Years ago, China was just a war-ravaged region that was not given much importance in discussions on international matters. But now, as time moves on, it gradually makes a come-back. Journalists nowadays often refer to China as one of the vastly developing countries – economically and politically. China is fast opening its doors to capitalism and its system of governance also show traces of development towards democracy. In line with this, international media definitely has a role to play in increasing the country’s democracy.
China started out as a dynastic state wherein sovereigns in the form of emperors ruled the country. This system of governance lasted until 1912 with China’s last dynasty, the Qing dynasty. After the abolishment of the dynasty system, China was still upholding a "feudalistic" society where a small group of rich landlords had the majority of the country's wealth, leaving masses of peasants in poverty and despair. (Present Day Chinese Government, n. d. ) The succeeding government led by Sun Yat Sen of the Kuo Min Tang (KMT or Nationalist Party) tried to solve this problem.
His government, named the Republic of China, aimed to remove China under foreign control. After the passing of years, the leadership was transferred to Mao Zedong of the Communist Party. His reign during 1949 gave heed to the voices of the people, thus, the naming of his government the People’s Republic of China. A tremendous change was brought about by Mao’s leadership. His governance gave importance to the Chinese being able to eat their fill and dress warmly; this introduced the Declaration of Human Rights for the Chinese which states all citizens are entitled to "life, liberty and sustenance.
" (Present Day Chinese Government, n. d. ) Under Mao’s socialist government, "freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, marching and demonstration is guaranteed" for Chinese citizens. (Present Day Chinese Government, n. d. ) The operation of several forms of media in China today can be attributed to this. In addition to the aforementioned privilege, the people are also entitled to other rights such as the right to vote, to complain, to be protected (religious rights), and not to be discriminated.
Mao’s reign was banked on the principle that "All power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people" and it is also this same socialist principle that is the foundation of today’s Chinese government. (Present Day Chinese Government, n. d. ) Democracy, reduced to its most basic, is about citizens’ rights to choose the government and about the ordinary people have to participate in society's decision-making processes. (Gumede, n. d. ) Media has a role to play in increasing this democracy in China because it places information in the hands of the people and this is important for two reasons.
First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. (Role of Media, 1999) People are required to do day to day decisions. To exercise this right properly, one must be aware of the things involved in making that decision and it is through media that people know of these. Hence, in a nutshell, the media enhances the quality of citizens’ participation since they will be armed with the necessary information and have access to contesting opinions, viewpoints and ideas that will enable them to make up their own minds about their preferences.
(Gumede, n. d. ) Second, information serves a “checking function” by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them. (Role of Media, 1999) Media is a tool used to broadcast to people as to how officials in the position are performing in their jobs. The people are privy to this since they are the ones who elected the officials in the first place. Taking these into consideration, international media can further contribute democracy to China through four main ways.
The first is for the media to improve the quality and quantity of political information being published. This can be done by ensuring that reports are always true and obtained from credible sources. The public also benefits from increasing the number of political information since they will be able to absorb more information. Second, the media should give effective criticism of things that needs improvement. With constructive criticism, crucial changes regarding issues can be brought about by the media. Third, the media should try to make news more accessible to the people.
In China, this can be done by tapping into the several types of media such as the newspaper and the internet. China’s population is now currently estimated at 1,321,851,888 with a literacy rate of 90. 7%. (China, 2007) Considering these figures, China can have the biggest newspaper market worldwide because of its high population and literacy rate. Another factor that adds to the appeal of newspaper is that it is relatively inexpensive and yet contains a lot of information about current events. The increasing popularity of newspapers in China can be supported by the following facts.
By one official estimate, there are now more than 7,000 magazines and journals in the country; the number of copies of daily and weekly newspapers and magazines in circulation grew fourfold between the mid-1960s and the mid-to-late 1980s, reaching 310 million by 1987. (Worldwide Press Freedom Index, n. d. ) These figures, moreover, underreport actual circulation, because many publishers use their own distribution networks rather than official dissemination channels and also deliberately understate figures to avoid taxes. (Reporters Without Borders, 2007)
The internet is also a good medium which international media can explore as a vehicle to increase democracy. According to an article, internet politics can transpire in the internet. Internet politics simply refers to the phenomenon that the public can participate in politics and discuss politics through the Internet; while the politicians can communicate with the public through the internet. (Democracy in China’s Internet Politics, 2007) The nature of the internet itself facilitates this process – it is a tool that fosters communication.
People like the free, personal and interpersonal communication characteristics of the Internet; they like to express their opinions, exchange ideas and put forward suggestions so as to gain a sense of a new type of democracy, thus making it an ideal tool for the development of a socialist democracy. (Democracy in China’s Internet Politics, 2007) Lastly, the media should give a more thorough coverage of the political processes. This way, the people will be more aware of the minute details of every issue before performing judgments for themselves. International media has an important role to play in terms of increasing democracy in China.
They are needed because they are the primary tools in which people rely on for information so as to be able to make their day to day judgments. In order to foster democracy, international media must improve the quality and quantity of its new reports, provide constructive criticism, make news more accessible to the public through the newspapers and the internet and be more detailed in their coverage of the political processes. By doing these, media can be seen as an effective apparatus to preserve and promote democracy.
References (October 2007) China. Retrieved December 3, 2007, https://rsf.org/