University of Sussex
Tang, Hai.pdf (2.49 MB)

The politics of blogging in China

Download (2.49 MB)
posted on 2023-06-09, 00:37 authored by Hai Tang
This thesis aims to conceptualize the growing use of the blog as socio-political practice in an emerging Chinese public sphere. It is built on the study of three key blogs that, for different reasons, are held to be important in the recent history of blogging in China: a sexual blog (Muzi Mei’s Love Letters Left, 2003), a journalist’s blog (Lian Yue’s Lian Yue’s Eighth Continent, 2007), and a satirical blog (Wang Xiaofeng’s No Guess, 2006-2011). I say they are important because the three blogs support my central argument of this thesis: blogging can be seen as a new form of political expression/participation in China. Such expression/participation is embedded in its creative challenges and negotiations pushing the political boundaries of tolerance subsequently operating within an authoritarian media system. Through a combination of analyses, I explore how Chinese ‘intellectuals’ (loosely defined as educated, urban and middle-class netizens) use their professional skills, expertise and cultural capital in the public space of the Chinese blogosphere, how their blogs reshape the form of China’s political culture, and how the blogosphere, through such interventions, proceeds in the development of political communications. Through these analyses I address three key issues, all of which arise in these cases, and were drawn attention in the Chinese blogosphere from 2003 to 2011. Firstly, the rise of individualism in China, and the rise of peer-to-peer media means that bloggers who pursue self-expression simultaneously engage in political discourse through such self-expression. The three examples given in this study demonstrate that individual opinions across the blogosphere have significantly reflected public consensus and implicitly challenged orthodox political discourse. My chapter on Muzi Mei’s sexual diary, for instance, explores this theme – a young woman’s sexual life, I argue, works as a controversy challenging to Chinese gender politics – and perhaps translates also to become political in other ways too. Secondly, drawing on the concept of ‘blogging culture’, I argue that blogging has potentially reconfigured political information (taking people’s everyday lives as a starting point), increasing the visibility of political struggle and offering alternative modes of ‘public talk’. This can be seen in both the case of Lian Yue and Wang Xiaofeng – the former writes about a well-known government project – Xiamen PX event in 2007, presenting a radical practice of news reporting that has challenged the legitimacy of traditional sense of journalism in China. The latter uses satire to make fun of the State, Party leaders, mainstream media, policies and established ideologies, improving a previously restricted communicative environment towards more open. Thirdly, the Chinese blogosphere has arguably created a new generation of elites – these ‘new’ elites are ‘ambiguous’ or ‘dissident’ elites in contrast to the older, more traditional understanding of an ‘establishment’ elite. In other words, even though the orthodox elite culture promoted by politicians, celebrities and cultural elites is still the mainstream in the blogosphere, such a ‘mainstream’ is gradually questioned, criticized and challenged by the commonly shared ideas, beliefs and values disseminated by Chinese radical bloggers such as Muzi Mei, Lian Yue and Wang Xiaofeng who are aware of new cultural, social and political contexts. However, as this thesis suggests, political or political-based expression in China still has to constantly negotiate with ongoing censorship, along with an unstable discursive space and thus, can only enjoy a limited success. Therefore, the Chinese blogosphere, as a public space for political communication, still has a long way to go.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Media and Film Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager