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The Effect of The Economic Development and Market Competition on Media Bias in China

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Although media freedom is regarded as the foundation of modern democracy, it is shown that media control is crucial to the autocratic system for the significant social influence of propaganda and regime support. China, as the largest autocracy and newspaper market, is regarded as one of the highly media-controlled region. Under the suppression of adverse information and popularity of propaganda, Chinese media are regarded as well political biased. Through examining general-interest newspapers in China, including both Party papers and commercial papers, this research presented the shaping effect of the economic development and market competition on media bias.

Whereafter, the strong negative correlation between media bias and pro-market competence was analyzed under product differentiation. To achieve the conclusions, firstly, the measurement of the newspapers’ political bias was accomplished by comparing the relative scale of the contents related to the Party Line, the Mass Line, and the Bottom Line. Then, the estimation of the causal effect of the market competition to the media bias was implemented by the adoption of market-segmentation strategy. Finally, evidence on the impact from market structure on the media bias was provided to confirm the influences of economic and social factors in the exposure of audiences to media bias.

Main Findings and Implications

Resulted from implementing the bias measurement, a strong positive correlation of media control with the political valuation and a strong negative correlation of media control with economic prosperity are demonstrated. More strikingly, it is found that external forces causing the existence of low-level Party paper would decline the bias of higher-level commercial papers but would increase the bias of higher-level Party papers.

The research also found out economic competition and prosperity reduce the audience’ s exposure to propaganda in China. The findings above could be generalized to other developing countries where the media are controlled to fulfill the governmental goals. So long as the market provides enough incentives for newspaper owners to pursue revenues, the cost of managing media bias will escalate under competition. In addition, more aggressive hierarchical competition provides not only an approach for the pro-freedom media to relieve themselves but also a strategy for the government to prevent the decentralization of the media control.


This study is based on two datasets. One is the 117 general-interest papers published in China’s urban areas from 1999 to 2010, which covered 26 of 31 provinces in Mainland China suggesting the reliability of the statistics. The other dataset is a comprehensive directory of about 1,000 general-interest Chinese newspapers from 1981 to 2011. Using the principal component analysis (PCA), the contents of all papers are divided into nine variables, roughly including Party Line, Mass Line, and Bottom Line. It is found that within the two datasets, 5. 76 million of the articles is concluded to the Party Line, while 130,861 articles to the Mass Line and 4. 12 million articles to the Bottom Line. Additionally, considering the geographic factor, central papers refer to the political leader twice or even three times as frequent as the prefectural papers, which consistent with the expectation of the researchers that central media is more politically biased. One interesting thing is that corruptions and disasters are covered more frequently in the central papers than in the provincial papers.

Research Methods

Throughout the research, three critical factors are used to judge the political or economic identity of the papers. First, the similarity of the content to the political goal. Second, the weight placed on political or economic content. Third, PCA strategy is used to furtherly identify the primary dimension of the paper. For statistical analysis, first of all, a dummy indicator is adopted to regress for the paper being a Party paper judged by the content variables, set up based on prefecture-by-year. From the regression, the probability to acknowledge a Party paper by the content alone is computed. ; Furthermore, by controlling the prefecture-by-year, the logarithm of a newspaper’s advertising revenues generated from the n contents variables is calculated. Finally, the PCA is employed to capture the critical section among the contents variables. The estimated bias coefficient is -3. 44 and the standard error is 0. 79. Taking a specific year 2003 as an example, the measurement of the bias index in 2003 should be computed by Biasijt= σi+ σt+ β1Reform_2003jt+ β2Reform_2003jt*Commerciali+X’jtγ+ εijtin which, biasijt is the measure of bias for newspaper i in prefecture j at year t. σi and σt are newspaper and year fixed effects. Commerciali is the dummy that the paper being a commercial paper. X’jt is the time-specific control including a set of variables at the prefecture level, for instances, population, GDP, etc. Reform_2003 is the interaction of the number of county papers in 2002 with a dummy for being in and after 2003.


This research creatively set up a system for measuring and comparing the political bias among the social media. By addressing its thesis that economic competitions among the different levels of the Chinese regime could hamper the centralization of the media control, it implies the direction for the autocratic governor to reform the control chain by either furtherly take back the media control of prefectural government or create higher incentives for the media to pursue political aims. Besides, statistics shown in the research suggests that the decline of the Chinese audiences’ exposure to Party Line hints that the efficiency of the propaganda is reducing over time. Thus, it alerts the centralized system to invent another method to raise its effects rather than social media control and oppression. However, this research only discusses about the traditional social media, referring to the newspapers, which could be a significant weakness of this excellent study from my point of view. As is known to all, network media has become increasingly critical to people’s daily life, a lot more online articles are published nowadays instead of the paper works in the past. Therefore, the study in the newspapers might not be fully applicable in current society. In addition to the physical media entities existing as a registered corporation, individual We Media plays a more important role in social environment, which could be a crucial source for future media freedom. Hence, it could not be efficient and sufficient for autocratic governments to affect social opinion by controlling the media. Considering the obstacles of harshly complementing information filtering, maintaining an opening and rational attitude on social opinion might help with the intellectual thriving and prosperous. In my view, governors should straightly tackle the problem while facing the opposed arguments instead of taking advantage of their priority to cover and omit the negative information. For example, more transparent and honest publicity on hot events and government official work is highly recommended to increase government credibility.

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The Effect of the Economic Development and Market Competition on Media Bias in China. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from
“The Effect of the Economic Development and Market Competition on Media Bias in China.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
The Effect of the Economic Development and Market Competition on Media Bias in China. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Dec. 2021].
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