China’s International Outreach: Soft Power and the Soft Use of Power

China has boarded the soft power bandwagon with an enthusiasm rarely witnessed elsewhere: Confucius Institutes, promotional videos in New York’s Times Square, CCTV 9, pandas arriving at Edinburgh Zoo. China’s soft power strategy explores new and innovative techniques of attracting global attention, while also embracing History and traditional culture as themes that can resonate with international audiences.

However, how does this international outreach strategy sit with soft power theory which highlights the importance of projecting values, ideals and principles? Is the Chinese approach to soft power modelled on identifiably ‘western’ practices, or does it demonstrate distinct Chinese understandings of soft power? The research presented in this seminar is an attempt to begin the process of de-Westernising soft power and to understand the disjuncture between China’s aspirations and the external perceptions of its actions. The presentation will critique China’s current international outreach strategy and question the emphasis on cultural approaches to soft power. Finally it will suggest that soft power cannot be a panacea for problems in the hard power domain.

Speaker: Gary Rawnsley is Professor of International Communications at the University of Leeds. He is the co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media (forthcoming), Global Chinese Cinema: The Culture and Politics of Hero (2010) and Political Communications in Greater China (2003). He is the author of many books and articles on international communications with particular interest in Taiwan. His present research is a study of Taiwan’s soft power and public diplomacy.

Price Moot Court Middle East Rounds in Doha

From February 21st-23rd, the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) is organizing the Middle East Regional Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition in Doha, Qatar together with Qatar University’s College of Law, the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Centre and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. The Finals will be broadcast live on Aljazeera Mubasher, Aljazeera’s 24 hour news channel from 8.30am AST (+3GMT):

After the Finals on February 23rd, a seminar will be held on Media Policy After the Arab Spring that will bring together leading academics and lawyers from the region for an intriguing discussion about the politics and challenges of media reform in the context of complex transitions.  Participants will include, among others, Judge Andras Sajo of the European Court of Human Rights and Professor at Central European University, Osama Abu-Deways who is Head of Al Jazeera’s Legal Affairs Department, and Professor Hussein Amin of the American University in Cairo.

This event is open to all and will be held at the Al Jazeera Media Development and Training Centre in Doha.  For more information or to register, please contact Deeksha Sharma:

Broadcasting the State: Tribe, Citizenship, and The Politics of Radio Drama Production in Afghanistan

How does the format of ‘The Archers’, BBC Radio 4’s longest running radio soap opera, travel and translate across linguistic and cultural boundaries and why? Why has the Afghan Archers been so popular over nearly two decades? Can such radio soap operas, designed to promote development, change the social worlds or behaviour of their audiences? How are the narratives understood and shaped by Afghan radio audiences? What are the challenges facing producers and dramatists who are tasked with creating strategic development narratives as well as entertaining dramas?

This seminar will address questions that lie at the heart of a transformation in broadcasting that has accelerated over recent decades, namely, the blending of entertainment with education (edu-tainment) in pursuit, ostensibly, of specific development outcomes such as improved nutrition, conflict reduction or greater gender equity. The BBC World Service Trust, the international charity of the BBC World Service, has been at the forefront of these developments over the last two decades. However, their work in the field of drama for development has received little sustained academic scrutiny or critical appraisal from scholars or practitioners.

This presentation is based on a longitudinal ethnographic research by and with Andrew Skuse on New Home, New Life – a radio soap produced by the BBC and the Afghan Education Project. It presents a conjunctural analysis of representations of the state, tribe and citizenship in the radio serial in three distinctly different political moments in recent Afghan political history: Mujahideen rule (1989.–1996), the Taliban era (1997.–2001) and the post-Taliban democratic period of US/NATO influence (2002-2010). The seminar will explore how not just development goals travel and translate via the Afghan Archers. Modern, neo-liberal state practices and institutional arrangements have become part of the textual fabric of New Home New Life and both traditional tribal and non-tribal rural audiences in Afghanistan interpret these stories in their everyday lives, often in unpredictable ways. Edu-tainment soaps can be seen to function as a form of ‘soft power’ and a conveyor of western liberal values but they do not always have the effects intended by donors, development workers and dramatists.

