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Reviewed by:
  • Changing Media, Changing China, and: Investigative Journalism in China: Eight Cases in Chinese Watchdog Journalism
  • Joyce Y. M. Nip (bio)
Susan L. Shirk, editor. Changing Media, Changing China. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 288 pp. Hardcover $99.00, ISBN 978-0-19-975198-3. Paperback $19.95, ISBN 978-0-19-975197-6.
David Bandurski and Martin Hala, editors. Investigative Journalism in China: Eight Cases in Chinese Watchdog Journalism. Hong Kong: [End Page 479] Hong Kong University Press, 2010. 192 pp. Paperback $25.00, ISBN 978-9-622-09174-0.

On May 4, 2011, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced the establishment of the State Information Internet Office under the State Council Information Office to regulate the Internet. On May 27, 2011, a number of China’s and overseas media outlets reported that workers at the state-owned China Telecom had posted a statement on a web forum, alleging that their supervisors used public funds from the firm to buy the luxurious Moutai liquor for personal consumption, a charge which, after investigation, China Telecom denied, saying the alcohol had been purchased for legitimate business development and customer relations. These two stories are indicative of the sea changes that have taken place in the media in the PRC over the last three decades. As the proportion of Internet users surpassed one-third of the country’s population in 2010, Chinese citizens have used the Internet with mobile phones on so many occasions to voice discontent and mobilize action that the Chinese government realizes the Internet requires a new control mechanism. Commercially run media outlets that try to meet the expectations of the audience have emerged since the 1980s, as the state subsidy to official media was drastically reduced or stopped entirely. In this case, the “Moutai gate” — a term coined by Chinese netizens after an earlier Moutai scandal involving another state-owned firm, Sinopec — was first reported on May 26 by Beijing News, a commercial newspaper run by Guangming Daily, which is published by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Attempts, such as these, to report real news show a very different face of the media from its stereotypic role of being the throat and tongue of the Chinese Communist Party during the pre-reform era. However, their freedom to report real news is very much a negotiated one within the party-state apparatus in an ongoing contest between the desire to control and the wish to monitor wrongdoings.

Those interested in learning about the changes in media in the PRC will find many such cases in Changing Media, Changing China. Free from academic jargon and providing ample historical and institutional background information, the book is highly accessible as intelligent reading for those who are not China-watching specialists. Students of Chinese studies, particularly of the media, will find the multiple cases documented in the book a useful resource.

The book aims to explore “how transformations in the information environment — stimulated by the potent combination of commercial media and Internet — are changing China” (Shirk, p. 1). This exploration is conducted with the perspective that the totalitarian regime run by the Chinese Communist Party is battling for its survival against the power of citizens and journalists armed with the Internet and unleashed by the commercialization of the media.

Apart from the introductory chapter, three of the ten chapters discuss print newspapers, television, and the Internet (Shirk, chapters 2, 4, and 9, respectively). [End Page 480] Five discuss different specializations of reporting — business, environment, military, court, and foreign policy (Shirk, chaps. 3, 5, 6, 7, and 10, respectively). Written mainly by academics and journalists in the United States and China, the book manages to maintain a fairly consistent style and standard. The exception perhaps is chapter 8 (Shirk; Daniela Stockmann), which, in reporting a survey of media use among Beijing residents during the 2005 anti-Japanese protest, uses social sciences quantitative methods and, therefore, seems a little out of place in terms of style and content.

For the busy reader, the thirty-seven-page introductory chapter by the editor provides a compact overview of the key issues and changes discussed in the rest...


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pp. 479-483
Launched on MUSE
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