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The Contentious Public SphereLaw, Media, and Authoritarian Rule in China$
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Ya-Wen Lei

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196145

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196145.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
The Contentious Public Sphere

Ya-Wen Lei

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter reveals that a nationwide contentious public sphere has emerged in China. It is an unruly sphere capable of generating issues and agendas not set by the Chinese state, as opposed to a sphere mostly orchestrated and constrained by said state. Over time, China's contentious public sphere has been increasingly recognized by the Chinese state as a force to be reckoned and negotiated with. Starting around 2010, official media of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), such as the People's Daily, began to warn of a threatening public sphere mediated by cell phones, the Internet, and even some unruly voices within state-controlled media. The state's awareness of these developments, however, means that one must not overstate the stability or permanence of the newly emerged contentious public sphere. Indeed, this provocative public arena has encountered serious opposition and setbacks, particularly since 2013. Seeing the rise of such a sphere as a threat to national security and an indication of ideological struggle between the West and China, the Chinese state has taken comprehensive and combative measures to contain it.

Keywords:   China, public sphere, Chinese state, media, national security, ideological struggle, contentious public sphere, cell phones, Internet, state-controlled media

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