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The period since about the late 1980s has witnessed the phenomenal ascent of the People’s Republic of China as a political, economic, and military power on the global stage. China’s rise has engendered an earnest, if perhaps not well-executed, agenda to promote a more attractive image of the country. In this period China has also experienced a rapid escalation in outbound migration to various parts of the world, with a small number of countries in the global West emerging as the preferred destinations for Chinese migrants, and, in some cases, China becoming their biggest source of new migrants. In the United States, China replaced Mexico as the top sending country in 2018. In Canada, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration, while in Australia, China now has the second-largest migrant population behind the United Kingdom, and has only recently slipped into second position behind India as the nation’s leading source of new immigrants. These developments have made China’s diaspora the biggest in the world. In the eyes and minds of the Chinese government, Chinese migrants are important potential assets in its efforts to push its global soft power agenda. The period of accelerated outbound migration from China coincided with the emergence of first the internet, and then digital media—in particular, the most popular Chinese social media platform, WeChat (Weixin in Chinese). Against the backdrop of these developments at the macro level, the topic of social media and the Chinese diaspora becomes a question of considerable significance. Some analysts argue that the dramatically enlarged mainland Chinese diaspora has effectively become an instrument of China’s soft power agenda, while others point out the positive role that members of this group play in their host communities. In particular, they highlight the potential of Chinese-language social media—and in particular WeChat, which is widely used by Chinese people both within and outside China—to have a beneficial impact on Chinese immigrants’ prospects for social integration in the countries where they now reside. The pursuit of these questions entails a brief foray into a number of research areas, including the Chinese diaspora, the history and transformation of Chinese-language diasporic media, the infrastructural and regulatory framework of WeChat, and public diplomacy via diaspora. Addressing these questions also has the benefit of broadening, and possibly enriching, the concepts of digital diaspora, on the one hand, and digital citizenship, on the other.

Article

In August 2016, on the heels of the summer heat surrounding the Olympics, a major celebrity family scandal gripped mainland China. The nation watched closely as a well-known actor struggled through revelations about his wife’s scandalous infidelities, her disgraceful possession over their family properties, and most dramatically, her unilateral decision to flee to America with their two children—all while their divorce unfolded in front of the nation’s gaze. Not a political affair, this scandal was able to attract as much publicity as the Chinese people were thirsty for. Sina Weibo (Microblogging) became one of the biggest winners of this storm, as its NASDAQ stock price rose 7.05% the day after the actor made his announcement on Sina Weibo about his plan to divorce, and Sina Weibo’s market value broke through 10 billion U.S. dollars for the first time (according to Sohu Business in 2016). Within 14 hours of that announcement, the actor’s original Sina Weibo post had been forwarded 520,000 times and commented on 1,240,000 times (according to Sohu Business in 2016). Like all other major news events, many of which are often more politically sensitive and civically relevant, ordinary citizens in mainland China have grown used to looking to their social media sites for information and guidance. As of December 2015, mainland China’s social media population reached 530 million, amounting to 77% of its total Internet users (according to CINNIC in 2016). A Western media invention, social media platforms have largely permeated the lives of regular Chinese users, although not without “Chinese characteristics.” This article reviews an important body of literature that takes keen interest in the civic implications of mainland China’s social media sites, which render themselves more relevant than ever in everyday life as well as amid high-profile public events. Following in the footsteps of many influential foreign Internet sites, including Google and the New York Times, such leading social media entities as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all been blocked by the Great Firewall of China, officially known as the Golden Shield Project. This exclusive characteristic, along with other unique Chinese phenomena, has given rise to a separate social media universe that China calls its own. This article draws connections among explorations about the civic significance of China’s social media landscape for the world’s largest Internet population (according to CNNIC in 2008). While unique Chinese conditions do not necessarily disconnect China’s users from universal features of social media use, this article focuses specifically on works that examine how local social media platforms have shaped civic engagement in mainland China’s restrictive political environment. Like the spread of Internet technology to modern China, recent developments in social media have invited competing narratives about their democratic implications, which often echo Western academia’s evaluative position taking between utopian and pessimistic narratives of digital technology’s social impact. The former state that Chinese citizens have availed themselves of the unprecedented opportunities afforded by social media to keep governmental actions in check, whereas the latter voice the concern that social media simply provide new and more ready channels for governmental monitoring and manipulating of public opinion. In 2010, Deng and Jing suggested that although the concept of civil society originated in the West, we need to understand it as historically, culturally, and socially specific. The Chinese civil society, according to the two scholars, is both separate from and interdependent with the state. Its origin stemmed from China’s state-guided transition from a planned economy to marketization, leading China’s civil society to be more dependent on state policies, while the Western civil society gains more independence from private capital. Deng and Jing note that theories of state-society relations have primarily positioned the two as confrontational entities and instead propose a “Positive Interaction Theory (BIT)” for the case of China. Under this notion, the state allows for the civil society’s independent operation and protects it with laws and abstract legislation. While there is great diversity within the civil society and often conflicts of interest, the state should interfere and mediate in legal and economic terms, when members of the civil society fail to reconcile on contractual grounds. Under BIT as an ideal type, Deng and Jing asserted that the state should not intervene in the civil society’s political rights, and the latter should reserve the freedom to organize their political voices and push for democratization. The closer state-society relation can be to this ideal, the more robust a civil society will be. Once China’s civil society establishes its independence and autonomy, the scholars suggest, it will then participate in China’s politics and provide effective checks and balances on state decision making. However, these two stages are not neatly separate from each other. As can be seen in the cases reviewed in this article, the Chinese civil society in its current state is not a unitary and static entity. While limited in sensitive political and religious domains, it has achieved a strong voice in other social issues and positive interaction with the state at times. This investigation into a burgeoning literature on social media in mainland China finds that although the Chinese people’s use of social media does not strike one as immediately liberating in terms of new political freedom, it bears the potential of creating a civil society that may be particularly meaningful for the idiosyncratic political environment of China. In other words, there may be a lot left to desire, but researchers can look more closely into the various ways in which users in China actively, and often creatively, organize their voices and actions via new social media outlets. In the absence of a democracy, a civil society continues to emerge.

