Perceiving Different Chinas: Paradigm Change in the “Personalized Journalism” of Elite U.S. Journalists, 1976–1989

Yunya Song, Chin-Chuan Lee


This article investigates how elite U.S. correspondents recast their journalistic paradigm in response to the momentous collapse of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, which dealt a fatal blow to the validity of much of their previous writings. Elements of the constructed “virtuous socialist China” in the 1970s came to be discredited in the 1980s and were replaced by celebratory discourse on China’s adoption of market economy. The romantic imaginings about China’s “new socialist way” stood in sharp contrast to Western-cum-universal values of freedom, democracy, and individualism, as well as American lifestyles, capital, and know-how. The reporting hinged on how journalists employed the “enduring values” of America as paradigms to make sense of China’s conditions and U.S.–China relations. The “radical” journalistic paradigm of the 1970s was repudiated by the collapse of the Cultural Revolution, whereas the “liberal” paradigm of the 1980s was shattered by the Tiananmen crackdown.


America’s China reporting, journalistic paradigm, enduring values, international news, personalized journalism

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