Media in general is regarded as a medium of disseminating information. However, its role gradually evolved to generating public opinion that helps governments to understand the issues and problems of its citizens better. In this sense, media has become a mediator between the state and the society. For many countries, media also became a tool for the governments to propagate their policies and ruling Party ideologies. The nature and importance of media grew with the very many roles over the years. Chinese media is no exception to this phenomenon, but the tectonic shifts in Chinese media are worth examining.
In the years of Mao, media was a very strong tool to disseminate the Party policies and programmes to gather mass support. In fact, even after Deng Xiaoping came to power, and reforms in almost all sectors were introduced, media reforms did not transform the nature of reporting; while internet did bring in the change of visible reporting. Today, Chinese media is very active in playing its fullest role, but not just because of spreading globalization and the impact of market forces. A bigger force that is directing and shaping the way media works in present day context is the ‘techno youth’. The term ‘techno youth’ here refers to the younger generation of population ranging anywhere in the age group of 15 to 30 who are skilled in using new communication technologies.
According to official statistics, there were roughly 485 million netizens at the end of June 2011. A major portion of this population is composed of the younger population. With the increased penetration of market forces, advance technology is easily available in China. In particular, large cities of China cater to link with the outside world more closely. These are also the hub of educational institutions and vibrant digital social interactions. Over the years, many Chinese companies have mushroomed to cash on the potential demand of internet users to provide space similar to western social networking sites or search engines. Besides, information/news sharing that abides by the social conditions of China is multiplying in numbers. However, this created a challenge for the established news media to either advance with the times or perish.
The challenge was not just for competing with the expanding information industry, but with the demand this new industry places on the established notions of dissemination of information. With the broader use of internet through computers, ipads, mobile phones etc., young generation wants to be constantly connected and informed. Besides, the demand is also of their active involvement in almost all issues. The resultant revamping of media is visible with People’s Daily, Xinhua News, China Daily, Global Times, etc. all entering the digital information industry. These media giants not only disseminate information through digital mediums, but also provide space for open discussion and debate through various forums. The emphasis has also shifted from just national and international political ideological issues to greater domestic social issues. Thus, one finds a larger debate on issues ranging from inflation in the economy to Chunyun problems (Spring festival rush) or housing problem.