Article

Jianbin Jin, Xiaoxiao Cheng, Jing Yang, and Hui Wang

This century is marked by a burgeoning information society around the globe; accordingly, the adoption and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in general and the Internet in particular have been one of the most fruitful domains in the broader field of communication sciences. The observed persistent academic interest can, to a large extent, be attributed to the polymorphic nature of ICTs of various modalities, functioning as ICTs technology clusters and/or meta operating systems that accommodate numerous technologies, functions and applications. Beyond that, ICTs or Internet adoption is reflective of a social process of development, during which the informational mode of development is interwoven with other social systems and varies across diverse social settings. Most existing empirical research and theoretical approaches have overwhelmingly focused on the Internet adoption in developed economies, but in-depth investigations on the developing economies such as China are scarce, if any. Compared to most developed countries, China’s informatization-urbanization model marks a unique path of modernization, which further provides a huge opportunity to build momentum for the rapid and large-scale Internet adoption in urban China. In order to present a whole-range holistic portrait of China’s Internet development, the intrinsic logics and social outcomes of China’s informatization-urbanization model necessitate in-depth investigations.

Article

For the past two decades, global television formats have received more attention in academia. Being theorized as mass-produced transnational cultural products, global TV formats have been articulated as dynamic junctures of cultural imperialism, media imperialism, and cultural homogenization in the realms of media and popular culture. These theoretical approaches, however, adopt a dualistic understanding of globality and locality, ignoring the multi-relational interactions between discourses of the global format and the local context constrained by specificities of global TV formats’ importing countries. Compared to the notion of globalization, glocalization attends more to the dialectical relationship between the global and the local, with its emphasis on postmodern understanding of local contents’ reproduction or repackaging within the framework delineated by global TV formats. With global TV formats’ transnational flow, these cultural commodities have gone through complex reproduction or adaptation in order to fit importing countries’ specific cultural, social, and even political milieus. Besides adaptation, global TV formats are inevitably subject to incompatible constraints in importing countries and thus exposed to disputes that may bring damages to their sustainability outside of their countries of origin. In order to present a comprehensive review of cross-border transaction and glocalization of global TV formats, it is necessary to examine this phenomenon’s origin and global expansion and explore its entrance into China. This can be done by analyzing the rise and fall of The Voice as a representative case and as one of the most successful global TV formats in the Chinese context within the framework of glocalization.

