculiar position within the PRC’s orbit. Yet Taiwan too, often labelled the ‘first Chinese democracy’ (Chao and Myers 1998), is confronting its own difficulties as the media there continue to negotiate and re-negotiate their roles and responsibilities in a highly polarised democratic society. All three Chinese societies are coming to terms with the demands of market forces and an under-researched claim that audiences thirst for ever more sensationalist news, gossip and scandal. The similarities and differences experienced by the media and their consumers in the PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan — and their interactions with each other and the rest of the region and the world — validate Daya Thussu’s observation: The ‘global media landscape’, he noted, is now ‘multicultural, multilingual, and multinational. Digital communication technologies in broadcasting and broadband have given viewers in many countries the ability to access simultaneously a vast array of local, national, regional and international’ media products (Thussu 2014: 8).

Emerging from this terrain of cross-national flows of communication, entertainment and news that breaches the personal and the public and is oblivious to considerations of time and space, is a complex, non-linear evolution of media processes, industries and agencies that erode further the increasingly fragile partitions between society, culture, economics and politics. These are issues discussed in Part I of this volume in which Yuezhi Zhao, Colin Sparks and Rogier Creemers reflect on the ‘state of the field’ from national and international perspectives. They identify the principal themes, questions and concerns that drive the subsequent chapters and engage with Chinese media on multiple disciplinary and geographical levels. The discussions in Part I embed the volume in a discourse of transformation — of the location and exercise of global power, in the nature of capitalism, and in Chinese and global media spaces. At the forefront in Part I, and in Part II  which is concerned with varying understandings of, and practices in journalism, are questions about media economy and shifting ideological priorities; the relationship between state, media and society; accountability, social mobilisation and empowerment; and the laws and regulatory frameworks and processes that govern media architectures and practices. In a novel approach to communications Anthony Y.H. Fung’s chapter on online gaming reveals the challenges facing the Chinese government in constructing appropriate frameworks to regulate a completely new landscape. The levels of popular participation and interactivity involved in gaming have provoked government authorities, finding themselves with little jurisdiction in the game environment,  to reconsider their relationship with the cultural industries; while at the same time opening new opportunities for online participants to take control and shape their own virtual worlds. This represents a unique and unprecedented form of negotiation between government and civil society in China.

Meanwhile, Joseph M. Chan and Francis L.F. Lee remind us of the way the media — and especially new media technologies — have played an essential role in the rise of social movements in Hong Kong. This is of course not limited to Hong Kong: in It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere (2013), Paul Mason reflected on the global wave of protest and revolution. The book includes the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the ‘Occupy movement’, and riots in Athens and London, and documents how social media have both encouraged and facilitated popular mobilisation throughout the world. Mason quotes one activist who explained her use of the social media during meetings and captured succinctly their democratic benefits: ‘We use Twitter to expand the room’ (Mason 2013: 45).

Since the landmark protests of 1 July 2003 when the conversation about Hong Kong’s future expanded to the 500,000 participants who marched to force the government to postpone a controversial national security bill, we have observed frequent protest activity there, including the annual vigil in memory of the victims of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. We have witnessed a similar trend in Taiwan where, following the occupation (assisted by the mobilisation power of social media) of the legislature by the so-called Sunflower Movement in the Spring of 2014, the number of demonstrations involving people from all walks of life and political persuasions, concerned about an expanding range of issues, have proliferated (e.g. Cole 2014).

The themes of mobilisation and empowerment are explored further by the contributors in Part III who explore the formation and expression of particular political, social and economic identities. The internet, social media and the adoption of public service broadcasting (PSB) models have modified both the structure of, and popular participation in, the public sphere. But there are limits: In Taiwan, as Chun-wei Daniel Lin notes in this volume, the (re)constitution of the public sphere has revolved around PSB. Although taking reference from the experience of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), debates about PSB in Taiwan have revealed less a commitment to its ideals than a contest between competing elites, with the public largely excluded from debates. This connects to Rawnsley and Feng’s chapter on the development of PSB in China and Cheung’s discussion on the lack of PSB in Hong Kong. While Cheung points out that ‘without a strong public media tradition, the Hong Kong media are hyper-marketised’, Rawnsley and Feng concur with Raymond Williams (1976: 130): ‘In one way the basic choice is between control and freedom, but in actual terms it is more often a choice between a measure of control and a measure of freedom, and the substantial argument is about how these can be combined’.

