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State Policy and News
Websites in China
Dong Han & Ying Zhang
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
April 2009
Introduction
 News websites in China—what and
why?
• State-owned news websites vs.
commercial news websites.
• 78.5% Inte...
Internet growth
 Explosive and unbalanced growth
• Users: 620 thousand in 1997
298 million in 2008
• Urban-rural divide: ...
State policy
 Boosting the economy and controlling
news production
• Information and communication technology
as the key ...
Licensing—who can set up a
news website?
 Two-track system
• For state-owned media outlets: easy and
simple (and encourag...
News on big commercial
websites
 No original political news stories
• Can only reprint state-owned media outlets’
stories...
Concentration of news
sources
 The big three
• Sampling news.sina.com.cn, the news site
of Sina.com.
• Most headline/poli...
Two case studies: People’s Net
and Sina.com
 People’s Net
• Online presence of the foremost Party mouthpiece,
People’s Da...
 Sina.com
• Grew out of a sports (soccer) forum in 1996.
• Investment from venture capital, merger
with a US-based Intern...
Internet and media
democratization in China
 News websites matter
• Internet is not only interactive technology,
but also...
 Does Internet news defy censorship
and provide more diversity?
• State-owned websites: loaded with propaganda
tasks,
oth...
 Technology and democratization
• State policy played a key role in the
development of news website in China.
• Internet ...
Thank you.
Dong Han donghan@illinois.edu
Ying Zhang zhang52@illinois.edu
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  1. 1. State Policy and News Websites in China Dong Han & Ying Zhang University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign April 2009
  2. 2. Introduction  News websites in China—what and why? • State-owned news websites vs. commercial news websites. • 78.5% Internet users read news online. • How/if news websites in China contribute to media democratization?
  3. 3. Internet growth  Explosive and unbalanced growth • Users: 620 thousand in 1997 298 million in 2008 • Urban-rural divide: 28.4% users are rural residents, which amount to 2/3 of total population. • Gap between economically developed and less-developed regions. • Users: mostly students and office employees.
  4. 4. State policy  Boosting the economy and controlling news production • Information and communication technology as the key to development. • Media commercialization within the orbit of the Party-state.
  5. 5. Licensing—who can set up a news website?  Two-track system • For state-owned media outlets: easy and simple (and encouraged). • Established big commercial websites: ban on news production. • Non-profit, or small commercial websites: a de facto ban.
  6. 6. News on big commercial websites  No original political news stories • Can only reprint state-owned media outlets’ stories. • Transforming copyright law facilitated massive reprinting. • The quantity of news and the editing of “special topics.”
  7. 7. Concentration of news sources  The big three • Sampling news.sina.com.cn, the news site of Sina.com. • Most headline/political news come from Xinhuanet, People’s Net, and ChinaNews, all key state-owned media outlets. • 66% of non-headline “current and political” news, and 74% of headline news, came from the big three.
  8. 8. Two case studies: People’s Net and Sina.com  People’s Net • Online presence of the foremost Party mouthpiece, People’s Daily. • Propaganda-oriented: “to insist on correct guidance of public opinion.” • Set up in Chinese Internet’s infancy, and received high-profile support from state leaders. • Drastic development of state-owned news websites in early 2000s, when the Internet bubble burst.
  9. 9.  Sina.com • Grew out of a sports (soccer) forum in 1996. • Investment from venture capital, merger with a US-based Internet company, adopting the new name Sina.com (1997-1998). • More transnational investment, listed in NASDAQ (2000). • State policy grew the Internet market, allowed in-flow of capital, and shaped the “production” of news.
  10. 10. Internet and media democratization in China  News websites matter • Internet is not only interactive technology, but also provision of news and information. • Reading news is the most popular online activity in China. • Diversified news sources and in-depth, investigative stories are indispensable for an informed public.
  11. 11.  Does Internet news defy censorship and provide more diversity? • State-owned websites: loaded with propaganda tasks, other websites: banned from news production, non-profit and small commercial sites: simply banned. • No independent source of political news, no organized alternative efforts to provide in-depth stories.
  12. 12.  Technology and democratization • State policy played a key role in the development of news website in China. • Internet does not automatically liberalize or democratize. • Internet growth and democratization endeavors in Internet-related settings need to be situated in social and political contexts.
  13. 13. Thank you. Dong Han donghan@illinois.edu Ying Zhang zhang52@illinois.edu

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