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Press Freedom in China: A Comparative Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Labor Disputes. Vi L. Nhan, International Studies, Political Science Advisor: Dr. Susan H. Whiting, Political Science University of Washington. Introduction.

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Press Freedom in China: A Comparative Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Labor Disputes


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    1. Press Freedom in China: A Comparative Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Labor Disputes Vi L. Nhan, International Studies, Political ScienceAdvisor: Dr. Susan H. Whiting, Political ScienceUniversity of Washington

    2. Introduction • Reporters Without Borders’ 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index places China at 159 out of 167 countries • 358 TV stations and 2,119 newspapers http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2006/imprisoned_06/imprisoned_06.html

    3. Country Background: China • Population: 1.3 billion people • Economic reforms in the 70’s • 2006 GDP real growth rate: 10.5% (official data) • 2006 GDP - per capita: $7,600 • 400 million Chinese lifted above the $1 a day poverty level in the last 20 years

    4. Media as the mouthpiece of the Party • News media must reflect the Party’s guiding ideology; • News media must disseminate the Party’s programs, policies, and directives; • News media must accept the Party’s leadership and subscribe to the Party’s organizational principles and press policies.

    5. Three Approaches to Censorship • Legal • Political • Economic

    6. Legal Approach to Censorship • Article 35: “freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” • 1989 “Protection of National Secrets Law” • 1997 Criminal Law • Central Propaganda Department: • The State Press and Publication Administration; • The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television; • The Ministry of Information Industry. • Re-education as a requirement for media license renewal.

    7. Political Approach to Censorship • Nomenklatura – atmosphere of self-censorship • Propaganda circulars (PCs), specific instructions on how to handle sensitive topics or specific news stories for the media. • directly from national media organizations like Xinhua, People’s Daily, or CCTV • “passive censorship” or “cold treatment” • Imprisonment of journalists

    8. Economic Approach to Censorship • Commercialization • Best means for improving the effectiveness of party propaganda and regime legitimacy • Print media at the city, provincial, and central level reorganized into media conglomerates or media “groups” - financially strengthen the media industry and politically consolidate leadership. • Monetary incentives: • performance bonuses • out of pockets expenses from journalists • Labor disputes, corruption, and health epidemics, etc. are somewhat open for critical coverage

    9. Research Question Given the conservative communist regime, why does the Chinese press seem to be more daring and critical in its reporting in the recent years?

    10. Hypothesis • Due to commercialization, the Chinese press has been more daring and critical within certain boundaries. • Semi-commercial papers are more commercial  more critical • Official papers are less commercial  less critical

    11. Gap • Debate: Many scholars have argued that commercialization has allowed for the loosening of the CCP's control (Lynch 1999; Gilley 2004), while others on the opposite side argue that commercialization has only changed the forms of control utilized by the CCP (Zhao 1998; Esarey 2005, 2006). • A small degree of freedom does exist due to the turn toward marketization but within clear boundaries deemed appropriate by the government.

    12. Methodology Official Shandong Workers Daily Shandong Legal Daily Semi-commercial Qilu Evening Newspaper • Media coverage of labor disputes as a window to test my censorship hypothesis • Shandong Province in 2000

    13. Methodology II • Content Analysis (quantitative) • Portrayal of institutions • Labor Bureau (勞動局) • Arbitration Committee (仲裁委員會 ) • Court (法院) • Discourse Analysis (Qualitative) • 2 articles (one from semi-commercial with negative portrayal and one from official with positive portrayal of institutions) for close readings

    14. Positive portrayal by semi-commercial (11.76%) Negative portrayal by semi-commercial (8.82%) Positive portrayal by official (2.82%) Negative portrayal by official (2.32%) Preliminary Findings: Labor Bureau (勞動局)

    15. Positive portrayal by semi-commercial (5.88%) Negative portrayal by semi-commercial (2.94%) Positive portrayal by official (8.45%) Negative portrayal by official (0.70%) Preliminary Findings: Arbitration Committee (仲裁委員會 )

    16. Positive portrayal by semi-commercial (11.76%) Negative portrayal by semi-commercial (2.94%) Positive portrayal by official (7.04%) Negative portrayal by official (0.70%) Preliminary Findings: Court (法院)

    17. Discourse Analysis:齊魯晚報

    18. Discourse Analysis:山東工人報

    19. Future Research • Currently, this research is inconclusive at this preliminary state. The sample size is too small to decisively conclude on the state of media in China. • This is an ongoing project that can incorporate many more variables with larger samples. The research will expand to include analysis of newspaper coverage of labor dispute in 1988, 1994, and 2000 in the provinces of Shandong, Shaaxi, Sichuan, and Guangdong. • However, the future path for this project is to incorporate more variables and codes along with more rigorous hypotheses testing. • Another direction is to look at the change over time. Given the passage of labor laws within the past several decades, one would assume that papers became more daring over time. The same argument can be made with the onset of commercialization of the media since the 70’s.

    20. Acknowledgement This work has been supported in part by the University of Washington Ronald E. McNair Program, Office of Minority Affairs, Prof. Susan Whiting, Chen Jie, Tam H. Tran, and Yicheng Wang. The stratified data set is part of a larger project of Prof. Susan H. Whiting, along with Lin Ying and Chen Jie, graduate students of the Political Science Department. Prof. Whiting spent several summers in China and Hong Kong to collect newspaper articles on labor disputes. Articles are collected for the months of January, April, July, and October; depending on the availability of the sources, another month was used as a substitute.

    21. Reference • Esarey, A. (2005). Cornering the market: State strategies for controlling China’s commercial media. Asian Perspective. 29(4), 37-83. • Chen, J. (2007). When propaganda and profit meet: Newspaper reporting of labor disputes in China. Master’s Thesis Draft. University of Washington. • Gallagher, M. (2006). “Mobilizing the law in China: ‘Informed Disenchantment’ and the development of legal consciousness.” Law & Society Review 40(4). • Gilley, Bruce. (2004). China’s democratic future: How it will happen and where it will lead.New York: Columbia University Press. • Lieberthal, K. (2004). Governing China: From revolution through reform. New York: W.W. Norton. • Liebman, B. L. (January 2005). “Watchdog or demagogue? The media in the Chinese legal system.” Columbia Law Review. 105(1). • Lynch, D. C. (1999).After the propaganda state: Media, politics, and “Thought Work” in reformed China. Stanford: Stanford University Press. • Zhao, Y. (1998). Media, market, and democracy in China: Between the party line and the bottom line. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.