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After the Internet, Before Democracy

Competing Norms in Chinese Media and Society

Johan Lagerkvist

China has lived with the Internet for nearly two decades. Will increased Internet use, with new possibilities to share information and discuss news and politics, lead to democracy, or will it to the contrary sustain a nationalist supported authoritarianism that may eventually contest the global information order?
This book takes stock of the ongoing tug of war between state power and civil society on and off the Internet, a phenomenon that is fast becoming the centerpiece in the Chinese Communist Party’s struggle to stay in power indefinitely. It interrogates the dynamics of this enduring contestation, before democracy, by following how Chinese society travels from getting access to the Internet to our time having the world’s largest Internet population. Pursuing the rationale of Internet regulation, the rise of the Chinese blogosphere and citizen journalism, Internet irony, online propaganda, the relation between state and popular nationalism, and finally the role of social media to bring about China’s democratization, this book offers a fresh and provocative perspective on the arguable role of media technologies in the process of democratization, by applying social norm theory to illuminate the competition between the Party-state norm and the youth/subaltern norm in Chinese media and society.

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Acknowledgements .............................................................................. 9 Introduction ........................................................................................ 11 The Chinese mass media and the Internet between state and society .......................... 14 The Chinese mass media and globalization ................................................................. 19 Technological determinism and democracy ................................................................ 25 Before democracy: the Internet-as-institution, cultural form, and competing norms .. 28 Journalism(s) and nationalism(s) – two optics on competing norms ........................... 36 1. Internet regulation and the youth/subaltern norm ........................... 41 Competition between the Party-state norm and the youth/subaltern norm .................. 42 Internet cafés and the youth/subaltern norm ................................................................ 44 The Party-state as source and shaper of norms ............................................................ 47 The youth/subaltern norm and Internet cafés .............................................................. 52 The youth/subaltern norm and a real name registration system ................................... 55 The youth/subaltern norm and the Green Dam debacle ............................................... 57 Competition between norms on China’s Internet: the lessons drawn .......................... 61 2. In blogs they trust? ......................................................................... 65 Mapping the Chinese blogosphere .............................................................................. 70 The blogosphere: collectives of young individuals ..................................................... 75 Politically influential blogging .................................................................................... 79 The blogosphere: pockets of activism and passive slacktivism ................................... 81 Trusting news breaks in the blogosphere, trusting news analysis in official media..... 83 The blogosphere and the Party-state ............................................................................ 87 6 3. And the baton passes to … citizen journalism ................................ 93 Forms of government control over news production ................................................... 99 The marriage of critical journalisms – offline, online and by citizens ....................... 105 The identities of investigative journalists .................................................................. 112 The relationship between traditional journalism and citizen journalism ................... 118 4. Weapons of harmony and irony .................................................... 127 The harmonious society and the Confucian revival ................................................... 129 The state-led discourse on a harmonious Internet ..................................................... 133 A “self-disciplined” Internet industry and civil society ............................................. 137 Self-censorship in society .......................................................................................... 144...

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