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Regulating Social Media in China

Foucauldian Governmentality and the Public Sphere

Bei Guo

Regulating Social Media in China: Foucauldian Governmentality and the Public Sphere is the first in-depth study to apply the Foucauldian notion of governmentality to China’s field of social media. This book provokes readers to contemplate the democratizing potential of social media in China. By deploying Foucault’s theory of governmentality as an explanatory framework, author Bei Guo explores the seemingly paradoxical relationship of the Chinese party-state to the expansion of social media platforms. Guo argues that the Chinese government has several interests in promoting community participation and engagement through the internet platform Weibo, including extending the presence of its own agencies on Weibo while simultaneously controlling the discourse in many important ways. This book provides an important corrective to overly sanguine accounts that social media promotes a Habermasian public sphere along liberal democratic lines. It demonstrates how China, as an authoritarian country, responds to its citizens’ voracious hunger for information and regulates this by carefully adopting both liberal and authoritarian techniques.

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This book began as a doctoral research project at the University of Adelaide, and that long PhD journey does have particular meanings in my life. I suffered the great loss of my father and welcomed the birth of my son during that time. Fortunately, many people have offered considerable support and help to me both in study and life. Therefore, I would like to thank colleagues, friends and family members who supported me in different ways in the process of conducting this research and the production of this book.

My most profound thanks go to Associate Professor Peter C. Pugsley and Dr. Ying Jiang, for their patiently listening to my plans, constantly encouraging me and offering me advice when I was in need. I have benefited tremendously from their excellent academic guidance. I have also been enriched by many scholars in the Department of Media at the University of Adelaide, whose comments, inspiration and support made me feel encouraged in this big environment. I’m grateful to my colleagues and friends, who have offered generous support during the journey, Dr. Weiming Zhang, Dr. Minghua Wu and Dr. Margarita Flabouris. Their help and friendship to me is unforgettable.

Special gratitude goes to colleagues in the School of Journalism and Communication at Shaanxi Normal University in China. Sincere thanks also go to Editor Farideh Koohi-Kamali, Editorial Assistant Megan Madden and ← vii | viii → Commissioning Editor Na Li at Peter Lang, for the patient and considerable support making this...

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