The Chinese media are becoming more autonomous and more diverse in political content. Long under the thumb of the ruling Communist Party and used almost entirely as a propaganda vehicle, China's media in recent years increasingly have been driven by the profit motive, inclined to pursue news of interest to the public, skeptical of party and government authorities, and confident of their own abilities and leverage. In their drive toward achieving greater autonomy and carving out a more complex role in Chinese society--a progression that has ebbed and flowed over the past 20 years--the media have been greatly aided by China's growing prosperity, widening literacy, adherence to market forces, deemphasis of ideology, and acquisition of new technologies.
At the same time, powerful domestic institutions continue to constrain the media, maintaining limits on what can appear in print or be broadcast on the airwaves. Indeed, in the author's judgment, complete media autonomy--including the publication and broadcasting of a full range of political viewpoints-will not materialize in the post-Deng Xiaoping era until and unless China undergoes overarching political change, including removal of the party's authority to supervise the media.