In this podcast interview, Maria Repnikova discusses her new book, the role of Chinese media, and what it means to be a Chinese journalist in the Xi era, with National Committee Senior Director for Educational Programs Margot Landman.
Popular images of Chinese media generally cast it as an agent of state propaganda. This is hardly surprising given the history of Chinese official media, and the swift suppression of those who openly criticize the regime. Yet the dichotomy between media and the party, with the former perpetually dominated by the latter, is complicated by the emergence of what Maria Repnikova, in her new book, terms “critical journalism.” In Media Politics in China: Improvising Power under Authoritarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Dr. Repnikova reveals a web of complex negotiations taking place between investigative journalists who have probed sensitive issues such as food safety and corruption, and party officials. Chinese critical journalists do not protest overtly, but their dynamic relationship with the party-state, characterized by what Dr. Repnikova calls “guarded improvisation,” leaves room for an important creative and political agency as they cautiously cover complicated, and sometimes controversial, topics. On November 2, 2017, Dr. Repnikova joined the National Committee for a discussion on her book and media politics in China.