Published: 2023-11-15

Founders of the Chinese Journalism Research Network: Luwei Rose Luqiu (HKBU), Haiyan Wang (U of Macao), and Kecheng Fang (CUHK)

Department of Journalism associate professor Luwei Rose Luqiu is one of the three founders of a new network that aims to foster knowledge exchange and cooperation in Chinese journalism studies. The Chinese Journalism Research Network (CJRN), which she is leading with Kecheng Fang (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Haiyan Wang (University of Macau), is supported by Hong Kong Baptist University’s Centre for Media and Communication Research (CMCR) and CUHK’s C-Centre.

It was launched on 22 September 2023 with a roundtable discussion hosted by CMCR. The three founders discussed the challenges facing Chinese journalism research and the importance of revitalising this sub-field.

Moderating the discussion, CMCR director Cherian George noted, “The demand for deep critical reflection on the media system in one of the world’s largest, most powerful countries is huge. The supply is unfortunately far below the demand.”

The roundtable at HKBU

How is Chinese journalism research doing?

Fang, using a graphical analysis of journalism research published between 2005 and 2022, observed that although the overall field of journalism and media studies research has expanded exponentially in the 17-year time frame, the output of Chinese journalism research has, however, not improved very much, corroborating the claim that interest in Chinese journalism research is indeed waning. “This problem is not so much a Chinese problem, but rather a journalism problem, as journalism industry, in recent times, has been faced with challenges globally”, Fang explained.

In a publishing environment still dominated by western journals, pursuing research questions relevant to Chinese themselves can also face resistance from editors applying western-centric frameworks and agendas. These issues underscore the need for methodological and conceptual innovation, rigorous ethical frameworks, and robust support for researchers focusing on Chinese journalism.

Why does Chinese journalism research still matter?

Despite the numerous obstacles facing Chinese journalism studies, its importance as a viable aspect of global journalism research is as important as ever. Luqui noted that Chinese journalism studies enriches existing literature by offering unique insights into journalism practices within a specific media system and political framework. She further highlighted cross-border journalism studies across Chinese societies like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, among others, as crucial to providing a comparative perspective and enhancing the global understanding of media practices.

“It is very important to study how Chinese journalism in different societies operate, because research of this nature reveal the diversity of journalism practices stemming from the same cultural origin but shaped by different political systems”, Luqui enthused, “This diversity underscores the complex interplay of culture, politics, and media”.

A cross section of attendees at the roundtable/network launch

How will the new research network help?

One of the major aims of the Chinese Journalism Research Network (CJRN), therefore, is to provide a platform for established and emerging Chinese journalism scholars to brainstorm, generate, and share innovative ideas that can drive the field forward. “It is crucial to share findings that contribute to the collective knowledge and understanding of Chinese journalism studies”, Luqui noted. To do this, the question of what to study about Chinese journalism is quite fundamental.

Fang, thus, proposed several ideas that can revolutionize journalism research dynamics in China. One major idea is the decentring of Chinese journalism studies as news is only a part but not the primary content that most people consume in the media. “This notion helps us to think about the question of what to study,” Fang said, “because if we focus only on the narrowly defined news in Chinese journalism, then our research focus will be very limited and our output will be sparse”.

Building on the idea of a decentralised journalism studies, Wang agreed that the confined definition of journalism to hardcore news narrows the numerous possibilities of research on other media platforms and media contents such as fashion, sports, blogging, vlogging, among others.  “A fashion blogger believes that her content is journalism and her blog is a medium. So, we need to set aside our limited scope and embrace this flexibility in order to see how journalism is defined by different social actors, social platforms, and social structures”, she enthused.

Wang also noted that changes in the political, economic, and technological structures of societies are changing journalism practice globally. Hence, it will be interesting to study how the structural changes in Chinese societies are affecting the Chinese journalism industry. “These changing social structures create enormous potentials of expanding journalism research and opens up new perspectives to study the field of public communication”, Wang stated.

All three founders of CJRN proposed a call to connect Chinese journalism with other research fields such as gender/feminist discourse, popular culture, interpersonal communication. “Connecting these field doesn’t mean that journalism solely is not important, but it is an opportunity to reemphasize its importance in a more comprehensive setting”, Fang concludes. The speakers further suggested more new research directions that can illuminate journalism scape and media dynamics in China. The new Chinese Journalism Research Network has already garnered 160 registered members across the world. To be a part of this new network, click here.