Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Michael X. Delli Carpini


This exploratory study investigates the landscape of media bias in China. First, I propose a new conceptual framework for identifying media bias that is more comprehensive and less context-sensitive than existing models. The framework includes two independent dimensions: an ideological dimension, which is organized as clusters rather than a continuum, and a structural dimension which reveals the relationship of media outlets to the center of political and/or economic power in a given nation state. I then present a novel mixed-methods approach to document media bias across different contexts. This approach draws from previous literature on political communication, journalism studies, and network analysis. More specifically, to gauge the ideological bias of Chinese media, I analyze the journalistic sourcing patterns of expert interviewees in 31 major media outlets. My research reveals a dominant four-cluster pattern of media outlets: the “orthodox party outlets” which consists of central level party media, the “balanced outlets” which includes both provincial party dailies and provincial commercial dailies, the “critical outlets” which is a mixture of party and commercial media that hold relatively critical views toward the government and promote more liberal ideals, and the “nationalistic outlets” which includes two commercial media featuring nationalistic voices. I further identify the positions of these media outlets on twenty major political, economic, social and cultural issues. To measure the structural bias of Chinese media, I examine the frequency with which top political leaders are mentioned, and find that it closely aligns with the party media/commercial media divide, with party media significantly paying a larger amount of positive attention to top leaders. I also test how the media landscape has changed after President Xi Jinping took power in late 2012. I find that under Xi’s strict media control, on the one hand, Chinese media have become more ideologically homogenous, especially that the critical outlets have reduced their critical edge and become more nationalistic; and on the other hand, they have become more structurally biased in favor of the party-state. Finally, I discuss the implications of my research on Chinese media and on the study of media bias in general.

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Communication Commons