1st Edition

People, Citizen, and User Shifting Articulations of Audience in Chinese Communication Research (1978 – 2021)

By Guiquan Xu Copyright 2023
    214 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The book examines the changing discourses of Chinese audience research in the past four decades, aiming to shed light on the complicated relationships among China’s media, audiences, and society.

    With the new sociology of knowledge, it adopts Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory as a meta-theoretical framework and interprets the concept of audience as a floating signifier. Based on the corpus of Chinese academic journal papers, the author divides the scope of analysis into four phases. In each period, Chinese audience research was related closely to the changing societal and academic contexts and hegemonic struggle as a whole. In addition, it discusses the relation between ‘western’ audience theories and Chinese audience research, as well as the contingency and rigidity of discourses in Chinese audience research.

    The book contributes to the understanding of Chinese communication research in the changing societal context and will be valuable for scholars of media and communication studies or China studies.

    1 Introduction  2 Political Transition, Economic Reform, and the Emergence of ‘Audience’ (1978 – 1989)  3 Socialist Market Economy and the Expansion of ‘Audience·Consumer’ (1990 – 2000)  4 Social Transformation and the Construction of ‘People·Citizen·Consumer’ (2001 – 2011)  5 State Governance, Deep Mediatization, and the Reconfiguration of ‘People·Citizen·User’ (2012 – 2021)  6 General Conclusions


    Guiquan Xu is Associate Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication of Sun Yat-sen University, China. He obtained a joint Ph.D. at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Communication University of China in 2013. His research interests focus on the areas of discourse studies, audience research, and media politics.

    "People, Citizen, and User offers a highly original contribution to Communication Studies, and in particular to Audience Studies, because of its creative deployment of a theoretical approach that is unique to this field, combined with an ambitious and still very rigorous study of the development of Chinese Audience Studies, which spans more than four decades. The book’s discourse-theoretical foundation brings in a fascinating perspective that allows for an analysis of scholarly knowledge production that takes into account the discursive struggles over its development, and the contingencies and contradictions that come out of these struggles. This renders the book deeply analytical: It easily transcends the mere overview, and instead the book offers a deep understanding of the specificity of Chinese Audience Studies, and how it developed (and spectacularly grew) in these four decades."

    Nico Carpentier, Extraordinary Professor at Charles University, Czech Republic, and President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research

    "Following the calls of James Curran, Georgette Wang and others to de-Westernize communication research, Guiquan Xu compares terminology, concepts and theories of Western audience research to that of China. After surveying Western research discourse on audiences, he investigates Chinese research discourse, as it arose along with electronic media in China and within the contexts of dramatic economic and political changes. For English readers, this adds a comparative dimension to audience research.  To compare such social and linguistic realities, across languages and historical change, is a challenge, but its reward can be to stimulate new questions and thinking about fundamental concepts in communications research. 

    Xu examines four political economic periods in which mass media spread in China, mostly as national priorities, examining words used or invented, as their connotations shifted, while also distinguishing their meanings and usages from comparable English words used in Western communication research.

    While focused on academic discourses, this research takes a step toward de-Westernizing communication research, and hopefully may encourage further cross-cultural comparisons of other discourses about communication, such as journalism, fiction, or everyday conversation, not only between English and Chinese linguistic communities, but also among others."

    Richard Butsch, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, and Film & Media Studies, Rider University, USA