Digital Communication and Political Change in China

Ashley Esarey, Qiang Xiao


The popularization of digital media technologies in the People’s Republic of China has led to the liberalization of public discourse and provided the citizenry with new opportunities for political advocacy. This article employs content analysis of newspapers and blogs to test information regime theory and finds considerable evidence of a transformation in the properties of political communication. Chinese Communist Party-led institutions, however, have responded to new challenges with legal and technological measures designed to control and guide political expression. The authors consider evidence that suggests new media have empowered China’s “netizens” and diminished the state’s ability to set the public agenda and shape political preferences.

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