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Digital media, governance, and the making of youth in contemporary China

Cao, Qing and Lang, Iris (2021) 'Digital media, governance, and the making of youth in contemporary China.', in China's Contemporary Image and Rhetoric Practice. London: Routledge , pp. 137-158. Routledge Studies in Chinese Discourse Studies.


Drawing on the idea of governance through the media, this chapter examines the way in which reality shows in contemporary China have imbued Chinese youth with a social consciousness conducive to the state pursuit of industrial modernity. Using the popular reality TV programme Produce 101 as a case study, it investigates the appropriation of neoliberal principles in maintaining an equilibrium between personal and social responsibility – a balance that lies at the heart of discourse around the China Dream. It argues that reality talent shows in China function within a larger framework of governance that surreptitiously appropriates the neoliberal logic of autonomy and meritocracy, repackaging these ideals into a tool for advancing the welfare of the collective. As such, these media spectacles function as a modern bard that confirms shared values, cultural assumptions and socio-economic aspirations of the nation. Ultimately, these shows reveal how governance in contemporary China largely rejects the traditional neoliberal assumption that the free market is capable of maximising social good, and instead co-opts neoliberalism’s language of individualism in a way that marries personal aspirations with those of the nation.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in China's Contemporary Image and Rhetoric Practice on 22 March 2021, available online:
Date accepted:13 November 2020
Date deposited:03 November 2021
Date of first online publication:22 March 2021
Date first made open access:22 September 2022

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