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About this book

This book explores the media and conflict relationship in the age of social media through the lens of China. Inspired by the concepts of medialization of conflict and actor-network theory, this book centers on four main actors in wars and conflicts: social media platform, mainstream news organizations, online users and social media content. These four human and non-human actors associate, interact and negotiate with each other in the social media network. The central argument is that social media is playing an enabling role in contemporary wars and conflicts. Both professional media outlets and web users employ the functionalities of social media platforms to set, counter-set or expand the online public agenda. Social media platform embodies a web of technological and human complexities with different actors, factors, interests, and power relations. These four actors and the macro social-political context are influential in the medialization of conflict in the social media era.

‘’Empirically rich and theoretically innovative, this book advances our understanding of the constantly changing dynamic between international conflict and its medialization. With its compelling case studies, Shixin Zhang’s monograph makes a valuable contribution to the literature on Chinese social media in conflict situations.’’

- Daya K. Thussu, Professor of International Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction: Media and Conflict Studies in the Social Media Age

Abstract
This chapter reviews academic literatures and debates surrounding mediatization of conflict and social media to situate the current research in context. It argues that even though many scholarly researches on media and conflict are existent, mediatized conflicts as a research field still requires theoretical and conceptual development. In addition, in the globalisation and digitalization era, more researches shall be conducted to de-center the Western accounts and to shed light on the social media and conflict relationship. Based on the mediatization of conflict and actor-network theory (ANT), the author proposes and theorizes a new analytical framework to study media-conflict relationship in the social media age. It also illustrates significance of research, research questions and gives a methodological note.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Chapter 2. China’s Social Media Platforms: Weibo

Abstract
With regards to China’s social media platforms—Weibo, this chapter discusses China’s social media ecology with a focus on the contradiction of fast growth of social media industry and political constraints. It examines Weibo’s origin, transformation, technical features and usability, users’ comment culture, censorship practice as well as its political and social impacts. It argues that all these features of Weibo are essential in the way different actors/actants mediate, interact, associate and negotiate with each other on the platform.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Chapter 3. Sino-Indian Border Crisis in 2017

Abstract
This chapter reveals that the traditional division of news/views and in-house/external news sources are not so important on the social media platform. The professional media’s use of foreign policy and conflict frames as well as the use of multimedia format are most important at time of crisis to attract the attention of and engage with the web users. Online users generated new frames such as criticizing China’s domestic policy and societal issues. The scope of the peer-to-peer dialogues are much wider, personalized, opinionated and diversified. Global Times mainly plays the role of initiating, informing, enforcing and reviving the online debate. Online users use different forms of languages and emoji/emoticons to express their opinions, attitudes, emotions and sentiments towards the Sino-Indian border crisis and beyond.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Chapter 4. Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Dispute in 2017–2018

Abstract
This chapter finds that security/military and policy are two strong frames in the media agenda. Global Times’ engagement with users in this case is unstable with frequent ups and downs. Posts about Japan’s actions and comments that are unfavourable to China tend to draw online users’ shares and comments, whereas the posts that include anti-Japan or pro-China stance are likely to attract ‘likes’ from users. The majority of users support and conform to official discourse whereas Chinese nationalists view Japan with distrust, disdain and hatred. The four contextual factors – history, foreign policy, security (military) and nationalism – intertwine with each other, influence and determine the social media content as well as the actions and interactions of different actors within the social media network.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Chapter 5. South China Sea Dispute in 2018

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the South China Sea (SCS) disputes that are indeed significant due to the geo-strategic positions. Global Times has used the security/military, diplomacy and analysis as strong frames, which coincides with the militarization, multilateralism and complexity of the SCS. The online domestic public opinion is that many users have demonstrated national pride and support of China’s assertive postures in the SCS. Meanwhile there are moderate criticisms of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and China’s military propaganda. China’s diplomacy (foreign policy) on the China-US power struggle in the SCS is the most sensitive topic that has been highly controlled and strictly censored on Weibo.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Chapter 6. North Korea Nuclear Crisis in 2018

Abstract
This chapter has addressed the complex and tricky North Korea nuclear crisis. The case analysis reveals that Chinese media outlets attached greatest importance to the role of US and the US-North Korea relations. While the Global Times’ media discourses are official and rigid citing political elites or giving commentaries, online users’ discourses are short, personal, straightforward, critical, sarcastic and abusive. As for contextual factors, security/military, diplomacy and economy weigh more than history and nationalism. China seems to have played down the historical relations with North Korea and try to avoid being hijacked by the domestic public opinion on its foreign policy.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Abstract
This chapter starts with refining the new analytical model to study media and conflict relations in the social media era by adding and theorizing six contextual dimensions (or external actors) including history, security (military), diplomacy (foreign policy), economics (trade), legality and nationalism. It argues that these six dimensions form an external actor-network vis-à-vis the internal actor-network. Both external and internal networks intertwine with each other whereas association, translation and generalized symmetry occur during the sociotechnical process. Five major conclusions are made on the basis of case studies, which addresses professional media outlets’ coverage of conflict/crisis, web users’ responses, the negotiations and interactions of different actors, and the impacts of macro-structural actors.
Shixin Ivy Zhang

Backmatter

Additional information