Media and the Internet are incredibly powerful tools, not just to communicate but to shape public opinion and influence behavior across nations. Little wonder then that in China the media has become highly contested terrain, with major sectors controlled by the state and other sectors providing more opportunities for freedom of expression. In this section we explore both traditional media, including newspapers, television and radio stations—all government-owned and controlled. We also look at the cutting-edge of new media and the Internet that often helps to define the battle between free expression and censorship within China. In 2008, China surpassed the United States as the biggest Internet market in the world with 253 million users and growing.
While many critics both within and outside of China may be focusing on all that is wrong with the Chinese government control of the media and the internet, and on everything Chinese Internet user cannot do, the small group of politically and socially minded Chinese netizens and others who study the Chinese media and the Internet are optimistic that the many opportunities for expression, communication and exchange provided by new media and technology can only lead in the direction of greater and more open public discourse during the coming decade.
Globalized media events such as the Beijing Olympics are a test of the state’s sophistication and expertise in handling both international and domestic media opinion and expression before, during, and after the games.