What are Appropriate Normative Frameworks to Analyze The Political Effects of the Internet in China?
Paper presented at the 12th Chinese Internet Research Conference, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 20 June 2014
21 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 20, 2014
Currently the political effects of the Internet in China are one of the most important and oft studied topics in communications and Asian studies. However (almost all) these efforts suffer from a lack of appropriate theoretical frameworks, due to a lack of “home grown” theories and the dominance of theories generated in a Western context. Rather than an easily categorized unit, the modern Chinese political system is an amalgamation of ancient Chinese principals, Communist rhetoric, Western ideas and pragmatic solutions. It is the intersection of and negotiation between these theories that defines modern China.
This paper begins by laying out how different political theories that might be relevant to the study of modern China have conceptualized the role of the state, state-citizen interactions, and political speech. In choosing between these theoretical perspectives, this paper argues that normative frameworks should be grounded in their context of application and take into account how individuals participate in and think about politics. Based on these principles and drawing from relevant data and literature, this paper then puts forward three suggestions about how the normative frameworks used by Chinese Internet researchers could be improved: that welfare and economic progress should be recognized as important normative goals, that facilitating the watchdog function of citizens under existing structures is a worthy objective, and that building community, rather than striving for rationality, may result in more productive political speech in currently individualized online spaces.
Keywords: China, public sphere, politics, political theory, Internet
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