The Political Economy of Knowledge Workers in the Chinese Media Industry

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Yao, Jianhua
knowledge worker , structuration , spatialization , political economy , worker organization , trade union , Chinese media industry , neoliberalism , the global division of labour , commodification
In this dissertation, using the tool of a political economy of communication analysis gives us an important way to conceptualize the challenges confronting Chinese media workers, especially editors, due to media reform and social transformation. I will accomplish this by examining three different but inter-related processes: commodification, structuration, and spatialization. First, I will analyze the ways in which the deepening of the media commodification process has forced Chinese media workers to serve the political interests of the state, and at the same time, to generate profit for their companies and promote political and social reforms. Second, I will explore the structuration process by analyzing how fundamental social, technological, political, and economic changes—especially those in class relations and power dynamics—have produced five critical problems for the Chinese media workers. Third, I will explore the media spatialization process by addressing its three indispensable components: globalization, neoliberalism, and the global division of labour. When China is increasingly integrated into the global political economy, most Chinese media workers have faced great changes in their value systems and their daily work processes. As a result, the privileged existence of workers as the “masters” of the Communist society has been transformed in many ways (Rocca 2003). In the last chapter, I will suggest plausible solutions to the problems of Chinese media workers, addressing the benefits of labour convergence, the basic functions and major limitations of worker organizations and trade unions, and how they can further help Chinese media workers better deal with the challenges associated with current media reform when labour unrest is on the rise. To conclude, this dissertation concentrates on the trajectories of the labour process transformation of Chinese media workers; their changing social, economic, and political roles; and their dilemma, challenges, and opportunities associated with current social reform and China’s more integration into the global political economy. Through the political economic analysis of Chinese media workers, I aim to better understand the broader social and economic transformations, particularly the network of power relations and institutional contexts in which Chinese media workers are situated, that have been taking place in China since the late 1970s.
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