China’s rapid transformation has not been limited to industrial, financial and economic growth, and has been felt across the country’s media landscape. A panel discussion on new media and journalism education in Asia offered insights into the diverse and varied state of the media in Asia, with a strong focus on China. Moderated by Professor Guo Ke of Shanghai International Studies University, the presentations touched on the state of Chinese media, as well as journalism education issues in the country.
Dr David Clark from Bolton Foreign Studies University presented an overview of the media landscape. He explained that Chinese media is often misunderstood because people imagine that it’s homogenous. Although state-run media seem to form the overriding perceptions of Chinese journalism, there is also the metropolitan media, which is semi-independent, and the internet, he said.
Clark argued that although social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, one should not underestimate the presence of social media in the country. Most people in China know how to get around the censorship. “There are lots of ways to climb over the Chinese firewall,” said Dr Clarke. “It’s not an issue, just an inconvenience.” There are many social media sites not known outside of China, simply because they are in Chinese, he added.
Although China has a history of media censorship, people’s perceptions might not always be correct, added Zhang Xiaoying, also from the Beijing Foreign Studies University. “All perceptions have a basis,” she said, “but everything is changing so fast.”
“There is the state-run media which is obviously controlled by the state – that’s clear. But there are other organisations that are commercialised. All of them are going through transformation though. It’s an age of change,” she said.
China is advancing technologically along with the rest of the world. “There is a trend toward media convergence,” said Xia Baojun, from Jinan University. “The new generation of media relies on the internet.” Reflecting this trend, Clark’s students have no equipment in their classrooms. Instead, they are supplied with fully-equipped backpacks. Inside the backpacks students find laptops which they use to produce media and learn about the world.
Interestingly, China’s newspaper circulation is growing at the same time as convergence is taking off. “One can’t argue specifically for a cross-media approach in China. The trend is going in the opposite direction to the rest of the world,” Clark said. South African newspapers with their dwindling readership can perhaps learn a few things from China.
“We have benefited from globalisation, but there is the fear of it getting out of control. It’s a great challenge to the state run media,” said Zhang Xiaoying. “It’s a very interesting scenario at the moment, a period of transition.”