Communication and the Public 4.1

Communication and the Public has just published its first issue of 2019 (vol. 4, no. 1). It contains articles by Christian Fuchs, Lianrui Jia, Chang Sup Park, Moran Yarchi, Falk Hartig, Hanna E. Morris and Raka Sen. Please see the table of contents below.

  1. Revisiting the Althusser/E. P. Thompson-Controversy: Towards a Marxist theory of communication
    By Christian Fuchs
  2. What public and whose opinion? A study of Chinese online public opinion analysis
    By Lianrui Jia Continue reading

Fantasy novel about antiques adapted for online series

Source: China Daily (3/14/19)
Fantasy novel about antiques becomes hit online series

A poster from the online series The Golden Eyes. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When veteran producer Bai Yicong occasionally “clicked” on a fantasy novel online in 2010, he could scarcely have thought that it would one day become one of his biggest-budget productions.

The work of fiction, titled Huangjin Yan, or The Golden Eyes, follows the adventures of a young pawnshop employee, who possesses the power to be able to see the past and future of every object he sees after his eyes are injured by a group of robbers.

Thus the protagonist becomes a legend in the antique world and an easy winner in gambling on stones, the practice of buying a raw rock and then cutting it open, with the hope of it holding some gems.

The story, penned by online writer Tang Yong, better known by his pseudonym Dayan, has accumulated more than 30 million views since its debut on China’s largest internet literature site Qidian in 2010.

“I was deeply attracted by the novel. It has a lot of riveting depictions about underground adventures, enriching my knowledge about antiques,” says Bai, sitting in his office located in eastern Beijing. Continue reading

‘Low-level red’ and other concerns

Source: China Media Project (3/11/19)
“Low-level Red” and other concerns

“Low-Level Red” and Other Concerns

On the last day of February, a pair of new political catchphrases made their way not just into the Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper but into a central-level Party document. These were “high-level black,” or gaojihei (高级黑) and “low-level red,” or dijihong (低级红). Before we explore how these two terms emerged on the internet and then made their way into central Party documents (中央文件), let us first take a look at some of the key trends that could be noted in Chinese political discourse in February.

Slogans, Hot and Cold

According to the six-level heat index developed by the China Media Project, here is how various important political phrases appeared in the People’s Daily:

One important thing to note as we look at phrase frequencies is that during February the total number of pages in the Party’s flagship newspaper was reduced to eight in light of the Spring Festival holiday, meaning that the total number of articles was likewise reduced, and so word frequencies were about half of what might usually be expected and we don’t see any dramatic changes in the temperature of various keywords. Continue reading

Xinjiang party boss outed as PhD plagiarist (2)

PS on the plagiarized PhD theses of Chinese officials:

Yet one more separate investigation, by the Agence France Presse, concludes Chen Quanguo (the Xinjiang province party chief currently in charge of the new concentration camp system and genocide under way in Xinjiang), plagiarised his PhD — along with other officials who also did so.

It concludes that Chen’s thesis “includes over 60 paragraphs copied without citation from another work.”

Read more here:

Or here:

Have there been any responses from, or any discernible consequences for, those outed as plagiarists?

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Why China silenced a clickbait queen

Source: NYT (3/16/19)
Why China Silenced a Clickbait Queen in Its Battle for Information Control
By Javier C. Hernández

Chinese blogger Ma Ling, right, speaking at an event in Shanghai in 2018.CreditZhou Junxiang/ImagineChina

BEIJING — She was known as China’s clickbait queen, an irreverent blogger who prescribed shopping to combat sadness (“better than sex, orgasms, strawberry cake”) and makeovers to win back cheating husbands (“men are visual animals”).

But late last month, Ma Ling, a blogger who commanded an audience of more than 16 million people, went conspicuously silent.

In the battle for control of the Chinese internet, the authorities had designated Ms. Ma a threat to social stability, pointing to an article she published about a young man with cancer whose talent and virtue were not enough to overcome problems like corruption and inequality. Continue reading

Entrepreneur takes on system

Source: NYT (3/9/19)
Chinese Entrepreneur Takes On the System, and Drops Out of Sight
By Chris Buckley

Zhao Faqi, 52, hoped to strike it rich when in 2003 he signed a government contract for coal exploration rights. Then the government tore up the deal. He fought back, and now he has vanished. Credit Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

YULIN, China — For months, Zhao Faqi was a folk hero for entrepreneurs in China — an investor who fought the government in court and online, and against the odds, seemed poised to win. He accused officials of stealing his rights to coal-rich land, and ignited a furor by accusing China’s most powerful judge of corruption.

