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A New Political Role? Discursive Strategies of Critical Journalists in China


  • Elin Saether


The simple opposition between free and restricted media is insufficient for understanding the dynamics within the Chinese media field. The media has diversified greatly during the last two decades, and social problems have become part of public discourse. Critical journalists in China have formulated a new professional identity. The hegemonic role of the Chinese media holds that journalists are propaganda workers, and that their main assignment is to forward the party line. Critical journalists oppose this definition of their role and seek to articulate a position that enables them to report more freely about social problems. Critical journalists are contributing to carving out a new political role for the Chinese media. The paper discusses how this role is a product of journalists’ attempts to increase their autonomy. On the other hand, the increase in critical journalism also reflects the party-state’s wish to utilize new media discourses, since limited exposure of local problems can portray the central party-state in a favourable light, as a responsive and responsible central state. The result is that the media acquires a conditional autonomy where the party-state retains the controlling power over a media that seeks to expand the range of topics that can be discussed in the public sphere.

Suggested Citation

  • Elin Saether, 2008. "A New Political Role? Discursive Strategies of Critical Journalists in China," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 37(4), pages 5-30.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:chaktu:v:37:y:2008:i:4:p:5-30

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