Covering a Non-Democracy: A Japanese Coverage of China and Implications for Media Balancing

Jing Sun


Scholarly debate on the political role of the Japanese media is based almost exclusively on analyzing their domestic coverage. International reportage is implicitly dismissed as following the same logic and process as its domestic counterpart. However, foreign correspondents, especially those stationed in authoritarian states, have to deal with daunting hurdles that their home-based colleagues can hardly imagine. This paper examines Japan’s top two largest newspapers’ coverage of China, one of Japan’s most important neighbors and also a non-democracy that remains deeply suspicious of foreign press. By analyzing their general patterns of China coverage, the paper discusses how Japanese journalists maintain their autonomy while making nominal concessions in order to remain on the ground. The paper also reveals how commercial instinct and market strategies account for the similarities and differences between these two papers on covering China. It concludes with an assessment on both the Japan-unique and general recognitions that this case study can offer to our understanding of media autonomy and media as a business institution.

Key words: international reportage, media autonomy, commercial media, Japanese media, newspaper studies, Japan-China Relations

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