China's Media Landscape

China as a country with 1.3 billion people moving fast forward into the information age features a big variety of communication channels. Consequently the Chinese media landscape is one of the richest in the world. It is characterized by a fast transformation from a stiff government owned structure into new business models, from traditional press into new media and innovative forms of news making.

From state owned to new business models

At present, most of the traditional Chinese media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines and news agencies, are government owned and widely scattered. But there is a clear trend towards new business models which involve private investors. A reform plan recently announced by the government in line with the 12th Five-Year Plan, indicates that media will become more independent in the future and will have the chance to develop more freely.

Many traditional media outlets of today feature web platforms and have to battle with other online media competitors for the attention of Chinese Netizens.

Surging Online Media

Although the World Wide Web was introduced rather late in China, it has become within an incredibly short time one of the major information sources in China. Currently, the most important online platforms are Sina, NetEase, Sohu, and Tencent. Furthermore social networking sites, news rooms and micro blogs are reshaping Chinas information culture - especially among the young generation.

Today China has 641 million active Internet users. Among them Microblog users surged from 63.11 million to 195 million during the first half of 2011. The most famous one among them is Weibo, which surged by an impressive 208.9 percent within just six months. Increasingly these platforms define topics which will in consequence become headlines for traditional media.

Strong focus on Mobile

There is also a strong trend towards mobile media. By mid 2011 China had over 920 million mobile users, according to data released by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Over 100 million of them are registered app store users and around 35 million use mobile payment systems. Chinese mobile users are very open to mobile technology and very active in consuming and producing mobile content.

The Infamous Censorship Issue

There is a constant struggle in China between the need of informational freedom in order to ensure further development and the Chinese government approach to control content and maintain informational hegemony. People living in China are used to censorship and don’t expect straight forward information from official media. They are also familiar with blocked websites and filtered search results. Because of strict censorship rules many international communication platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Xing cannot be accessed in China.

But there are ways around censorship in China and in places like the blogosphere, journalists use humor and political satire to criticize the Chinese government. Bloggers also spell out Chinese characters phonetically or substitute similar-sounding innocuous characters to circumvent censorship tools

More Info about Censorship in China you find at the Council on Foreign Relations