Speaker: Marie Gillespie is Professor of Sociology at The Open University and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. Andrew Skuse is Professor of Anthropology at Adelaide University. Andrew undertook primary research on New Home New Life. He worked with Marie from 2006-11 on collaborative research with BBC World Service Trust and they co-edited a volume, with Gerry Power, entitled Dramas for Development:: Cultural Translation and Social Change published by Sage India. For more details of project see:

Seminar on Media Policy After the Arab Spring

Organized by the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP), Qatar University’s College of Law, the Aljazeera Media Training and Development Centre and  the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania        

This dialogue brings together a group of top scholars, lawyers and regulators from the region and international community for an intriguing discussion about the politics and challenges of media reform in the context of complex transitions.  What types of media systems are new governments trying to create? What comparative lessons can be drawn and how should national policymakers think about and negotiate international and regional norms? International broadcasters such as Aljazeera had an instrumental role in providing critical information during revolutions in the region. How are these international broadcasters reflecting, amplifying or even encouraging demands for a particular direction of media reform?
Welcoming and Opening Remarks

Keynote Address:
Professor Andras Sajo
“Comparative Perspectives on the Protection of Journalist Sources”

Panel One: Challenges and Opportunities in Media Policymaking and the Arab Spring
This session explores how national and regional norms related to media freedom and access to information emerged in the Middle East and how they relate to international standards. It brings together data and experiences from various Arab countries to discuss how these norms are established and how they are enforced.

Professor Hussein Amin
“The Future of the Egyptian Broadcast Industry and the Need for a Regulator”

William Youmans
“Patterns in Violations of Expression and Journalism: Before and After the 2011 Arab Uprisings”

Chair: Osama Abu-Dehays, Chief Legal Officer, AlJazeera Network

Panel Two: Comparative Perspectives on Media Regulation and Standards
Examines how governments seek to regulate producers and diffusers of information in the age of new media with a particular focus in the context of the Arab Spring.

Professor Khawar Qureshi QC
“The Challenges for Free Media in the Era of 24 hour real-time Transmission in the aftermath of the Arab Spring”

Justice Barbara Dohmann
“What are the Media for? Challenges for Regulation”

Chair: Christopher Campbell-Holt, Acting Registrar, Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre

The Challenges of Policy Making in China’s New Media Revolution – A Roundtable Discussion

This seminar will bring together two of China’s leading academics to discuss contemporary challenges in media policy making.

ZHUGE Weidong: The Reform Process and Policies in Chinese Media Industries
China’s media sector has been experiencing tremendous growth in recent years. It has been reformed to apply company management to the originally non-profit media organizations. The process of such a reform can be divided into three phases, namely, the initial marketization, the establishment of media groups and systemic reform. This presentation will give a general introduction to the background, objectives, timetable as well as the problems emerging along the way of China’s media system reform.

GONG Wenxiang: Media and the Beijing Olympics: Changes in the Age of New Media
The coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics as typical “Media Events” was intended to present the positive image of China to the world. However, at the same time there was an explosion of new media, namely the internet, blogs, cell-phones, etc. The relationship between the traditional media events and the new media events can be cooperation, penetration, or even direct confrontation. In the era of New Media it is not easy for the official media to monopolize all the resources and channels of expression any more. The netizens found their own way of expression, their opinion leaders, and even their own agenda. It is a  new power for participation, and scholars view this as the dawn of an “E-Democracy” in China.

Zhuge Weidong  and Gong Wenxiang are currently visiting academics at the Programme of Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP). Professor Zhuge is at the Department of Journalism and Communication at the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. His research interests include media policy, media management, and comparative media system studies. Professor Wenxiang is Director of the Institute of Communication and Culture at Beijing University. He works on comparative culture and communication studies, persuasion in communication, Chinese cultural aspects of communication and access to information.

Wine and nibbles will be served afterwards.

An Anthropological Analysis of the Use of Media for Political Mobilization

A great deal has been written about the role of new media in recent episodes of social unrest in the Middle East, Europe, North America and other regions. However, missing from most discussions is a careful consideration of the processual dimensions of these struggles. Instead we are often given synoptic accounts that fail to take into account the unique constellations of media actors, technologies and arenas that will obtain at different stages of a conflict. In this paper I find inspiration in the Manchester School of Anthropology’s emphasis on the ‘processual form’ of a political conflict (Postill 2011). Drawing from a year’s anthropological fieldwork in Barcelona (Spain), I reconstruct the shifting mediascape of Spain’s 15-M or indignados movement, from its roots in an online mobilisation against an anti-digital piracy bill through its square occupation phase to more recent events, including its seminal influence on the global Occupy movement. I argue that markedly distinct mediascapes did indeed shape – and were in turn shaped – by a heterogeneous assortment of political actors at different phases of the conflict, including a strange webfellowship of (micro)bloggers, hackers, technopreneurs, lawyers and students during the preparatory stages of the 15 May marches. It is within such transient configurations, I propose, that we can best assess the significance of different media technologies to the birth, growth and eventual demise of a protest movement. I end by briefly considering the potential applicability of this processual approach to other social unrest case studies.

Speaker: John Postill is an anthropologist who specialises in media and internet studies. He has a PhD in anthropology from University College London (UCL) and is senior lecturer in media at Sheffield Hallam University. He has conducted fieldwork in Malaysia and Spain and is the author of Media and Nation Building (2006) and Localizing the Internet (2011) and the co-editor of Theorising Media and Practice (2010). Currently he is writing a book about social media and protest, with special reference to Spain’s indignados movement.

The event is part of the seminar series “MEDIA AND GOVERNANCE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: NETWORKS OF POWER AND STRATEGIC NARRATIVES”. For more information, contact

Will There be an Ethiopian Spring? Reflections on New Media and Political Change in Ethiopia

Speaker: Dr Iginio Gagliardone

After witnessing the critical role new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) played in supporting political change in Northern Africa at the beginning of 2011, expectations have grown that in Sub-Saharan Africa authoritarian or ‘semi-authoritarian’ regimes may also be challenged by emerging uses of ICTs. However, there have been little signs that long-standing leaders in countries like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, or Uganda may be ousted from power by a popular uprising supported by and coordinated through the use of new technologies. What are the reasons for this apparent absence of impact? How much of the lack of technologically mediated mobilizations for greater rights and political freedoms depends simply on the limited diffusion of ICTs such as the Internet? How much depends instead on local specific political patterns and dynamics? And, in the absence of revolutionary outcomes, are ICTs affecting and possibly transforming the nature of political mobilization and participation in more subtle ways? By analysing the case of Ethiopia and comparing the mobilization that followed the controversial and contested elections of 2005 with the events that led to regime changes in Tunisia and Ethiopia in 2011, this paper seeks answers to these questions and proposes an approach that captures the broader relationship between media and politics.

2012 Price Media Law Moot Court International Rounds in Oxford

From March 21st-24th, PCMLP will be organizing the the international oral rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition.

The International Rounds in Oxford are the cornerstone of the Price Media Law Moot Court Programme and are now in their fifth year. The competition expands and stimulates an interest in Media Law and Policy among students, who will develop expertise in arguing a case before an international bench of judges from different legal systems and backgrounds.

The International Rounds of the Price Moot Court Competition are known for their wide range of students and judges attending the competition from all over the world including teams from China, Ukraine, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Singapore, Jordan, Pakistan, Georgia, and Korea. In some cases, the students, coaches and judges deal with issues that are rarely debated or discussed in their own countries.

The competition consistently attracts some of the most prominent figures in the field of media law and over 65 individuals will be coming to serve as judges this year.

Participants in the International rounds held in Oxford operate in a world where a Universal Court of Human Rights has been established to ensure the citizens of the United Nations are enjoying the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover a Chamber of the Universal Court of Human Rights has been established in order to deal with issues specifically addressing cases concerning Freedom of Expression as set out in Article 19 of the UDHR and when freedom of expression collides with other fundamental rights in the Declaration. The Chamber is known as the “Universal Freedom of Expression Court”. Participants in the regional moot courts, or qualifying rounds, are encouraged to draw on domestic law when formulating their arguments.

The Finals will be held from 12-2pm at Rhodes House and all are welcome to attend.  For further information, please see the Price Moot Court website.

The New African Democracy: Information Technology and Political Participation

Iginio Gagliardone is presenting his ongoing research on ICTs and political mobilization at the conference “The New African Democracy: Information Technology and Political Participation”, organized by the African Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

The meeting brings together experts and policymakers to discuss challenges and opportunities for African politics in the digital age.

The conference addresses two critical questions
(i) How has ICT advanced democratic participation, government accountability, and state-society relations in Africa?
(ii) How can policy better support connectivity and the use of ICT for democratic political participation and government accountability and transparency in the region?

You can read more about the conference here:

The conference is broadcast live at:

Self-Discipline: Media Organizations and Sector Organizations in China

In the context of the EU project to support media law and regulation reform in China in which PCMLP participates, a discussion forum will be organized in Xianyang (Shaanxi Province, China) on 26 May, organized with Peking University’s Centre for Reform Theory and Practice and the Great Britain China Centre. This workshop is aimed to provide input to professionals and policymakers concerning the role of media organizations and sector associations in media regulation, with a particular emphasis on self-regulation. As part of this forum, PCMLP researcher Rogier Creemers will provide background on principles of media self-regulation in Europe, and two other experts from the PCMLP network will present topics related to particular phenomena of self-regulation in practice.