The Effect of Internet Usage on Media Freedom in the People's Republic of China Open Access

Calvert, Emily Ruth (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pz50gw68k?locale=en
Published

Abstract

Ever since the Internet became a global phenomenon in the early 1990s, it has become the subject of scrutiny by politicians and political scientists alike. Many researchers have focused on the Internet's potential for spreading democracy by lowering barriers to communication and information-sharing and creating a public sphere from which democracy might emerge. In this thesis I focus on a specific aspect of the democratizing potential of the Internet within the context of the People's Republic of China, seeking to answer the question "What effect does Internet usage have on traditional media freedom?" The thesis uses original data collected and coded by myself to measure media freedom within each of the 31 provinces of China. I then study the relationship between provincial Internet penetration rates--the percent of citizens within a province who regularly access the Internet--and this media freedom score. I examine the relationship in both a "large"-N section, looking at data from every province, and a case study portion, where I compare media freedom in three pairs of provinces, with each pair containing provinces as similar as possible except for their Internet penetration rates. Although the limitations of this study have made statistical significance difficult to achieve, I find a clear and consistent positive correlation between higher Internet penetration rates and higher traditional media freedom. I conclude that this study supports the idea that Internet usage leads to greater press freedom, but this conclusion is made with the caveat that a separate, unstudied force could be driving both Internet usage and press freedom. While this paper lends support to cyberdemocracy theories, it is also clear that authoritarian governments such as the Chinese Communist Party have become increasingly skilled at co-opting and controlling the Internet, and that the Internet might not be the unstoppable democratizing force predicted by many political scientists.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction.................................................................1

Literature Review..........................................................3

The Rise of the Internet in China......................................3

The Impact of the Internet: Theories and Research.............4

Methods and Patterns of Censorship and Control in China......7

The Political Influence of the Internet in China...................12

Traditional Media Control in China....................................13

Research Design...........................................................17

Data Collection............................................................19

Internet Penetration Rate..............................................19

Controls.....................................................................21

Media Freedom............................................................22

Data Analysis..............................................................27

Additional Observations.................................................40

Case Study.................................................................42

Selection of Provinces...................................................43

Selection of Political Events............................................47

Analysis.......................................................................49

Conclusion...................................................................56

Future Research............................................................58

Appendix I: Provincial Newspapers Used.............................60

Appendix II: Coding Rules................................................61

Appendix III: Internet Penetration Rates by Province............63

Appendix IV: Media Freedom Indices..................................64

Appendix V: Statistics for Case Study Provinces..................65

References...................................................................66

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Figure 1: Provincial-Level Internet Usage Statistics...............................................................20

Figure 2: Descriptive Provincial-Level Statistics....................................................................21

Figure 3: Provincial-Level Overall Media Freedom and Overall Critical Freedom..................26

Figure 4: The Effect of Internet Penetration Rate on Reporting or Not Reporting....................28

Figure 5: Pearson Chi-Square Test of IPR and Reporting......................................................29

Figure 6: Reporting on Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun by Internet Penetration Rate.........................30

Figure 7: Who Reported on Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai............................................................31

Figure 8: Effect of Internet Penetration Rate on Overall Media Freedom................................33

Figure 9: Overall Media Freedom by Internet Penetration Rate..............................................34

Figure 10: Overall Media Freedom Score by Internet Penetration Rate..................................35

Figure 11: Effect of Internet Penetration Rate on Overall Critical Freedom Score...................37

Figure 12: Overall Critical Freedom by Internet Penetration Rate...........................................38

Figure 13: Overall Critical Freedom Score by Internet Penetration Rate.................................39

Figure 14: What Drives Internet Penetration Rate...................................................................44

Figure 15: The Urban-Rural Divide in Internet Penetration Rates.............................................45

Figure 16: Case Study Breakdown by Overall Media Freedom Score.....................................50

Figure 17: Case Study Breakdown by Overall Critical Freedom Score....................................51

Figure 18: Comparison of Zhejiang and Jiangsu (All Cases).....................................................52

Figure 19: Comparison of Zhejiang and Jiangsu (Excluding Wenzhou Train Crash Case)...........53

Figure 20: Comparison of Shanghai and Chongqing (All Cases)................................................54

Figure 21: Comparison of Shanghai and Chongqing (Excluding Bo Xilai Case)..........................55

Figure 22: Comparison of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia............................................................56

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
School
Department
Degree
Submission
Language
  • English
Research field
Keyword
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files