In Part III our contributors evaluate how the boundaries between the personal and private have adjusted to new communications technologies, and one example is the curious development of the ‘selfie’ among young Taiwanese females (Wang’s chapter). It is good to remind ourselves that prior to the word ‘selfie’ entering the Oxford English Dictionary, and long before no celebrity, prime minister or president could consider themselves either authentic or popular (populist?) until they had tweeted a photograph of themselves taken on their own mobile phone, young people throughout Greater China were documenting their everyday lives through digital self-portraiture. Is this another example of the global flow of culture from east to west, confounding the advocates of the old-fashioned ‘cultural imperialism’ thesis? And how does this global flow connect with frameworks that approach the impact of online nationalism and the way Chinese views themselves and are viewed by global audiences (Ma in this volume), and China’s growing commitment to exercising ‘soft power’ among its neighbours and the world (Sparks and Gary Rawnsley in this volume)? Selfies, as in the other examples identified by the essays in Part III, confirm that it is no longer possible to mark a clear distinction between producer and consumer, an issue that is again addressed in Parts II and III when the phenomenon of citizen journalism is considered as a supplement to (rather than replacement of) mainstream professional news reporting. This expansion of citizen journalism, as well as the growth in popular participation and intervention in news processes, is of course a product of evolving communications technologies, but is also partly explained by an apparent decline across the Chinese world in the quality of mainstream journalism via the pressures of marketisation and commercialism. This is certainly the case in Taiwan where, as Chen-ling Hung notes in this volume, ‘citizen journalism has emerged at a time of widespread distrust of the sensational and commercial media’. The development of the ‘PeoPo’ platform in Taiwan has occurred alongside the evolution of PSB, and it is not a coincidence that PeoPo was created by Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS). This symbiosis has encouraged a new form of democratic participation in Taiwan’s media, but given the small audience enjoyed by PTS, is it making any real difference? Or are the converted merely preaching to the choir?
      
The theme of marketisation runs through Part IV in which our contributors use a range of examples — including China’s evolving copyright culture, online gaming (a very recent and welcome addition to media studies), the ‘clustering’ of Chinese media production, and specific case-studies of genres and events — to consider the interactions of Chinese cultural and media industries, free markets and issues of global governance. In the essay by Charles Chi-wai Cheung we learn how market forces help define the powerful and the powerless in Hong Kong. Using representations of youth as the focal point for his discussion, Cheung not only helps us to understand media representations of young people and their issues in Hong Kong, but also how youth groups and groups acting on their behalf engage in a form of resistance to disrupt mainstream representations. So the chapter also brings to our attention questions of visibility and the way media representation can decide who is deemed important, legitimate, and authoritative. This connects with the discussions by Athina Karatzogianni and Andrew Robinson (on dissidents in China), Wanning Sun (on the working classes) and Sarah Qian Gong (on the salaried and lower middle classes).  

