The Chinese press in transition : a content analysis of Chinese newspapers using normative theoretical framework
The aim of this study is to examine the changing role of the Chinese press. This study answers the following questions: what factors have contributed to the change of the Chinese press?; To what extent has the Chinese press been changed by these factors? The main objectives addressed by this study are: investigating how the Chinese newspapers have become business enterprises (or business institutions) from non business institutions (or non-profit organizations) demonstrating to what extent the Chinese press has been changed examining the signs of the changing role of the Chinese press analysing how the Chinese press has changed its contents to satisfy the audience, in the process of China's political, economical reform and social change. Although this study is mainly focusing on the press, other media such as television, radio and so on are also analysed as the background information and whenever necessary. The normative theoretical approach is adopted to examine the Changing press system and communication practices in China, with regard to press ideology, ownership, censorship, watchdog role, objectivity and diversification and so on. This study uses content analysis as the main research method, interviews and other methods are also used as complements. The core of this study is based on an extensive content analysis with two Chinese provincial and municipal Party newspapers in the year of 1980 and 2000, and compared with the same newspaper in over a 20-year period, according to the criterion of normative theories. In the content analysis, 14 issues of each newspaper were selected, a total of 1714 items were coded. This study suggests that, since China's reform in 1980, China's press system and Chinese newspaper content have been dramatically changed from an ideological orientated-press to a commercial-orientated press with Chinese modification. These changes are not the result of a single factor but a series of factors. Chinese newspapers have mainly changed their contents in these following aspects: more information has been available to the readers the Chinese press has enjoyed relative autonomy since the economic reform, news reporting has been more professional, and independent from government propaganda a neutral and critical coverage of news replaced the positive coverage of news and became the mainstream of reporting various, reader- orientated and informative subjects have appeared in Chinese newspapers advertising has become a ubiquitous and powerful element in contemporary China, and the press has finally reached financial independence from the government. It can also be concluded that a pluralist press system is gradually forming in today's China, although the Party's ideology is still dominant.