Now, Mr. Zhao has dropped out of sight — and the authorities want to erase his story.

For much of the winter, Mr. Zhao’s case was the subject of avid discussion on Chinese social media, and his supporters saw it as a test of whether the president and Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, would support the troubled private sector against grasping officials. Continue reading

Xinjiang party boss outed as PhD plagiarist (1)

According to news today, the Twitter account that revealed Xinjiang party boss Chen Quanguo’s and other party official’s plagiarizing of academic degree theses, has been emptied, and the Github trove of data supporting it disappeared:

Such a deletion looks a lot like an official admission of “guilty as charged.” Has anyone seen any attempt to actually answer the plagiarism charges? Or have they been met only by silence?

(ps. The Financial Times also had an article on the issue, [Paywall])

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Social Media, Algorithms, and Journalism Innovations–cfp

Call for Papers
The 5th Symposium on Communication and the Public
“Social Media, Algorithms, and Journalism Innovations”

Two sets of technological advances are shaping not only how information in a society is gathered, disseminated, received, and utilized, but also how we are related to one another in public and as publics. These are the advent of social media and the proliferation of algorithms. They are reshaping the profession of journalism, as well as the news media institutions that are built upon its promises and practices; they are also posting multifaceted challenges to our understandings and practices of public formation. How is journalism changing? What technology-driven innovations are emerging in news media and/or journalism? How are platforms affecting the circulation and composition of public information? How are these changes reshaping news and more broadly journalism? How are they eroding objectivity and factuality as not only the norms in journalism but also the criteria employed to constitute the shared information basis in public formation? How are they contributing to the rise of the discourses of “post-truth” and the emergence of varieties of publics? How do we understand the challenges and possibilities of the familiar models of publics in democratic theories, namely publics who are expected to be informed, participatory, deliberative, and/or empowered? Continue reading

Recommended online works

Source: China Daily (2/27/19)
24 online literature works gain official recommendations
By Fang Aiqing

[Photo provided to]

The National Press and Publication Administration and China Writers Association have released a recommended list of 24 online literature works that were serialized between August 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018.

This is the fourth year in a row that such official recommendations have been given.

More than 500 online literature works submitted by 52 websites from 15 provinces competed for the recommendations, according to the organizers.

A group of these works feature topics like innovation and entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation and volunteer teaching.

The writing sector is continuously expanding with the number of works soaring, and the content and the artistic level is improving, says Chen Qirong, the director of the online literature committee of China Writers Association and the leader of the judging process for the competition. Continue reading

The ‘bots’ of Weibo

Source: LA Review of Books, China Channel ()
The “Bots” of Weibo
By Bai Mingcong
How fake automated Chinese social media accounts are being used as a Trojan horse for dissent

On October 21, 2018, an account named ‘People’s Daily bot’ (@人日bot) posted this message on Weibo:

They fear the empowerment of the people, fear that the people shall see the true face of our era, and further yet, they fear that their vice shall be exposed in front of the masses! (他们害怕人民翻身,害怕人民认识大时代的真面貌, 更害怕他们自己的丑恶暴露在人民大众面前!)

Taken at face value, the account appears to directly and forcefully target the Chinese regime. Puzzlingly, by the time of publication, the post has yet to be removed, and the account has not been banned, as usually happens to dissenting social media in China. Yet a closer look reveals that this is a repost of a 1946 editorial from the People’s Daily, the central mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, that criticized the treatment of journalists in the Nationalist “occupation zone” as contrasted with the communist “liberated zone” under CCP control. The survival of the post in the face of hardening censorship is not a loosening of the cords. Instead, it is representative of a new trend on the Chinese internet, in which Weibo accounts purporting to be bots hide their criticism of the government behind prominent and often politically unassailable figures of modern China. Continue reading

Robot does tedious homework

Source: NYT (1/21/19)
Chinese Girl Finds a Way Out of Tedious Homework: Make a Robot Do It
By Daniel Victor and Tiffany May

Upgrading a handwriting robot’s software at an exhibition in Guiyang, China. A student made the news in China for putting a similar machine to inventive use.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — Some would say she cheated. Others would say she found an efficient way to finish her tedious assignment and ought to be applauded for her initiative.