We move beyond the region in Part V to analyse the global dimension of Chinese media. Our contributors discuss the way that China, broadly defined, is seen through foreign eyes and how the media help to project the particularly favourable image identified by the government in Beijing as a way of changing the global conversation about China. So Yunya Song evaluates how American journalists have ‘decoded’ China and Chinese media reports to narrate the incredible changes that have taken place in the country since the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s. This then feeds into Gary Rawnsley’s chapter on China’s public diplomacy and ‘soft power’ in which he argues that China’s strategy of global engagement through its growing international presence has been determined less by clear foreign policy or diplomatic objectives, and more to correct what Beijing considers a distorted and inaccurate picture of China in foreign media. The interconnected nature of the global media space, highlighted by Junhao Hong and Youling Liu who discuss the interactions of the Chinese media industries with their foreign counterparts, has given rise to a most curious situation: the world is watching China watching the world watching China. Such is the complexity of the modern technologically-driven international space, but it also demonstrates the capacity of the media to hold a mirror to themselves and reflect back to their own domestic audiences a view that may be a little more unpalatable than desired. In 2008, of course, the world was watching China live when Beijing hosted the Olympic Games. This exercise in soft power, discussed by Limin Liang in Chapter 24 as a ‘media event’, has been described as both China’s ‘coming out party’ (Leibold 2010) and a ‘campaign of mass distraction’ (Brady 2009), demonstrating that in discussing ‘soft power’ we have to remember that power lies not with the source of the message, but with the audience; for, as Song reminds us in Chapter 27, the audience can decide whether and how to receive, interpret and act upon particular messages. This is also addressed on a local level by George Dawei Guo who calls for the returns of ‘audience’ to studies of Chinese television drama. How viewers receive the official representation of Chinese history — in fiction or in documentaries (Cao in this volume) will determine whether or not the government’s objective to create a new nationalist discourse (discussed by Yiben Ma in Chapter 12) will be successful. History has long proved a successful theme in the national propaganda of any country. China has a particularly long and complex historical narrative from which to draw its communications capacity (Rawnsley & Rawnsley 2010); and both Hong Kong and Taiwan are now constructing their own historical narratives that may define the way they see themselves and how they are seen by the world.

We hope this book confirms what the authors have long known: that studying the Chinese media — in the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong — is a complex, exciting and challenging endeavour, but one which pays dividends in understanding how the media landscape is both an agent and an object of transformations taking place there. All three societies are engaged in intricate and sometimes difficult processes of change that affect their politics, culture, society and relationships with the world beyond their borders. Our contributors have adopted unique approaches and case-studies that we hope will challenge the conventional methods of analysing not only the Chinese media, but the media in a more global and comparative perspective. We expect that the discussions here will raise more questions and issues; and we know full well that, because of the speed at which these societies are changing and communications technologies are developing the specific data presented will soon be out of date, though the frameworks, perspectives and insights offered here will remain relevant. At that point, we hope that a second volume may address the new Chinese media landscape now evolving before our eyes.                                           

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sara Khan: British Muslim Girls and Extremism

In my last blog, Baronness Warsi: "British Muslims will only speak up for British values when they know they will be heard", I observed the need for greater engagement, inclusiveness, listening and trust-building among British Muslims. On 29 March 2015, The Observer published another thought-provoking and significant essay by Sara Khan, co-director of Inspire:* 'British Muslims girls and extremism: what I learned on my journey across the UK' (British Muslim girls and extremism). Khan provides a logical progression of Baronness Warsi's ideas and takes them to the next level. I will list the main points as they relate to the broader theme of strategic communications:

1.  There is 'no uniform Muslim community'. Poor engagement fails to understand that Islam is a faith of many denominations, and our tendency to homogenise British Muslims blinds us to the 'diversity and complexity of views' within communities. That is understandable: governments and the media (especially the media) prefer simple problems and simple solutions. But in this case ignorance amplifies the problem and obstructs the creation of acceptable and legitimate solutions.

2.  Language and education are important. Sara Khan discovered generational divides which prevent communication between parents and children. This extends beyond language to different 'Cultural, religious and gender expectations' between the generations. Moreover a lack of theological knowledge among the older generations means that children seek answers about their faith from elsewhere:

Inevitably, some of these children go online to find their answers - and extreme websites are there awaiting their curiosity. Many teenagers feel their parents are not credible authorities; mothers, for their part, told us they were unaware of what educational resources existed to challenge extremist ideology.   

