Writing for the Masses after Mao: The Ethics and Economics of News Production in Contemporary China


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This is an ethnography of news production in China. Through the everyday struggles and dilemmas experienced by journalists and editors, it explores the ethical complexities involved in transforming China’s former socialist-propaganda apparatus into the highly commercialized media industry it is now. It show that Chinese news-producers inherit from the Mao-era a conviction that their writing should improve society. New conditions of commercial competition, however, make them doubt the possibility that writing can guide society’s development. A discourse of materialism, individualism, and cynicism emerges among them. Their experience is symptomatic of China’s broader post-socialist transition, in which government-led reforms have resulted in the conflation of social and commercial value.