Media power and its control in contemporary China: The digital regulatory regime, national Identity, and global communication

Zhu, Yanling (2021) Media power and its control in contemporary China: The digital regulatory regime, national Identity, and global communication. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the past decade, the cultural projection of China has become increasingly important to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and to the state in terms of maintaining ideological unity and social stability domestically while at the same time enhancing its soft power amid global competition. Since 2012, with the tightened regulatory framework of the state regulator, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), broadcasters have increasingly engaged in the production and promotion of national discourse, which has embodied the official ideology. At an international level, the Belt and Road Initiative (a global infrastructure strategy initiated by the Chinese government in 2013 that seeks to connect Asia with Africa and Europe to improve regional integration) articulates with China’s policy of deploying soft power to manage international relations. In analysing the shifting power dynamics of the documentary production sector, this thesis aims to capture this moment of transition in China’s broadcasting policy.

This thesis takes an ethnographic approach to discuss the policy practices within China’s broadcasting industry. It uses document analysis, in-depth interviews and participant observation as its main methods, to explore the gap between the contemporary policy regime and its implementation in national broadcasters and streaming services, taking into account the interplay between broadcasters, political bodies, producers and audiences. It deals with the contemporary role of Chinese national broadcasters in mediating the public discourse, the collective reimagining of China’s national identity, and the newly-found policy initiative of using state media as a means of nation branding. Cases investigated include China Central Television (CCTV) Documentary, China Global Television Network (CGTN), and the Shanghai Media Group (SMG), as well as co-productions made by CCTV and international media firms, including the BBC, Discovery and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK). During the fieldwork in China and the UK in 2019, I conducted 46 in-depth interviews with media professionals (including 36 semi-structured interviews), focusing on the challenges and possible solutions of media production and regulation.

Tensions emerge not only between the tightening of control of a top-down production framework and the growth of commercial and creative forces, but also between the rise of a national regulatory agenda and a policy goal of global engagement. Situated in an increasingly competitive, globalised cultural sphere, this thesis argues that the state, media institutions and citizens in China are renegotiating a collective national cultural identity to overcome internal conflicts and enhance social stability; in the meantime, the interplay between political, commercial and professional forces continually shapes China’s policy response to global communication, which is now seeking the role of public diplomacy in state media.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Supervisor's Name: Schlesinger, Professor Philip and Selfe, Dr. Melanie
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82724
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2022 10:53
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2022 16:47
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82724

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