3.  The climate of fear since 2001 has impacted on the way Islamic youth see themselves, their community and their relationship to the UK: 'There is an identity crisis of the 9/11 generation, children who have grown up under a spotlight of suspicion, affecting their sense of belonging'. I have argued elsewhere that knee-jerk reactions by governments to the threat of domestic extremism can have negative effects on relationships with Muslim communities.  

4.  The possible consequences are enormous: 'This ... leaves the mosques to fill the gap. ... [M]any women felt that some mosques were ill-equipped to teach counter-narratives with any confidence'. Some mosques have said this is not their responsibility, rather it must take place in the home.

5. There has been what Sara Khan describes as 'pushback', and she describes how imams have moved to the virtual world to engage with younger Muslims. In London, scholars and imams gathered to launch an online magazine, Haqiqah (The Truth), designed to answer questions about faith, explain verses from the Koran and counter the simple ISIS narratives. Imamsonline.com is also a source of information and and a place for dialogue (imamsonline.com). Using Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube imamsonline.com provides links to discussions and information on 'culture', 'chaplaincy', 'civic faith' 'interfaith' issues and 'community engagement', all important themes in reclaiming Islam as a peaceful religion. This makes communication timely, accessible and, most important, relevant for the audiences most vulnerable to extremist messages.  

6.  Sara Khan does not shy away from identifying problems within the Muslim community, and focuses on the position of women: 'These women know that challenging extremism also means standing up to patriarchy and gender roles that have the contribution of women in both home and public life'. Women, says Khan, lack confidence to engage with institutions, such as the police, 'Partly because of a lack of trust; partly a lack of engagement and dialogue.' But trust will only be created through greater levels of engagement and dialogue - through actively listening to and hearing the voices of these communities, and discussing with them problems and their possible solutions.

Sara Khan concludes 'Empower women to counter extremism and it is they who will take on this battle'. Although she ends her essay, 'this is not a "community" challenge', clearly the roots of trust and credibility lie within the communities themselves, their grassroots work and through initiatives such as Haqiqah and imamsonline.com. As I have argued in previous posts on this subject, government and state agencies must do much more to bring these grassroots activists and community workers into the conversation about the problems facing Muslims in the UK today, and to work together in partnership with organisations like Inspire ('empowering women, strengthening societies') to combat radicalism among the young.

*Inspire is a counter-extremism and human rights organisation - wewillinspire.com



 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Baroness Warsi: 'Muslims will speak up for British values only when they know they will be heard'

The Observer has published an extremely important and perceptive article by Baroness Warsi, former Minister of State for Faith and Communities ('Muslims will speak up for British values ...'). When few British politicians and members of government - representing whichever party - have little understanding of the basic principles of communication, public diplomacy and the need to engage with aggrieved and marginalised communities, Baroness Warsi reveals herself an astute critic of current policies towards the UK's Muslim population.

The first problem she identifies is 'non-engagement': '

For nearly six years, firstly under Labour and then the coalition, governments have adopted a policy of non-engagement with a wide range of community organisations and activists. Many groups and individuals have been defined as "beyond the pale". Indeed, the coalition even set up a high-level committee to decide whether a group or individual was someone ministers could engage with.
In other words, there is not only evidence of a clear policy of exclusion, thus dividing further the very communities one wishes to reach out to, but what are the criteria for exclusion? Who decides which organisations are beyond the pale and according to which criteria? This should only be decided in consultation with members of the Muslim communities themselves. Only they will know which groups should and should not be included in dialogue, and by involving them in a conversation the government would be increasing the legitimacy of their policies.

Baroness Warsi then uses two words that are the core of any credible and successful public diplomacy  strategy: friendship and trust. As we know, building trust among your audience is crucial for both credibility and legitimacy. Baroness Warsi refers to friendship and trust when recounting the response to a letter sent by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles (whom I remember very well as the leader of Bradford City Council when I was growing up there in the 1980s) to more than 1000 mosques:

A letter out of the blue to a mosque that is potentially affiliated to an organisation like the Muslim Council of Britain - with whom the government has refused to engage - creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic.   
She then uses another word that is familiar to all of us researching and teaching public diplomacy:

It makes it appear as if the government is neither listening not genuine in its intentions. And it provokes a negative response, irrespective of the true motive. 

