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The historical course of China’s media reform is coincidental with the intrinsic logic of the transformation in national political ideology from contradiction theory to economy-centric theory (Li and Hu, 2013). However, this situation does not mean that political determinism would suffice to explain the China’s media reform. The transformation towards media groups did not result in mere innovation in the size, structure and managerial ideal of the media industries but also the ‘self-consciousness’ of actively promoting economic gains and the tendency to transform capitalism, ownership and other concepts into the reasonable kernel of media reform (Li and Hu, 2013). These have transcended far beyond the scope of what ‘political correctness’ can explain.
On the event of the shipwreck in the Yangtze River last year, I sent (passengers’ identity numbers) to the editor-on-duty of the website. He said, ‘Tell me the number of (Fuzhou) people’. I told him he could roughly estimate the number by counting those identity numbers starting with ‘35’. He said, ‘You might as well help me count’. I was being busy on the spot. And I was expected to be the one managing such trivial matters! (Interviewee No. 14)
Zhang, ZA, Wu, T (2014) The dual declinings of propagandist and watchdog roles: Chinese Journalists’ media role perception, the changes and antecedents (‘Xuanchuanzhe’ yu ‘jianduzhe’ de shaungchong shiwei: Zhongguo xinwen congyezhe meijie juese renzhi, bianqian ji yingxiang yinsu). Journal of International Communication (Guoji xinwenjie) 6: 61–75.
The convergence of the Chinese press industry is thus not merely driven by the effects of market and technological logic from the beginning, unlike in Europe and the US. Actually, administrative fiat plays a pivotal role in each stage of media convergence. In the mid- and late-1990s, the ‘touch the Internet’ (Chuwang) action of traditional news media, namely to establish online newspapers, has expanded from the top to the bottom ‘with the state as the sponsor’ and ‘national media as the leader’ (Yu, 2015). Similarly, the establishment of the collaborative relationship between newspapers and new media on news production at the beginning of the 21st century could not be realised without the intervention of administrative power, including approval for the construction of major news websites to produce original contents. The wave of media convergence that began in 2006 is also inseparable from the official ‘top-down design’. In the beginning, the General Administration of Press and Publication was concurrently the project sponsor and supervisor. Thereafter, the media convergence of the central and local press industry has been highly dependent on financial funding from the government.
The last two sections show some potential changes in the dominant path of media convergence adopted by the local press industry. Existing studies indicate that institutional and organisational factors considerably influence the journalists’ perception of their professional roles (Tao and Zhang, 2014; Wu et al., 1996; Zhang and Wu, 2016). Long-term attention is equally worthwhile with regard to whether the future structural adjustment of the local press industry in the area of media convergence will change the journalists’ identification of their roles.