The semi-structured online public sphere in China: institutional criteria and political functions

Wang, Qingning (2017) The semi-structured online public sphere in China: institutional criteria and political functions. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of Q._WANG_The_Semi-Structured_Online_Public_Sphere_in_China_Institutional_Criteria_and_Political_Functions.pdf]
Download (2MB) | Preview
[thumbnail of Q_WANG_Appendix.pdf]
Download (102kB) | Preview


This research analyses online political communication in China by applying Habermas’ public sphere theory as a normative framework. The three institutional criteria (equality, problematization of unquestioned areas, and principally inclusive) and two political functions (expressional function and corresponding function) stemming from the public sphere theory act as analytic lenses to analyse the power relations, expressions, languages, and interactions in the communications. By using three events as case studies, this research applies a combination of content and discourse analysis to study them. It argues that there is a semi-structured public sphere in China, in the sense that it is a sphere that shows both promise and limitations in terms of facilitating equal, inclusive, liberal and critical political communications in China. It can act as a normative space for Chinese net-users to communicate about their concerns, but is not powerful enough to put real pressure on government to achieve sustained changes at policy level. Equal and inclusive debates are facilitated as net-users are given equal rights to express their opinions, and these opinions are inclusively available online; but they are also limited since pre-existing status has not been dis-regarded. Opinions generated by social and political elites and media organisations are constructed with pre-determined significance, and as a result, opinions are unequally accessed and valued. Through the online public sphere, Chinese net-users have debated different political issues. Through expressions and linguistic choices that are both critical and creative, they have challenged the government’s decisions and roles, and resisted censorship. The government still censors online debates, but has begun to recognise the significance of the online public sphere, and in a limited way, has engaged in communications with net-users, although they treat these communications as ways to promote and reinforce their interests, rather than truly seeking out opinions from the public.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Users 9280 not found.
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2017 15:33
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2017 15:33

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item