Listening is the key activity in any communication strategy. For one thing, listening to the very communities you wish to engage means you have a greater insight into how the members of those communities think and form opinions which can then inform your own communications with them. Listening also provides the basis for empathy and understanding that might make for better policy-making. It helps build trust, but unfortunately Baroness Warsi sees the persistence of a 'trust deficit':

We needed to bring more people into the fold rather than increasingly adopt positions which pushed groups and individuals out to the fringe. We will fight extremism better if we all feel like we are in the same team, where communities feel listened to, where answers are found collectively and where engagement with communities is broad and deep.      

I have written previously on the need for a more inclusive approach to relations with the UK's Muslim communities, and the urgency of downplaying the belligerent knee-jerk reactions that have encouraged the creation of a military-sounding 'taskforce' to 'confront' extremism (British Taskforce to confront extremismA Marked Man in America). Baroness Warsi's perceptive understanding of the problems - residing mainly within government, rather than within the Muslim communities - and her approach to their solution, based on engagement, inclusiveness, listening and building trust, suggests that she is best placed to form a new strategy towards Islam in the UK.

Monday, 22 December 2014

BBC Interview with Xu Lin about Confucius Institutes

The BBC's Shanghai correspondent, John Sudworth, has interviewed Xu Lin, the head of Hanban which is the state ministry responsible for China's Confucius Institutes. An edited version of the interview can be viewed here Interview with Xu Lin.

This is an extraordinary interview on many levels, not least Ms Xu's response to questions about her blatant interference in an academic conference earlier this year. I wrote a post about this incident as one of several 'public diplomacy faux pas', accessible here When to say nothing.

What is most surprising in this interview is not what she said in defence of the Confucius Institutes. Like any government minister across the world, Ms Xu is required to provide an official response to critical questions. Rather, most alarming is her logic: John Sudworth has no right to ask questions about Taiwan because it is a Chinese issue and only the Chinese can address it. This was an entirely inappropriate answer to the question of why she had ripped promotional material about the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation from the programme of an academic conference. It makes no sense in the context of the interview and undermines the more positive tone of her answers to other questions. It also provides the framing for the interview and means that any review will focus on the more dramatic and confrontational portion of the interview, rather than the substance. John Sudworth's decision to post online Ms Xin's request for him to to edit out altogether the question about the conference in Portugal and his refusal to do so means that this and not the cultural diplomacy of the Confucius Institutes become the story. Thus Xu Lin revealed that the Chinese government has much to learn about how the media work, and any claims of communication professionalism among government officials are premature. The interview was yet another public diplomacy faux pas.    

Moreover, Ms Xu resorted to complaining she had not been given in advance any question about the conference in Portugal and therefore refused to answer. This was her chance to explain and, dare we say, even apologise for her violation of academic freedom earlier this year. Any critic seeking evidence of how Confucius Institutes are not simply agents of cultural diplomacy and language teaching will find it here: Xu Lin not only refused to answer difficult questions, she also politicised the Confucius Institutes and reinforced the idea that they are led by dogmatists.

Just as we are assured that China's government communications machinery is becoming more professional, more sensitive to the demands of the modern media age, Xu Lin's interview tells a different story. It does little to reassure viewers that Confucius Institutes are not required to pursue a political agenda decided in Beijing.  The interview is a crowning end to a year in which Chinese public diplomacy has taken one step forward and two steps back.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Lipstick on a Pig: America’s Soft Power is Recoverable

In international politics actions always speak louder than words. Governments claiming to exercise soft power do well to remember this, for how they behave will forever tell a far more commanding and convincing narrative than what they say. When successive US presidents have demanded and actively promoted the spread of democratic values around the world, and agencies representing the state have participated in activities that can be defined only as violations of human rights, America’s credibility suffers.

