In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Journalism and the Press

  • Introduction
  • Chinese Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Additional Communication Perspectives

Chinese Studies Journalism and the Press
Judy Polumbaum
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0010


China’s news media have hybrid origins with political and intellectual antecedents in imperial court circulars and literati tradition; the missionary press of the 19th century; the vernacular culture movement of the early 20th century; and idiosyncratic adaptations of foreign models, methods, and approaches. The structure and practices of Chinese journalism after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 emerged from the exigencies of decades of war, indigenous variations on the role Marxist-Leninist theory assigned to the press, and the revolutionary experiences and propaganda objectives of the Chinese Communist leadership. China’s international reengagement from the 1970s on and the country’s dramatic economic reorientation in the post-Mao period opened the way for significant changes in media, as in every other social institution, including a proliferation of outlets, greater specialization and diversity of content, major reform and expansion in the training of journalists, and new latitude for investigative reporting. As government subsidies shrank and advertising grew, so too did tensions among the media’s multiple obligations as promoter of official propaganda, commercial enterprise dependent on audience appeal, and instrument of civic conscience. Renewed economic experimentation from the 1990s on brought changes to financing, including the formation of media groups, mixed state-private ownership configurations, raising of capital through stock offerings, and growing opportunities (de facto if not always de jure) for foreign investment. The advent of digital media technologies introduced further complexities, creating new channels for information and expression while triggering new mechanisms of control.

Chinese Reference Works

The Chinese-language material is legion, but essential resources include Zhongguo xinwen nianjian (Chinese journalism yearbook; Zhongguo shehui kexueyuan xinwen yu chuanbo yanjiusuo 1982–) and Zhongguo xinwen shiye tongshi (General history of Chinese journalism; Fang 1992–1999). Zhongguo xinwen nianjian is an annual compilation of major events, documents, studies, statistics, and other materials that make it an essential reference for the post-Mao period and a gauge of changing politics and economics. The three-volume Zhongguo xinwen shiye tongshi, edited by contemporary China’s foremost scholar of Chinese journalism history, provides an authoritative rendering of mainland perspectives on the field. This work’s useful appendixes include important articles, an inventory of relevant master’s and doctoral theses, and a time line from the 8th century on. Each volume also contains an English table of contents.

  • Fang Hanqi 方漢奇, ed. Zhongguo xinwen shiye tongshi (中國新聞事業通史). 3 vols. Zhongguo renmin daxue congshu. Beijing: Renmin daxue chubanshe, 1992–1999.

    Volume 1 (1992) of this general history of Chinese journalism covers the press of ancient times, foreign publications, and the press of the republican period; Volume 2 (1996) the period of “revolutionary journalism” from the May Fourth Movement (1919), the formation and early years of the Chinese Communist Party, the wartime period, and the experience in the Communist base areas; and Volume 3 (1999) the press from the founding of the PRC through the Cultural Revolution and the first two decades of post-Mao reforms.

  • Zhongguo shehui kexueyuan xinwen yu chuanbo yanjiusuo 中国社会科学院新闻与传播研究所, ed. Zhongguo xinwen nianjian (中国新闻年鉴). 1982–.

    This series of journalism yearbooks is available in academic libraries in greater China and in US university libraries with serious collections of contemporary Chinese-language materials. A good accounting of such Chinese holdings is offered in Yuan Zhou’s “An Unstated Mission: Chinese Collections in Academic Libraries in the U.S. and Their Services to Overseas Chinese,” Journal of East Asian Libraries 139 (2006): 10–17.

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