CCCH9017 China: Culture, State and Society
People, Propaganda and Profit: Understanding Media in China

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

The aim of this course is to understand China’s changing media landscape in post 1978 reform period. The course surveys the historical roots of mass propaganda in the Chinese media during the Mao Era, analyzing the political, social and cultural dimensions of their developments. This will be followed by an in-depth look at how Deng’s market liberalization policies have infused profit making mechanisms that reshaped media practices within the context of continued government control. Specific examples will be used to illustrate how the emergence of new media technology enabled the voice of the people to be heard, enabling new facets of the media’s role as a communication vehicle. Using the “people, propaganda, and profit” framework throughout the semester, the course will examine the implications of shifting relations between the state, society, and the market on cultural or media production and reception.

This course utilizes media studies and sociology theories and engages students in a cross-disciplinary investigation on the social implications of the changing media environment in China. By analyzing various forms of media and communication, including newspapers, television, film, advertising, the arts, and new media, this course examines the subtleties and dynamic interplay of evolving social, political, and economic forces and their prospects for the transformation of mass media and culture in China.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and describe major factors that transformed China’s media from a vehicle of mass propaganda to mass communication.
  2. Assess the limitations of unfettered media commercialization and profit making within continued Party ideological domination.
  3. Describe the emerging of the people’s voice via the rise of new media, other diverse media and popular culture forms and analyse its contribution to the development of China’s nascent civil society.
  4. Critically analyze the on-going debate concerning media autonomy and Party control by applying various media studies and sociology theories covered.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 26
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 50
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 20
Total: 130

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Group project 30
Individual assignment 40
Tutorial presentation and participation 30

Required Reading

  • Brady, A. M. (2009). Mass persuasion as a means of legitimation and China’s popular authoritarianism. American Behavioral Scientist53(3), 434-457.
  • DeLuca, K. M., Brunner, E., & Sun, Y. (2016). Constructing public space: Weibo, WeChat, and the transformative events of environmental activism in China. International Journal of Communication10, 19.
  • Harwit, E. (2017). WeChat: Social and political development of China’s dominant messaging app. Chinese Journal of Communication, 10(3), 312-327. From https://doi-org.eproxy.lib.hku.hk/10.1080/17544750.2016.1213757
  • Lei, Y. W. (2016). Freeing the press: How field environment explains critical news reporting in China. American Journal of Sociology, 122(1), 1-48.
  • Li, R. (2013). Media corruption: A chinese characteristic. Journal of Business Ethics, 116(2), 297-310.
  • Meng, B. (2018). The politics of Chinese media: consensus and contestation. Springer. [‘The Rise of Hyper-Commercialized Television Programming’ (pp. 105-125)]
  • Puppin, G. (2014). Advertising and China: How does a love/hate relationship work? In A. Hulme (Ed.), The changing landscape of China’s consumerism (pp. 177-195). Chandos Publishing.
  • Shao, G., Lu, J., & Hao, Y. (2016). Assessing China’s media reform. Asian Perspective40(1), 27-50.
  • Teo, S. (2019). The Chinese film market and the Wolf Warrior 2 phenomenon. Screen60(2), 322-331.
  • Wang, M. (2017). The socially engaged practices of artists in contemporary China. Journal of Visual Art Practice, 16(1), 15-38.
  • Wei, F., & Jianbin, J. (2016). A short history of new media studies in China: Practices and identity construction, 1980s–today. Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture, 7(3), 345-360.
  • Xu, J., & Sun, W. (2018). Media since 1949: Changes and continuities. The Sage Handbook of Contemporary China.
  • Zhao, Y. (2013). China’s Quest for “Soft Power”: Imperatives, Impediments and Irreconcilable Tensions?. Javnost-The Public20(4), 17-29.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr L.F. Cho
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 4641
Email: lifcho@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr L.F. Cho
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 4641
Email: lifcho@hku.hk