The debate lit up Chinese social media this week after the Qianjiang Evening News reported that a teenage girl had found a loophole for her homework: She bought a robot that mimicked her handwriting. Instead of having to manually copy phrases or selections from a textbook dozens of times, a repetitive task common in learning Chinese, she could just teach the robot to do it for her. Continue reading

Changpian no. 22

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 22nd edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. With other resources devoted to the many interesting sound bites from Chinese social media, this newsletter focuses instead on some of the wealth of longer writing that is produced in Chinese, both in traditional news media and on platforms like WeChat.

Changpian includes any nonfiction writing, from stories and investigations to interviews and blog posts, that I found worth my time — and that you might like as well. It aims to be relevant to an understanding of Chinese society today, covering topics in and outside the news cycle.

The selection is put together by me, Tabitha Speelman, a Dutch researcher currently based in Shanghai. Feedback is very welcome ( or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here. Continue reading

Dawn of the little red phone

Source: China Media Project (2/13/19)
By David Bandurski

The Dawn of the Little Red Phone

On January 25, all seven members of China’s elite Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, gathered at the headquarters of the flagship People’s Daily newspaper to underline the importance of “convergence media” and digital media development as a means of strengthening the Party’s dominance of ideas and information.

Xi Jinping told those present that the Party “must utilise the fruits of the information revolution to promote deep development of convergence media.” The objective was to “build up mainstream public opinion” — meaning, of course, Party-led public opinion — and to “consolidate the shared ideological foundation underpinning the concerted efforts of the entire Party and all the Chinese people.”

As we wrote at the time, Xi’s stilted and jargon-filled speech was essentially about the Party finding new ways to reengineer its dominance over the realm of ideas in the face of dramatic changes to the media environment brought on by the digital revolution. But what exactly does this mean in practice? How can, and how will, the Party leverage digital technology to re-program propaganda in the 21st century? Continue reading

Chinese Parents video game

Source: NYT (2/12/19)
In China, This Video Game Lets You Be a Tiger Mom or a Driven Dad
Mete out love and discipline. Set ambitious goals. Endure a teenager’s first dates. Fans say the game Chinese Parents is a surprisingly poignant exercise in role reversal.
By Carolyn Zhang and Raymond Zhong

As in real life, maintaining appearances is important in the game Chinese Parents. If your child misbehaves in front of your relatives, you may get upset about “losing face.”CreditCreditMoyuwan Games

SHANGHAI — You want your children to do well in school. You want them to have nice friends and interesting hobbies and to not go out with creeps. You may even want them to be happy.

But in this computer game, you can always start over with a new digital child if things don’t work out as planned.

A new game in China puts players in control of those most fearsome of characters: Mom and Dad. The mission? Raise a son or daughter from cradle to college.

In a nation of famously demanding, scolding and, yes, sometimes loving mothers and fathers, the game, Chinese Parents, is a hit. Since its release in September, it has found a huge audience on Steam, an online marketplace run by the American game maker Valve Corporation. There are no official figures for how many people have downloaded the game, but it has provoked heated discussion online, while earning tens of thousands of reviews. Continue reading

Spring festival gala a “huge success”

Source: Sup China (2/6/19)
CCTV Claims This Year’s Spring Festival Gala Was A Huge Success — I Call It BS

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV released a report on the morning of February 6 summarizing how the 2019 Spring Festival Gala performed in terms of viewership and audience response.

The report gives the official narrative of this year’s rendition of the show, which began in 1983 and has often been the world’s biggest television event by audience numbers. To absolutely no one’s surprise, but in apparent contradiction to much of the snark about it on Chinese social media, the 2019 gala was allegedly “record-breaking” and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

According to the report (in Chinese), the show attracted a staggering 1.17 billion viewers across the globe. That’s up around 4 percent compared with the 2016 gala, which had 1.13 billion viewers. Meanwhile, CCTV noted that around 96.98 percent of all the online comments about the show are positive, which made this year’s gala one of the most well received editions in recent years. Continue reading