Between legitimacy and political efficacy

Feminist counter-publics and the internet in China

Authored by: Iam-Chong Ip , Oi-Wan Lam

The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415527699
eBook ISBN: 9780203066911
Adobe ISBN: 9781135076955


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This chapter analyzes the dynamics of state feminist counter-publics and independent feminist groups in China, based on a conception of a public sphere as a space for political debate that is both nation based and postnational. Examining the concept and empirical reality of a counter-public sphere in the context of an authoritarian state may seem peculiar to those who are familiar with the centrality of democracy to Habermas’s concept of the public sphere. Although the Western model of modernization combines a market economy with constitutional democracy, China contradicted this established paradigm throughout the 1980s, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, in that a fast-growing, successful market economy developed without a transition to democracy. Since then, changes such as the disintegration of the highly centralized social system and the diversification and class stratification of Chinese society have become more apparent (Hu 2007). These characteristics are indicative of a unique Chinese model that cannot be explained by established political paradigms based on Western concepts of liberalism, conservatism, political right, middle and left, public interest, democracy, rights, freedom, and individualism (Hu 2007).

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