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Abstract

Through its institutional transformation, China’s media policy has features of both power-regulated societies and rights-regulated societies. The development of human societies is based on three dominant variables: competition, technology, and institutions. Throughout civilized history, human societies can be categorized into two types, either power-regulated societies or rights-regulated societies. The standard of categorization is based on different forces that coerce the social order of the society. The coercing force of power-regulated societies is rooted in the regime of power, such as authoritarianism or totalitarianism. Ancient China and the former Soviet Union are typical examples of such power-regulated societies. The coercing force of rights-regulated societies is rooted in the private rights of its citizens. Democratic societies like Great Britain and the United States are typical examples of rights-regulated societies. The morality and legitimacy of power-regulated societies are to maintain order and protect the regime of power, whereas rights-regulated societies work to protect private rights of the people. Therefore, media policy and regulations are fundamentally different in the two types of societies. Power-regulated societies use a power-controlled media model, and rights-regulated societies use a free media model.

Today, China’s media policy is in the process of transforming from a state-controlled media model to a free media model and show features of both a power-regulated society and a rights-regulated society. China’s institutions have been transforming since the first exposure to globalization in the mid-nineteenth century. Over the last century, China has experience three institutional transformations: during the Xinhai revolution, the Cultural Revolution, and the reform and open policy. The current institutional transformation will change not only Chinese society, but will also impact the world. The more we understand this complicated process of transformation, the better we comprehend the rationality of media regulation policy in China.

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