(Re)-Focusing on the target

Reflections on a trajectory of studying the Chinese media 1

Authored by: Yuezhi Zhao

Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415520775
eBook ISBN: 9781315758350
Adobe ISBN: 9781317635925


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In the context of China’s rapid transformation in a turbulent global system since the late 1970s, to study the Chinese media is to shoot at a target that appears easy to focus on at first sight, but is in actuality rather elusive. On the surface, the target appears static as there has not been any radical transformation in the basic structure of the Chinese media system after more than thirty years of reform. Upon closer examination, however, the target has both undergone dramatic mutations in its shape and shed much of its original colour. Moreover, in the context of a highly unstable and rapidly evolving global order, the target has not only repeatedly defied conventional expectations in terms of the direction of its movement, but also is realigning its geopolitical relations with other objects and streams of flow in the global media universe. Which direction to look at? What does the target look like at a particular moment? What lenses to use and how to aim? What kind of shooting guns do we have in hand and are they adequate for the purpose? No less important, isn’t it the case that the shape and colour of the target, our ways of approaching it, even the very language we use to define and describe it, very much depends on who we are and where we stand as scholars? Finally, beyond the imperative of surviving the academic curse of publishing or perishing, what is this analysis for? Rather than writing a conventional chapter on a specific topic, I would like to take this opportunity to re-examine my own endeavour in this adventure of shooting at a changing target. In doing so, I hope to exercise intellectual self-reflectivity and discuss both the substantive and methodological issues involved in studying the Chinese media. Although I will inevitably discuss many of my own publications, I must stress at the outset that this is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of my own work, let alone a review of the state of the field – which, after all, is an objective of this handbook.

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