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Peer Reviewed Article

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Historically, analyses of change in mass media systems have tended to draw upon a ‘dissident vs state’ framework, derived largely from the western historical experience. In the case of China, a ‘state vs market’ scenario has been superimposed on this basic framework, in the context of which the Chinese Communist party-state is often portrayed as a monolithic entity intent on promoting market-oriented reform in China’s economic base, while keeping a tight grip on the country’s mass media system and political superstructure. These dominant analytical frameworks tend to mask a number of important dynamics unique to Chinese history and society, that have played a significant role in the mass media transformation process. The purpose of this article is to outline a new conceptual framework incorporating these unique dynamics. In particular, it is the contention of this article that many of the changes in China’s mass media system during the post-Mao period have been achieved by non-state actors, not in an adversarial process vis-à-vis the state, but through what may be called ‘creative renegotiation and expansion’ of new policy openings initiated by the state. The success of these non-state actors, furthermore, has been due to three major systemic factors: (1) the increasing ‘deideologization’ of the Chinese society set in motion by Deng’s pragmatic policies; (2) the gradual functional shift on the part of the local party cadres and bureaucratic authorities from ideological supervision to entrepreneurial collaboration with private investors; and (3) the increasingly common core of interest created by the media’s commercialization among the party cadres, bureaucratic bodies and media entrepreneurs and managers in extracting profits from the media.


NOTICE: this is the author’s final version of a work that was accepted for publication in Communication Gazette. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published as:

Akhavan-Majid, Roya, (2004) "Mass Media Reform in China: Toward a New Analytical Framework," Communication Gazette, December 2004, Vol. 66, No. 6, pp. 553-565. DOI: 10.1177/0016549204047576.



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