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Li Zhang on the Media and EU China-Relations

May 9, 2011

The latest volume  in Palgrave’s excellent International Political Communication series edited by Phil Seib has just hit the shops it’s News Media and EU China Relations by Li Zhang, who’s now at the University of Nottingham. The book is based on her PhD supervised by yours truly so it definitely deserves some promotion.

This is a really ambitious piece of work that deserves attention beyond the people working on EU-China relations (of whom there are a surprising number because the EU funds them to work on it!).  The book traces the evolution of Chinese media coverage of the EU and the evolution of coverage of China in The International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times and The Economist over the period since 1989.   Previous studies have shown that these are outlets that are widely read in the EU policy community. The content analysis shows how the coverage of China has expanded and transformed over the intervening period.  In 1989 China was a political story by the middle of the last decade it was an economic story.  This is not to say that political and human rights stories disappeared they just lost their salience.   This is an interesting story in itself but the study ties the evolution of the media coverage to the development of EU policy towards China.  Interviews with policy makers testify to the importance of  the media as an input into the policy process while interviews with UK, US and Chinese journalists provide insight into the factors that have shaped coverage. (There’s some interesting material on evolution of Xinhua news agency).  The evidence provided here suggests that the causal direction runs from the media coverage to policy rather than the other way round.

If you are interested in China’s image or media impact on foreign policy there is a lot to get your teeth into here.

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