Article

Earlier generations of Western scholars often regarded nonheterosexual desires, identities, and intimacies in Chinese-speaking contexts as marginalized, stigmatized, and silenced, if not completely invisible, in mainstream mediascapes and pop cultural spaces. However, in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone contexts, queer practices, images, and narratives voiced, either explicitly or implicitly, by media producers, performers, and consumers or fans who do not necessarily self-identify as LGBTQ are common and even proliferating. These manifestations of queer Chinese media and pop culture are diverse and widespread in both online and offline spaces. In the new millennium, with the rise of queer Asian, queer Chinese, and queer Sinophone studies, scholars have strived to move away from Euro-American-centric and Japanese-centric queer media studies and theories when examining queer Chinese-language media and cultural productions. In particular, a growing body of scholarship (in fields such as literary studies, cinema and television studies, and fan studies) has explored intersecting ways of reconceptualizing “queerness” and “Chineseness” to examine gender, sexual, and sociocultural minority cultures in Chinese-language public and pop cultural spaces. Some of the literature has usefully traced the history of the concepts “homosexuality” and “tongzhi” (comrade) in modern and contemporary China, as well as the transcultural transmission and mutations of the meanings of the English term “queer” (ku’er) in Chinese media studies. Differentiating these concepts helps clarify the theorization of and scholarly debates surrounding queer Chinese media and pop culture in the 21st century. A number of scholars have also troubled the meaning and the essentialized identity of “Chineseness” through a queer lens while decolonizing and de-Westernizing queer Chinese media and pop cultural studies. In addition, post-2010 scholarship has paid major attention to Chinese media censorship and regulations (with a close focus on the context of mainland China/the People’s Republic of China/PRC) concerning homosexual and queer content production, circulation, and consumption and how these have been circumvented in both traditional and online media spaces.

Article

Internet addiction is a growing social issue in many societies worldwide. With the largest number of Internet users worldwide, China has witnessed the growth of the Internet along with the development and effects of Internet addiction, especially among the young. Originally reported anecdotally in mass media, Internet addiction has become an issue of great public concern after more than 20 years. The process of Internet addiction as an emerging risk in the Chinese context can be a showcase for risks related to information and communication technologies (ICTs), health, and everyday life. The term Internet addiction was first coined in the Western context and has since been recognized as a technology-driven social problem in China. Plenty of anecdotes, increasing academic research, and public awareness and concerns have put the threat of Internet addiction firmly on the policy agenda. Therefore, for prevention and intervention, research projects, rehab facilities, welfare services, and self-help programs have spread all over the country, and related regulations, policies, and laws have changed accordingly. Although controversies remain, through the staging of, and coping with, Internet addiction, people can better understand China’s digital natives and contemporary life.

Article

Mass media are global and involve numerous and varied cultures whose customs, languages, beliefs, and arts are different. The differences require bridges for mutual understanding, and such bridges are offered as cross-cultural communication. The latter point raises a question of translation and interpretation, showing how cultures are suppressed, absorbed by other cultures, or how they survive. Historical examples will be provided to form basic canons for an understanding of cross-cultural interpretation. The analyses of interpretation suggest that cultures belong to civilizations with more fundamental and more encompassing structures, capable of providing frameworks for their own cultures. At this level, cultures become symbolic designs of a given civilization. With this turn, cross-cultural communication is shifted toward comparative civilizations and their capacity to offer more fundamental frameworks of cross-cultural communication. Moving through major theories of comparative civilization, the critical questions are as follows: Does a specific theory favor the structure of one civilization over others, and does it contain features that do not belong to other civilizations? In brief, do scholars of civilizations assume the concepts of their civilization and contextualize all other civilizations in one context? In spite of these questions, civilizations, by virtue of their cultures as symbolic designs, offer phenomena that allow the formation of basic rules available in all civilizations. By comparing such rules, it is possible to decipher the way that such rules form the communicative ground at the level of cultural symbolic designs as interpretations of the broader structures—civilizations.

