Project Proposal: Civic Media in China

Non-adversarial Media Strategy in Chinese Social Movements

In a media ecosystem, noise can come from all types of media. When activists create adversarial scenes and seek media attention to have the public put pressure on the authority, they should also be cautious that the noise might interfere with their own voices in the media space. For activists in authoritarian regimes, I am proposing a non-adversarial media strategy that they position themselves in line with the official ideology. The benefit of this strategy is to maintain the chances of negotiation with the authority, but the compromise is the lessened possibility of generating democratic discourse in the long term.

Why do some social movement actors position themselves in line with the higher authority?
How does this media strategy work? What messages are sent to what media?
In comparison with adversarial movements, what are the benefits and compromises?

Two cases of resistance will be compared to establish different outcomes of movements with non-adversarial and adversarial media strategies. Recent movements against land expropriation and human rights movements both are framed as democratic power by some observers, but actually the activists focusing on land disputes consciously cooperated with the authority if chances of negotiation were given, and scaled down the attention from outside. In contrast, human rights movements directly challenge the political system as well as the official ideology, and thus the result is that their voices are less likely to be circulated in Chinese media systems and they are more likely be repressed by the authority.

This paper conducts frame analysis on these two movements. The specific incidents, Wukan incident and Ai Weiwei’s activities, are selected to represent the two types of the movements. News coverage by professional journalists, tweets from micro-blogs, interviews from blogs, discussion from BBS, and the media production from activists on these two cases are analyzed to answer questions of who are the players in the media ecosystem, what they say, and what frames they use. By establishing the differences in the discourses from these media players, this paper shows the noise in this media ecosystem, and how the activists using new media respond to the noise.

Tools: Weibo Scope to retrieve tweets, spreadsheets to code, and SPSS

3/22 identify variables
4/3 retrieve data and code
4/11 outline and findings
4/25 first draft
5/16 final presentation

1. How does it respond to the social movement literature except for framing? I am thinking about political opportunity structure, and is it relevant?
2. How do the body of literature on hegemony converse with the literature on framing?

Keck, Margaret E., and Kathryn Sikkink. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Cornell University Press, 1998.
–Boomerang Pattern as the model for the human rights movement actors
O’Brien, Kevin J., and Lianjiang Li. Rightful Resistance in Rural China. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
–Peasant seek rightful identity in resistance
Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale University Press, 1992.
–Implicit resistance under authoritarian regime
Ferree, Myra Marx, William Anthony Gamson, Jürgen Gerhards, and Dieter Rucht. Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
–the method of frame analysis



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