Radio and social transformation in China

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Since the arrival of television, radio has largely been an under-appreciated and understudied medium internationally. Radio in China is no exception. In comparison with Chinese television and the internet, ‘radio in China’ has been a poor cousin, invisible and largely unheard of in English-language scholarship. This thesis aims to fill this gaping hole by providing a systematic, comprehensive and critical study of radio in China. Focusing on the relationship between radio and social change in China in the decades of the economic reforms, the thesis investigates the role of radio in China’s profound social transformation. After a historical account of radio in the pre-reform period (including in both the Republic and Mao eras), the thesis traces the emergence of several new radio genres, formats and practices in the post-Mao decades. In particular, the genres of news, late night talkback, health infomercial and drive radio are critically examined with a view to identifying the key changes and continuities in the radio sector. The thesis identifies important ways in which radio at once derives from, embodies and contributes to China’s compressed transition from a socialist collective nation–state to a nation that, while still state-dominated, has moved a considerable distance towards becoming a privatised, globalised and individualised society.
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