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Reviewed by:
  • Chinese Media, Global Contexts
  • Michael Keane (bio)
Chin-Chuan Lee , editor. Chinese Media, Global Contexts. Asia Transformations Series. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. x, 275 pp. Hardcover $114.95, ISBN 0-415-3034-6.

Over the past decade Chin-Chuan Lee has written extensively about China's media and edited several collections as well.1Chinese Media, Global Contexts adds to this body of work by addressing issues related to China's global integration. The global context of the book is China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the end of 2001. Throughout many of the volume's thirteen chapters the WTO operates as the key signifier of a global coming of age.

Chinese Media, Global Contexts addresses a diverse spectrum of issues: the debates in the print and electronic media that have framed China's full integration into the global trade community, the responses to media internationalization, the persistence of nationalism in online news and information services, values conflicts within the media workplace, and the marketing of popular culture in the film and music industries. [End Page 133]

The contributors, apart from Ye Lu from Shanghai's Fudan University, are drawn from North America and Hong Kong. Despite their "non-global" origins, their scholarship is rigorous. The collection is premised on the notion that the media influence public opinion with varying degrees of authority and directness. However, behaviorist framings of media influence are balanced throughout by critical theory and a careful assessment of data.

One strategy of addressing influence is discourse analysis of narratives. Samples of media utterances, writings, or bulletin-board posts are analyzed, usually with a view to suggesting that the media has a particular (and often strong) influence over public opinion. In adopting such an approach, Chin-Chuan Lee writes about the influence of the New York Times in shoring up a particular image of China. He presents a well-structured thesis of "established pluralism" existing within narratives of China-U.S. relations in the lead-up to China's accession to the WTO ("Established Pluralism: US Elite Media Discourses about China Policy"). In Lee's analysis the media functions as a "secondary definer" of reality behind the "power structure" embodied in American leadership. The key conclusion is that narrative structures employed in the New York Times opinion pieces reflect a limited model of pluralism. A platform is provided for opinions ranging from containment and engagement to global integration. However, this "established pluralism" conveniently disregards important alternative voices—commentators such as Noam Chomsky.

In a similarly rigorous manner Zhao Yuezhi analyzes a selection of eleven Chinese print media ("Enter the World: Neo-liberal Globalization, the Dream for a Strong Nation, and Chinese Press Discourses on the WTO"), in all a total of 449 news reports. The media event represented here is the U.S.-China bilateral trade negotiations conducted in November and December 1999. This extensive survey shows that the Chinese media were of one voice in portraying the WTO as a "win-win scenario." In the process, however, the Chinese media were careful not to divulge too much detail about the actual content of the WTO deal, and were careful not to allow economic liberalism (WTO accession) to become associated with political liberalism. In short, then, the print media remain steadfast in their hegemonic role of guiding opinion on important issues, although one wonders about the complementary role of other media in reinforcing opinion.

Judy Polumbaum looks at narrative discourses in analyzing the symbolic dimensions of Beijing's successful bid for the 2008 Olympics ("Capturing the Flame: Aspirations and Representations of Beijing's 2008 Olympics"). Polumbaum revisits the recent history of the Olympics and its scandals, particularly that of the Salt Lake City winter Olympics bid in the United States. Chinese narratives of entitlement and destiny are duly examined through a sample of government pronouncements, Web sites, and official forums. The fact that Beijing lost out narrowly to Sydney in 1993 prompted the Chinese bid team to address a number [End Page 134] of issues carefully, such as demonstrating an Olympic spirit, both in presenting an image of a strong sports nation and in showing widespread public support, while...


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