Birth of a new communications order

Updated: 2013-08-12 13:41

By Herman Wasserman (China Daily)

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Despite the country's big cultural industry market, Hu reckons China's media content production is not yet strong enough to use in the service of soft power strategies. State-owned media have played a big part in China's going-out strategy: The Chinese State-owned media including CCTV (50 international bureaus), Xinhua (140 overseas bureaus) and newspapers such as People's Daily and China Daily have also helped to promote the country's image to international audiences. But, according to Hu, the country will be unable to contribute to restructuring the global communications order until it has managed to address the value crisis it is experiencing internally. He sees this domestic crisis as a result of the rise of the market society, which has led to "money fetishism, utilitarianism and consumerism". The State-owned media are also not as powerful anymore to set the agenda for public opinion as they used to be in the 1980s, Hu said.

A survey last year showed 75 percent of the public opinion agenda was set by non-official media, such as social networks. This survey revealed more than half the respondents lacked faith in the government. In order for China to spread soft power globally, it first would need to address these challenges at home, Hu said.

New social media have become like a pressure cooker, said Chen Chingwen of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Although citizens are using new media to campaign for social justice, they now also spend more time indoors and have become more individual.

China's soft power is exercised in a global communications landscape that is feeling the impact of the shift of global geopolitical power to the BRICS countries. The impact of the rise of these countries was discussed in a panel by members of a global project on media systems in those countries (of which the author of this column is also a member).