Current Projects

1. Creating a Favorable World Opinion? Prospects and Problems of China’s External Propaganda

This is my first book manuscript based on my doctoral thesis, which examines how and to what extent China has been able to adapt its external propaganda apparatus, initially set up on the basis of the Soviet propaganda model that depended on the ability of the Party to regulate the flow of information into and out of China, to the current global media environment marked by porous national borders and fast-paced flows of information across the globe. I am currently revising the manuscript and bringing it up to date to cover the (quite substantial) changes under Xi Jinping.

2. Merging and Clashing of Different Propaganda Concepts in Twentieth-Century China

The notion of “power over opinion,” and its weapon of choice, propaganda, can be considered key concepts that shaped how people analyzed and debated various aspects of politics and society in the twentieth century. Against the backdrop of two world wars, propaganda was widely practiced and discussed in different countries under different political systems. While some saw propaganda as an invaluable tool to manage domestic populations and win over foreign publics, others condemned the idea and practice of propaganda as incompatible with the principles of democratic societies.

During the first half of the twentieth century, different groups in China joined the debate on propaganda. As opposed to the common argument that xuanchuan, the Chinese term for propaganda, has always had a positive connotation, I have found in my previous research that various different propaganda discourses of different origins co-existed in China. For instance, propaganda was discussed as a way to show foreigners the greatness of Chinese civilization, as a tool of diplomacy, as a weapon during times of war, as a means to spread the world revolution, as a tool to strengthen and unify the nation, as a form of tutelage of the people by more enlightened elites, but also as a form of illegitimate manipulation incompatible with journalistic principles.

Combining quantitative and qualitative textual analysis with close reading of key texts and policy documents, this project analyzes how and to what extent different propaganda concepts and discourses (e.g. propaganda as discussed from a humanist, socialist, or nationalist perspective) merged and clashed within Chinese debates.

 

3. Raising the CCP’s Voice: Building a Discourse System with Chinese Characteristics

This project analyzes the CCP’s attempt to create a “Discourse System with Chinese Characteristics” (有中国特色的话语体系) in order to increase what the Party calls “discourse power” (话语权), or its ability to shape debates at home and abroad. The basic idea behind this project, which was initiated under the Hu-Wen administration and intensified under Xi, is to modernize the CCP’s official ideology and package it in language that is easily understood by both ordinary Chinese and foreigners. The most visible outcome of the project thus far has been the idea of the “China Dream” (中国梦), expressed in official texts and speeches addressing both domestic and foreign audiences. The “discourse system” provides a suitable and timely case study to help students, researchers and professionals working on, in or with China to make sense of PRC political speech.