Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 Chapter 1 briefly presents the current media perspectives of Internet regulation in China. This is also supplemented with recent perspectives of Chinese citizens on the Internet, which greatly contrast with the early Western beliefs of how the Internet would have transformed China towards a more democratic nation. This section also discusses the theoretical perspectives of information communication technology (ICT), as well as the interplay with national governance and citizen media usage. Particular emphasis is made for Uses and Gratification studies (Grace-Farfaglia, Dekkers, Sundararajan, Peters, Park, 2006; Stafford, Stafford and Schkade, 2004). There is an anticipation for the synergy of Habermas’ Public Sphere with Benkler’s Peer Production, focusing on the advent of citizen journalism in China for the purpose of this dissertation. This is followed by a detailed methodology of this research. Reasons for qualitative approaches, as well as reliability and validity issues are covered. Results of a pilot study from students in a Shanghai-based college are used to determine the general sentiments of Chinese netizens, so that more specific research questions could be employed for the main survey. This is followed by a statement of strategies for collecting, analyzing and presenting data for the study. Finally, the potential research limitations are discussed.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 2 involves a literature review of the Chinese government’s Internet media policies, how the Chinese citizens react to these online restrictions, and how China’s Internet regulatory practices compare with those of developed and developing countries around the world. In particular, the chapter investigates why governments all over the world regulate the media, and to what extent are these regulations different between traditional mass media and the Internet. To benchmark China’s Internet policies, OpenNet Initiative (ONI) magnitude of filtering for Internet tools would be used for comparing particular countries and their Internet regulation. The ONI report uses five levels of Internet filtering – Pervasive, Substantial, Selective, Suspected and No Evidence. This would help put the examination of China’s Internet policies under a more global perspective, particularly to show how the country compares in terms of restrictions on Internet access, as typically portrayed in the Western media.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 3 pieces together the theoretical framework for the dissertation. It starts with a macro perspective of ICT and society, by looking through early arguments on new media and society, and this is followed by the discussion of current theoretical perspectives. The overview would include Castells’ theory of ICT (1998) being the determining factor that makes society progress, as well as Lessig’s argument (1999) on the malleable nature of the Internet as a determinant of its social consequences. A literature review of credible sources would help flesh out critical issues, such as the demographics of Internet users, their perceptions of the Internet, and their intrinsic motivations for using the Internet. In contrast to China’s situation, Habermas’ public sphere is used as a comparative model of idealized democratic public space, with major features identified, such as universal access, rational debate and the lack of hierarchy (i.e. rank). Following this would be Benkler’s (2006) popular concept of peer production as applied in the present form of Internet use. Initially applied to Internet use in liberal societies, this section will provide an understanding of how his networked information economy (NIE) could be mapped onto how the Chinese use the Internet, particularly within their authoritarian society. These concepts will be grounded by measures taken from a survey utilizing Uses and Gratification (Blumler & Katz, 1974), and to account for recent revelations of public deliberations as well as the PEW reports of Chinese citizens’ preference for government regulation on the Internet, considerations of trust in peer-produced media versus established media agencies online (such as personal blogs vs newspaper websites), as measured under the News Credibility Scale (Gaziano & McGrath, 1986), as well as how citizens prefer online news to be managed (through self-censorship or government regulation) as measured through the Locus of Control Scale (Rotter, 1954).  This chapter provides theoretical background and raises questions for this study.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 4 focuses on the historical development of telecommunication in China. Particular trends in technology, legal and political development are discussed. The chapter will also examine the key factors behind China’s telecommunication policy-making and reforms. The following section focuses on major Internet developments particular to China.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 5 is focused on particular aspects of the Internet that allows for information control. It discusses the government’s agenda as well as various forms of control it has on Internet in the People’s Republic of China. Regulations in the form of law, markets and social norms are discussed in light of China’s sociological environment. Besides identifying major Internet policies and regulations, this chapter also examines what the Chinese government actually does with the Internet.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 6 follows the Chinese government’s efforts at Internet regulation from the technological perspective. The filtering and monitoring strategies employed by the Chinese authorities are discussed in detail. Undisclosed and intentionally ambiguous from the Chinese authorities, the regulatory methods employed are often discovered on their own by Internet users as well as Internet service and content providers.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 7 is focused on particular aspects of the Internet that allow for information anarchy, otherwise termed as ‘anti-control’ for the purpose of this study. The chapter starts by examining the kind of impact that journalists and cyberdissidents have, by visualizing their pattern of imprisonment by the Chinese Communist Party. Aspects of the Internet that tend to be chaotic and decentralized, or otherwise modified by savvy netizens to become so, are discussed. Particular emphasis is made for technical forms of Internet regulation circumvention, as well as the ad hoc nature of peer production, which leads to Clay Shirky’s idea of ‘protest culture’ (2008). Case studies of user-generated content (UGC) within participatory media space serves to highlight the citizen journalist phenomena in China. Finally, initial perceptions from observing and surveying Chinese netizens navigating their online spaces will be discussed.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 8 looks at whether the civil discourse online has any real-world impact in China and beyond. It also demonstrates how the Chinese netizens are rising in rhetorical sophistication, maintaining a safe distance while poking fun at government censorship through online satire. The myth of the Great Firewall of China is revealed, showing how conventional wisdom has long oversimplified China’s elaborate filtering and surveillance architecture. Finally, as the Chinese public sphere extends online and across international waters (e.g., Facebook, Youtube and twitter), I will show how Chinese authorities are able to reel these foreign web services in, either through blocking the service or gaining foreign business complicity.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 9 is a presentation of research findings of the observations as well as survey on Internet users in China. How the Chinese netizens actually use the Internet, where they go online, what their concerns are (e.g., regulations, privacy and propaganda) and how they address them are discussed. Particular attention is made for users’ attitudes towards and interactions with policies and regulations. Their motivations are explained through the Uses and Gratifications approach, as well as Benkler’s peer production model. The purpose of this chapter is to present a clear picture of the how the Chinese public sphere possibly thrives within regulated Internet space.

Comment Icon0 Chapter 10 is the conclusion of the dissertation, where the entire study is condensed to answer the principal research questions posed in the introduction. This chapter reveals the fallacies of globalization that are apparent throughout this dissertation, including a look at how liberal democracy is overtly framed as the ultimate form of governance, as well as how technological determinism appears too explicitly within conventional predictions of China’s future. A section will cover limitations of this study, with suggestions for future research on the relationship between the Internet, the government and citizens of the People’s Republic of China.

Chapter 1.5 – Thesis Overview


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