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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Chinese Journal of Communication

For a Special Issue on
Whither China?: Chinese Communication Research at the New Conjuncture

Abstract deadline
01 January 2023

Manuscript deadline
30 June 2023

Cover image - Chinese Journal of Communication

Special Issue Editor(s)

Lin Zhang, University of New Hampshire, USA
[email protected]

Bingchun Meng, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
[email protected]

Elaine J. Yuan, University of Illinois Chicago, USA
[email protected]

Submit an ArticleVisit JournalArticles

Whither China?: Chinese Communication Research at the New Conjuncture

When the 2022 Winter Olympics opened in Beijing amidst stringent Covid rules and escalating tension between China and the U.S.-led Western Bloc, commentators both within and outside China took the chance to draw comparison with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which at the time was widely hailed as China’s ‘coming out party’. While the New York Times called the 2022 Games ‘divisive’ and characterized it as featuring many walls, Chinese social media users could not help reminiscing the ostensible ‘Golden Era’ of 2008, when the heyday of globalization was yet to be superseded by a new era of Cold War.


Much seems to have changed within the short timespan of fifteen years. As the liberal camp’s euphoria over  “the End of History” gave way to overblown fear of the “China threat”, the agenda of Chinese communication research is also shifting. In the 2000s, observers outside China had great expectations for the democratizing potential of civil society, of the free market, and of the Internet as a universal technology of decentralized communication. Today, facing the tightening of grips over political expression in China, and the crisis of liberal democracy amid surging tides of populism worldwide, in both of which digital technologies played an important role, the outlook is drastically different. The technological prowess of Chinese platform companies combined with the unrelenting political control of the authoritarian state seems to present the doomsday scenario of a digital dystopia, where not only freedom of expression within China is suppressed but also the digital sovereignty of democratic countries around the world could be undermined.


Media and technology sectors are at the forefront of escalating geopolitical tensions. The US-China tech war, which started with the sanctioning of ZTE and Huawei in 2017 has escalated rapidly into a full-scale blockage of Chinese tech firms ranging from semiconductors to clouds. China’s ramping up of its indigenous innovation drive and Chinese firms’ continued, though frustrated, overseas expansion (via initiatives like the Belt and Road and Go Out) only seem to have exacerbated the confrontation. Meanwhile, the Chinese state’s toughened regulation of its homegrown Big Techs, and domestic technology firms’ expansion into the countryside (encouraged by new policy initiatives like rural revitalization, poverty alleviation, and double circulation) signaled new logics in state’s governance of the tech industry, but so far has generated mixed results. The expansion of technological surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic, though has helped the government to effectively contain the spread of the virus, also stokes public anxiety over excessive control.


At this new historical conjuncture, the question of ‘Whither China?’ becomes ever more elusive. Is China the ultimate Other of the West that can only be understood as an entity of deficiency and deviation in relation to the liberal order? Should China scholars make more effort to investigate the current moment of contradiction and contestation with reference to both the nation’s own trajectory of development and logic of history and in global comparison? How should we understand China’s expanding global reach and international presence and evaluate its implications for global equity?


In order to reflect on these broad theoretical and epistemological issues, we invite contributions that are on the one hand based on robust empirical research, while on the other hand nurture the ambition of revising the intellectual agenda of our field. We encourage potential contributors to collectively reconsider some of the fundamental assumptions underpinning our intellectual inquiry, reconfigure our theoretical tool boxes, and redefine our empirical focus.

  • Steering away from the false dichotomy of the Internet as the instrument of democratization vs. the digital dystopia of Black Mirror, how can we have more nuanced discussion about the political economy of Chinese technology companies and about the social shaping of technology in the Chinese context?
  • Moving beyond methodological nationalism, what analytical frameworks can we adopt to better explain at one level the transnational expansion of Chinese platform companies, and at another the subnational stratification of media and communication industries in China?
  • Recognising that we are not necessarily moving toward the historical endpoint of a liberal democratic triumph, how would China’s past inform an investigation into its present and an imagination about its future?


We recognize that Chinese communication research has become more interdisciplinary over the years, incorporating analytical tools and insights from other disciplines such as sociology, political science, STS, and anthropology. We therefore encourage contributors of this special issue to continue thinking outside of disciplinary boundaries. We welcome theoretically ambitious, conceptually-driven and empirically-grounded research along the following lines:

–Chinese media and tech companies’ global expansion

–Indigenous innovation, new emphasis on “strategic technologies”, and global supply chain

–Digital Silk Road and information infrastructure in the Global South

–Global venture capital, financialization, and digital platforms vis-a-vis geopolitical tensions

–The state’s antitrust campaign and regulation over tech companies (and consequences for tech


–Changing institutional arrangements of media production and consumption and in

contemporary China

–The historical trajectory and contemporary characteristics of public communication spaces

–Discursive positions, ideological contestation, and identity formation at both transnational and

subnational levels

–Media, technology, and the development of the countryside (rural revitalization, poverty

reduction, tech firms’ rural expansion etc.)

–Urban/rural divide and mediated inequality

–Transnational media production and consumption and the Chinese diaspora

–Impacts of Covid-19 Pandemic on Chinese media and tech and visions for Post-Covid China

Submission Instructions

The submission deadline for abstract is January 1, 2023. Please send the abstract to [email protected] with the heading "Abstract submission for special issue". Notice of acceptance for full paper submission will be announced within a month of abstract submission. Full paper submission deadline is June 30, 2023. All submitted manuscripts are subject to a rigorous, blind peer-review process. All accepted manuscripts will be published online first. The planned printed publication date is approximately around September 2024.

Submissions should conform to the editorial guidelines of the Chinese Journal of Communication found at https://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?show=instructions&journalCode=rcjc20 under “Instructions for Authors.”

Papers for consideration in this special issue should be submitted online http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rcjc and should indicate they are intended for inclusion in the special issue. For inquires, contact Dr. Lin Zhang at [email protected] or Dr. Francis Lee at [email protected].

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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