“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” (Luntz, cited in Scheufele and Tewksbury, 2007: 9).
Agenda setting describes the ability of those in positions of power, such as the mass media and influential political leaders, to transfer salience to certain issues that they deem important, while pushing other issues that they deem less important to a lower priority and out of the public view. There is an abundance of literature on the agenda setting process, but it is mainly focused on agenda setting in the West. Therefore, this paper will look at agenda setting in China, which has a Communist government in power that likes to use the influence and control it has and likes to apply harsh censorship on the media and its content. “The Chinese mass media have served effectively in agenda setting to conduct positive propaganda for Party ideologies and policies (Li, Qin, & Kluver, 2003)” (Luo, 2012:1). It will look at whether the Chinese government is successful or not in using its control over the media to promote the issues it believes in. The purpose of this paper will be to see the extent to which the Chinese government has control over the media. This will be done by using articles and blog posts from both government affiliated and independent sources that will help in providing unbiased results. The lack of literature looking at agenda setting outside the West makes this an interesting case to study as it can provide additional information about and the opportunity to explore agenda setting in a Chinese context. Agenda setting is an important topic in political communications and China is becoming a strong and powerful world player, therefore it is crucial to look at agenda setting in a Chinese context.
The rational choice theory, is a theory that states that individuals will manipulate the system to achieve what is in their best interests, can also be used in the agenda setting context. The newspapers may be driven by personal gains to make money by printing stories about issues that will sell more copies, such as corruption and scandals rather than stories about land reform or farming. Agenda setting and framing are two very closely related but different and complex theories that fall under the same broader category. “Agenda setting [sic] looks on story selection as a determinant of public perceptions of issue importance...Framing focuses...instead on the particular ways those issues are presented” (Price and Tewksbury, 1997, cited in Scheufele and Tewksbury, 2007: 15). Framing assumes that how an issue is presented to the public can have substantial influence on the impact it has on the viewers.
The two articles that will be looked at are ‘Parsing Framing Processes: The Interplay Between Online Public Opinion and Media Coverage’ (Zhou and Moy, 2007) and ‘The Internet and Agenda Setting in China: The influence of Online Public Opinion on Media Coverage and Government Policy‘ (Yunjuan Luo, 2012). They...