Changing Media, Changing China

By Susan L. Shirk | Go to book overview

10
Changing Media,
Changing Foreign Policy

Susan L. Shirk

THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF the media and the emergence of the Internet have revolutionized the way Chinese leaders and the public interact in the foreign policymaking process. Public opinion has become an important influence on the process. Commercial media outlets compete with one another for audiences by appealling to the tastes of these audiences. Editors decide which news events to cover based on their judgments about which topics will attract audiences. In today’s China, that means publication of a lot of stories about Japan, Taiwan, and the United States, all topics that stimulate Chinese popular nationalism. Tibet has emerged as another hot-button issue in the aftermath of the violent protests that preceded the 2008 Olympic Games. The press given to these topics makes them domestic political issues—potential focal points for elite disagreement and triggers for mass protests. Public response to reporting on these topics increasingly influences the way Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders and government diplomats conduct foreign policy.

Most foreign policy issues in China receive little media attention and are handled by professional diplomats in the Foreign Ministry. However, even

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