New Media and Civil Society in China: A Roundtable Discussion on the Political Impact of the Internet

Organized and moderated by Xiao Qiang of the China Internet Project at the Graduate School of Journalism, and sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies of UC Berkeley, Shorenstein Foundation, Luce Foundation, Berkeley China Initiative, and the China Internet Project, “New Media and Civil Society in China: A Roundtable Discussion on the Political Impact of the Internet” will be held in the IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA from 2:00 – 6:00 pm, on Saturday, April 18, 2009.

Participants will present their observations and share their experiences relating to the rise of the Internet, and its interplay with China’s media, society and politics. What is the state of new media in China? How do members of Chinese society employ these technologies to participate in politics and what it is the real impact? How does the Chinese government actually regulate and control the Internet? What role does the rise of Chinese cyber-nationalism play in this complicated process? Ultimately, will this pervasive, many-to-many, and emergent communication platform play a critical role in transforming the Chinese political system by fostering the nascent civil society? — or has it actually enabled China’s authoritarian regime to forestall political reform by turning it into a safety valve or even an Orwellian monster? The panel will seek to stimulate discussion and elicit meaningful dialogue on these key questions.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Session I: Internet, Media and Public Sphere in China

Moderator: Xiao Qiang

Isaac Mao
Hu Yong
Liu Xiaobiao

Commentator: Ashley Esarey

3:30 PM – 3:45 PM
Coffee break

3:45 PM – 6:00 PM
Session II: Impact of New Media

Moderator: Perry Link

Liu Jianqiang
Zhang Ping
Wang Lixiong (in Chinese)

Commentator: Jonathan Hassid


Ashley Esarey, Harvard University
Ashley Esarey received his PhD in Political Science at Columbia University in 2006. His research considers how media freedom affects democratization and how censorship promotes support for non-democratic regimes. As An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, he is currently working on a book project, “Unwilling Mouthpiece: Propaganda and Pluralism in Chinese Media.” Since the l980s, commercialization of China’s media has increased propaganda while reducing the space to challenge the state and consider opposing perspectives. More propaganda has not meant more effective propaganda. Although state control over political information remains strong, it has encountered resistance from media reluctant to comply with restrictions now that the state doesn’t provide subsidies, as well as from citizens who use the Internet to express dissent. Recent publications include his articles “Speak No Evil: Mass Media Control in Contemporary China” and “Cornering the Market: State Strategies for Controlling China’s Commercial Media.”

Jonathan Hassid
Jonathan Hassid is currently writing a dissertation on the politics of the Chinese news media. He has recently returned from a yearlong Fulbright-Hays fellowship in China researching how, when and why Chinese journalists decide to resist state control. While there, he interviewed dozens of reporters, editors, academics and others. He has also authored two recent articles on the Chinese media that detail the state’s control mechanisms and journalistic resistance to them, and has been involved in research on Chinese blogs and the Internet.

Hu Yong, Peking University, China
Hu Yong is a well-known media critic and Chinese Internet pioneer. Yong has translated Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital into Mandarin. He is currently an associate professor at Peking University’s School Journalism and Communication in Beijing. He blogs on media at

Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching Comparative Literature & Foreign Languages, UC Irvine
Perry Link has a B.A. in philosophy, M.A. in East Asian Studies, and Ph.D. in Chinese history from Harvard University and has taught Chinese language and literature at Princeton University (1973-77 and 1989-2008) and UCLA (1977-1988). He has published in the fields of modern Chinese language, literature, popular culture, intellectual history, art and politics. His current research is on rhythm, metaphor, and politics in contemporary Chinese language. His recent books are The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System; Two Kinds of Truth: Stories and Reportage from China; and Chinese Primer, an elementary Chinese textbook.

Liu Jianqiang
Liu Jianqiang is a senior investigative reporter with Southern Weekend, one of China’s top investigative newspapers. He has produced a series of influential reports on the environment, and his stories have led China’s central government to suspend illegally constructed dams. Liu was featured in the Wall Street Journal last December. He has an M.A. in journalism from Tsinghua University and a B.A. in political science from East China University of Science and Technology.

Liu Xiaobiao
Liu Xiaobiao is media analyst and editorial writer. He worked for the Shanghai-based Waitan Huabao newspaper, where he has written extensively about economics and politics. Liu has won awards for his work from the National Social Science Foundation of China and from the Chinese Association for Middle East Studies. His Master’s thesis in history was on Islam civilization and globalization. He also has experience in radio.

Mao Xianghui (Isaac Mao), Harvard University
Isaac Mao is a venture capitalist, software architect, entrepreneur and blogging pioneer. He is co-founder of, and co-organizer of the Chinese Blogger Conference (2005 in Shanghai, 2006 in Hangzhou). He is now Vice President of United Capital Investment Group and Director to Social Brain Foundation, and advisor to Global Voices Online and several web 2.0 businesses. Mao is a regular keynote speaker for Wikimania, the Chinese Internet Conference and other global events on Internet culture. As a trained software engineer, he has a long history of developing both business and consumer software. He worked as a Chief Architect in the Intel HomeCD project and the Tangram BackSchool suite. From fall 2008 until summer 2009, Mao is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School.

Wang Lixiong, Beijing China
Wang Lixiong is an independent writer based in Beijing, China. He was born in 1953 in Changchun, Manchuria, and trained as an auto mechanic during the Cultural Revolution. In 1991 he published the political fiction novel Yellow Peril, inspired by a 1984 raft trip he took down the Yellow River, during which he passed through ethnically Tibetan regions of China and became interested in the Tibet question. His other books include Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet, Distribution of Power? An Electoral System by Stages, Memories of Xinjiang and The Struggle for Tibet. He is married to the Tibetan blogger and poet Woeser.

Xiao Qiang, Director, Berkeley China Internet Project
Xiao Qiang, an adjunct professor of the Graduate School of Journalism, is the Director of The Berkeley China Internet Project, a faculty-student research project focused on improving access to, interpreting and understanding Chinese cyberspace. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the China Digital Times, a collaborative news website which aggregates the most up-to-the-minute news and analysis about China from around the Web, while also providing translations, multimedia features, and other content from Chinese cyberspace. Xiao studied theoretical physics in China and US in 1980s and has been a long time human rights activist. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship in 2001, and is profiled in the book “Soul Purpose: 40 People Who Are Changing the World for the Better.”

Zhang Ping, Guangzhou, China
Zhang Ping, who writes under the pen name Chang Ping, is one of China’s most respected editorial writers. He won an annual award for his news commentary column in China’s most liberal and influential newspaper: the Southern Weekend. He served as deputy editor of the Southern Metropolis Weekly until March of 2008. Before that, Zhang served as deputy editor of Southern Weekend as well as the Bund Pictorial. He was removed from the Southern Weekend deputy editor position in 2001 after the paper published hard-hitting investigative reports. He has also worked for the Chengdu Economic Daily, China’s first market-oriented publication.


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