Susan Shirk - Director of Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and Ho Miu Lam Endowed Chair in China and Pacific Affairs, University of California at San Diego
The Council is pleased to present the 49th Annual Edward H. Hume Memorial Lecture. How has the commercialization of the mass media and growth of the Internet changed Chinese politics? Although China is far from having a free press, the competition for audiences motivates journalists to push the limits of censorship. As a result, the Chinese public has access to much more information about domestic and international news than it did previously, and public opinion has become an important factor in the policymaking process. The narrowing of the information gap between politicians and the public forces the central government to be more transparent in order to maintain its credibility; it also improves the center’s responsiveness and helps it monitor the actions of local officials. But Communist Party leaders, fearful about their political survival, still strive to maintain control over media content. Their often clumsy censorship reveals to the public just how insecure the Party actually is. Calls for “the people’s right to know” and elite differences over media policy are likely to grow in the future.