Such a clear discrepancy between rhetoric and behaviour also exposes the US to allegations of hypocrisy. Should we be surprised that China’s international television service, CCTV-America, has focused overwhelmingly on the events in Ferguson, Missouri, while almost ignoring entirely the clampdown against protestors in Hong Kong?

The publication of the US Senate report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme during George W. Bush’s presidency poses significant soft power challenges. It not only highlights the systematic torture undertaken in the name of national security, but also documents the embarrassing subversion of law and justice by a state that emphasises such values as the core of its foreign policy. We also need to remind ourselves that this is the same administration that asked repeatedly after 9/11: ‘Why do they hate us?’ The publication of the Senate’s report points us towards a possible answer.
            
Can the US recover its credibility? Yes it can. By following a clear communication strategy, the US can salvage its soft power without the present government having to distance itself in an unconvincing way from its predecessor. And the way to do this is by focusing more on the process of how the world came to know about these terrible acts and less on the acts themselves, as well as by outlining how the US intends to deal with the consequences.

The plan begins with culpability and humility. The CIA and key members of the Bush administration must hold up their hands and admit that these activities are wrong and inexcusable. Any attempt to justify them as part of an anti-terrorist strategy or as carried out in the name of national security has already backfired, and it is a defence that is no longer relevant when global public and media opinion is clear that two wrongs do not make a right.  A clear and modest, self-critical admission of guilt is required. CIA apologists must not be allowed to control the narrative and shape public opinion about the report, and they must not be allowed to employ alternative, less malignant labels such as ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ to describe acts of torture. When their voice is heard, when Vice-President Dick Cheney calls the report ‘full of crap’, the world needs to know that it is heard because America is a democracy and pluralism is encouraged. Within democracies disagreement is expected and can be healthy.

Second, President Obama himself must launch an investigation into the abuses documented in the report and commit America to bringing to trial those responsible. Obama’s response so far has been unsatisfactory: ‘Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,’ he said in a written statement, ‘I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong, in the past.’ This will not satisfy the US’s critics around the world who demand both answers and justice, not just promises that it will never happen again. For American soft power, this is too little, too late.  

The third component of the strategy requires the US government to marshal its entire public diplomacy machinery in a global communication campaign. There is an urgent need to highlight and explain to the world how the publication of the report reflects fundamental values of the American political culture: a commitment to accountability, transparency and scrutiny of government behaviour, as well as the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers built into their creation; and when government agencies break the law, the mechanisms are in place to make sure those responsible are brought to justice, regardless of position or status. This is not spin, a communication activity now tarnished in public opinion by its association with deceit. Rather, it is an understanding that the strengths of the American political culture have a valuable role to play in crafting a measured and accurate response to serious criticisms against it. But transparency and accountability can only be effective themes for public diplomacy if the government explains why only a redacted 525-page summary of a 6,700 page report has been released. There must be a communication strategy in place to deal with the inevitable question: What else are they hiding from us?    

In the modern information age, credibility is the currency of politics; and credibility is generated by building trust, authority and legitimacy, and by ensuring that how you behave is consistent with the values you profess. More importantly, when you are found out – when parts of the state machinery violate the constitution and international law, as well as the core principles you, your government and your nation hold dear and which you promote to others as an ideal to others around the world – how you respond is critical in helping to restore your credibility. Soft power depends on doing the right thing, and being seen to be doing the right thing. As President Obama has noted, ‘this report reminds us … that the character of our country is to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard.’

However, there is no escaping the fact that at the end of the day, the best means for maintaining credibility is not to commit the crimes in the first place. The Senate report on CIA torture will cause ripples of indignation around the world and damage American soft power abroad in the short term. If its publication also encourages a period of introspection and critical questioning in the US, there remains hope for America’s otherwise tarnished image in the longer term. Revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programme and the repeated violations of national sovereignty by drone strikes suggest that there is still work to do, and that the US’s soft power is far from guaranteed.