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The Alternative Public Sphere in China: a Cultural Sociology of the 2008 Tainted Baby Milk Scandal

  • Haoyue Cecilia LiEmail author
Article
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Abstract

This article studies critical news reports about the 2008 Chinese tainted baby milk scandal, which the World Health Organization identified as one of the largest food safety crises in recent years. Examining the discursive practices adopted to legitimize journalistic criticism in authoritarian China, it reveals that critical-minded journalists avoid criticizing the state during the period of heavy censorship, preferring instead to target local governments. Journalists develop more explicit criticisms of the state as censorship becomes loosened, but they continue to rely on the strategic use of official statement and a heavy dose of praise to appear complimentary. Findings indicate that while critical journalism is constrained by political censorship, the Chinese critical press has managed to circulate counter-hegemonic interpretations of the scandal through strategic discursive practices.

Keywords

Food safety Critical press Alternative public sphere China 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Ronald Jacobs, Richard Lachmann, Elizabeth Popp-Berman, the editor and the six anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that greatly contributed to the final version of the paper.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Albany, SUNYAlbanyUSA

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