The China Quarterly


Who Believes Propaganda? Media Effects during the Anti-Japanese Protests in Beijing*

Daniela Stockmann


The Chinese media have undergone commercial liberalization during the reform era. Interviews with media practitioners reveal that media reform has brought about three different types of newspapers that differ with respect to their degree of commercial liberalization. Based on a natural experiment during the anti-Japanese protests in Beijing in 2005, this article shows that urban residents found more strongly commercialized newspapers more persuasive than less commercialized newspapers. Provided that the state can enforce press restrictions when needed, commercial liberalization promotes the ability of the state to influence public opinion through the means of the news media.

Daniela Stockmann is assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She received an MA in Chinese studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies and a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research interests include Chinese politics, political communication and public opinion research, and comparative politics of developing and transitional states.  Her book manuscript, tentatively titled Propaganda for Sale, examines the impact of media commercialization on news content and public opinion in China.


* This article is part of a book project examining the impact of media commercialization on news content and public opinion in China, tentatively titled Propaganda for Sale. For fruitful research collaboration I would like to thank Iain Johnston, Shen Mingming and the members of the Research Center for Contemporary China. I am also grateful for financial support provided by the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. Many thanks as well to the participants of the Chinese politics workshop at the University of Wisconsin, Madison for helpful comments and to Wang Mingde for research assistance.