Article

The convergence of rhetoric, culture, and communication has led to the development of two predominant areas of study within the field of communication: intercultural rhetoric and comparative rhetoric. Intercultural rhetoric illustrates how culture-based arguments are constructed by advocates during intercultural interactions and how the arguments make sense within a particular cultural frame or worldview. These studies attempt to represent the cultural sensibility and rhetorical traditions invoked by a particular intercultural interaction. Rhetorical practices are seen as emerging from the beliefs and values of distinctive cultural communities, and the convergence of intercultural communication and rhetoric becomes evident when people act rhetorically and their diverse cultural assumptions gradually or suddenly become apparent during intercultural interactions. Comparative rhetoric focuses on the cross-cultural study of rhetorical traditions, past or present, in societies around the world. Comparison of (rather than interaction between) the rhetorical practices of two or more cultures is often the focus of comparative rhetoric studies. Comparison helps in the identification of rhetorical features in one culture that might not be evident otherwise, to unearth what is universal and what distinctive in any rhetorical tradition, including that of the West. Intercultural rhetoric and comparative rhetoric share some conceptual and methodological features; both fields are characterized by similar beginnings and some shared debates. However, they also have distinct characteristics, challenges, and historiographies. For intercultural rhetoric, approaching intercultural contexts and situations utilizing theories and concepts from rhetorical studies affirms non-Western modes of reasoning and advocacy. Recent methodological developments have allowed critics to more comprehensively represent rhetorical traditions and to discover novel ways to understand intercultural conflicts and mediate cultural differences. Conceptualizing rhetorical situations as intercultural dialogues suggests the ways in which intercultural rhetorical theorists need to be mindful of the multivocal quality of social discourses. Rhetorical interpretation of texts benefits from a comparative approach that allows for speculation with respect for and grounding in another culture’s history, as well as reflection on the cultural outsider’s motive and assumptions. It is useful for the quest of meaning not to be limited to the standpoints within each disparate culture; pragmatically, they must have a dialogue since comparative rhetoric allows the analysis of different discourses, the discovery of common grounds of engagement, and the revelation of cultural assumptions.

Article

The term cultural industries was first coined in the 1980s as a comprehensive means to understand production, distribution, and consumption in the traditional information and entertainment industries—press, radio, and television—and others such as film and recorded music. Closely related industries, such as advertising, marketing, and public relations, were also included. With the subsequent popular embrace and commercialization of the internet, especially the social media platforms, the concept was necessarily expanded to incorporate such “new” media of the digital age. The relevance of these cultural industries for racial and ethnic groups living within the nations of the developed world is significant in at least two contexts: national and transnational. Within the frame of the nation, the issues concern the status of these groups as minorities; and in a global perspective, the groups come to be seen as members of transnational communities, with ties both to a putative nation of origin and to their counterparts in other nations. Most theoretical and research attention has focused on media representations—that is, on how racial and ethnic minorities are portrayed in the content of the cultural industries’ outputs, seen both in a national context, such as the perpetuation of stereotypes in news and television series, and globally, as in film. Yet such a focus on representations tends to position minorities as passive victims of the media. Less common is research in which minorities are viewed as active agents producing their own information and entertainment, as they do, with local, national, and even transnational distribution. Minorities’ own media can range from local community radio to globally available television channels and internet platforms serving vast diasporas, the largest of these being those of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the Chinese-speaking world (the “Sinosphere”). Each of these provides a case in which the industrial structure of the huge home media market provides the basis for far-flung consumption in all those countries in which members of the respective ethnicities have settled. In situations in which they attain a certain critical mass, such racial and ethnic minorities form a market for the cultural industries and consumer goods industries more broadly. Also to be taken into account is the phenomenon of racial and ethnic minorities having an impact on the cultural industries of the dominant cultures of the nations in which they dwell. The most striking case in that regard is how African American popular music made the profound cross-over from segregated radio stations and live venues to infuse the commercial mainstream of music recording and performance in the United States and, ultimately, the world. Although such creativity is valued, there remains a diversity issue about the actual participation of racial and other minorities in executive, management, and production roles in the major cultural industries.

Article

“Chineseness” is often depicted in public discourses within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an identity that blurs together varied notions of shared cultural heritage, as well as common descent, within discourses of a unified national identity. This combines what might be called “ethnicity” (as cultural heritage), “race” (as common descent, physical or intrinsic characteristics), and “nation” (as territory and political state) in complex ways. And yet, a standard position within Chinese discourses (and often replicated in non-Chinese scholarship) is that historically informing the present, Chinese notions of “ethnic difference” are based on differences in “culture,” thus precluding “racism.” This characterization in part derives from the narrative that Chinese history was an ongoing process of “sinicization”—namely “backwards,” “barbarian” ethnic groups eagerly assimilated into the “more advanced” Han “civilization,” thus becoming “Chinese.” However, there are numerous scholarly challenges to this narrative as historically inaccurate or overly simplistic, as well as challenges to the positioning of this narrative as not “racist.” The idea that an emphasis on civilization versus barbarism is “cultural” and not “racial” delimits racism to a narrow definition focusing on “biophysical” difference. However, wider scholarship on race and racism highlights that the latter rests on diverse articulations of hierarchical difference; this includes and mobilizes cultural difference as an active part of racist discourses predicated on the acceptance of ideas of the “inferiority” versus “superiority” of peoples, as well as notions of “purity” within discourses of homogeneous imagined communities. Increasingly, “being Chinese” is being conceptualized in PRC official rhetoric as a culturally, and racially, homogeneous identity. That is, not only is Han culture being positioned as emblematic of “Chinese culture” generally but also it is being asserted that all ethnic groups are descended from the Han and are thus genetically bound by “Chinese bloodlines.” Such discourses have repercussions for ethnic minority groups within China—most clearly at the moment for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities who are positioned as “infected” by “foreign influences,” namely their religion. This is particularly clear in the contemporary sinicization campaign in Xinjiang (XUAR: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region), a region in northwest China that has gained increasing international attention due to the government’s use of “re-education” camps in a program it argues is designed to eliminate terrorism. The accompanying sinicization campaign involves a combination of propaganda emphasizing “Chinese socialist characteristics” and “core values” that should be adopted, an emphasis in the media on Uyghurs engaging in Han cultural practices as a demonstration of their loyalty to the state, as well as the removal of many visible signs of Chinese Islamic history and Uyghur culture. The turn toward politically policing culture is hardly new in China; however, the increasing emphasis on racial notions of identity—foregrounding physical appearance, genetics, lineage, and metaphors of “bloodlines”—is an attempt to turn a national identity into a “natural” one, something that raises urgent questions with regard to how China deals with the diversity of its population and the stakes in being, or becoming, “Chinese.”

Article

Terrie Siang-Ting Wong

Starting from the late 20th century, domestic and multinational corporations begun actively promoting their products and services to Chinese tongzhi communities at local LGBTQ events such as the ShanghaiPRIDE, Taiwan Pride Week, and the Hong Kong Pride Parade. In recent years, consumer brands are eager to market themselves as tongzhi friendly, for example, by displaying the pride colors in advertising. In the People’s Republic of China (henceforth PRC and China), businesses are offering services that exclusively serve the needs of Chinese tongzhi, such as overseas wedding packages, travel services, surrogate services, and assisting in permanent overseas migration. In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (henceforth Hong Kong) and the Republic of China (henceforth Taiwan), the pink market features a well-established network of gay and lesbian disco clubs, bars, and bookstores. In addition to brick-and-mortar businesses, the Chinese pink market also has a strong online presence in the form of gay and lesbian dating apps. In short, the Chinese pink market includes all activities in contemporary Chinese societies that aim to profit from the needs and desires of individuals who experience same-sex attraction. Research on the Chinese pink markets to date has primarily focused on using a political economy perspective to investigate tongzhi subject formation, specifically focusing on queer subjects as consumers. Aspects of the Chinese pink markets that have been studied include product/service offerings, profit mechanisms, and marketing messages. In contrast to the financial institutions and business owners that promote the pink economy as progress for local tongzhi communities in the form of increased visibility and improved quality of life, there is a distinct ambivalence towards the Chinese pink market amongst the scholarly community. Literature on all three Chinese pink markets—China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong—trouble the notion that tongzhi visibility in the pink economy unequivocally heralds positive social change for local tongzhi subjects. Scholars writing on all three Chinese pink markets are also united in their rejection of a global queering reading of tongzhi subjectivity and subject formation. Despite these common research trajectories, there are also divergences in the literature on each of the Chinese pink markets. For example, research on the China pink market entails a vibrant debate on what should be the “proper relationship” between tongzhi businesses, LGBTQ NGOs, and the state; these questions are of less interest in research on the Hong Kong and Taiwan pink markets. Given the uniqueness of state regulations as well as the different economic histories and policies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, future research should consider the Chinese pink market as a multi-location, multicultural, and multi-layered site of study with diverse developments in queer identity, consciousness, and politics.