Media, Communication and China

By Dr. Bob Shuter

West Lake in Hangzhou, China. Photo by Dr. Bob Shuter

West Lake in Hangzhou, China. Photo by Dr. Bob Shuter

Spent a wonderful week in China attending the Westlake Communication Summit in Hangzhou—a beautiful city about two hours drive from Shanghai and a popular tourist destination for the Chinese and their families. Situated on Westlake, an historic lake reported to be 6000 years old, Hangzhou is also known for its high end shops and automobile dealerships including Mercedes, Lexus, Bentley and  Porsche! For those who haven’t been to China recently, it is no longer the country of Mao jackets and ping- pong diplomacy. With a burgeoning middle class, China is quickly becoming a consumer driven society, and American brands and products are first on their list!

I gathered lots of interesting insights about media and communication from the conference as well as from faculty and students at  Zhejiang University, a well known and respected institution of higher learning that hosted the conference. I was particularly interested in Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, which is about 14 months old and is already revolutionizing interpersonal, intercultural, and mass communication. Driving the free speech movement in China, Weibo is a sounding board for citizens and dissidents alike who post their comments about a range of cultural topics, some critical of the government, others mundane personal observations. Like Twitter, people who post comments are  “followed,”  often by many others, with Chinese celebrities attracting the most attention, particularly when their posts provide an alternative view of a cultural event, incident or official government policy. In China where mass media are controlled by the government, Weibo is democratizing the flow of information and fueling a free speech movement.

Don’t miss an opportunity to travel to China. Easy to navigate, wonderful hosts, incredible history, and, perhaps, the USA’s most important global neighbor in the 21st century.

Dr. Bob Shuter is a professor of Communication Studies in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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