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Changing Media, Changing Foreign Policy in China

  • SUSAN L. SHIRK (a1)

China has undergone a media revolution that has transformed the domestic context for making foreign policy as well as domestic policy. The commercialization of the mass media has changed the way leaders and publics interact in the process of making foreign policy. As they compete with one another, the new media naturally try to appeal to the tastes of their potential audiences. Editors make choices about which stories to cover based on their judgments about which ones will resonate best with audiences. In China today, that means a lot of stories about Japan, Taiwan, and the United States, the topics that are the objects of Chinese popular nationalism. The publicity given these topics makes them domestic political issues because they are potential focal points for elite dis-agreement and mass collective action, and thereby constrains the way China' leaders and diplomats deal with them. Even relatively minor events involving China' relations with Japan, Taiwan, or the United States become big news, and therefore relations with these three governments must be carefully handled by the politicians in the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee. Because of the Internet, it is impossible for Party censors to screen out news from Japan, Taiwan or the United States that might upset the public. Common knowledge of such news forces officials to react to every slight, no matter how small. Foreign policy makers feel especially constrained by nationalist public opinion when it comes to its diplomacy with Japan. Media marketization and the Internet have helped make Japan China' most emotionally charged international relationship.

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Japanese Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 1468-1099
  • EISSN: 1474-0060
  • URL: /core/journals/japanese-journal-of-political-science
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