PhD student, UPenn


My thoughts and my life.

Why China Wants a Jeb-vs.-Hillary Race

August 5, 2015, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

The Politico Magazine published an article on Chinese official media's coverage of the ongoing U.S. presidential election campaigns. I shared some viewpoints on this issue:
“The Chinese media, especially the Party media, has been using American elections as a way to discredit democracy,” says Kecheng Fang, a former reporter for the Southern Weekly in Guangzhou who now researches Chinese media at the University of Pennsylvania. “I think much of Chinese media has been referring to this election as Clinton 2.0 versus Bush 3.0, so it’s a very trendy topic.”


Among those likely eager to make this anti-democratic narrative stick is China’s President Xi Jinping, who would no doubt like to divert attention from the troubling fact that he, himself, is the product of a political dynasty. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was a vice premier and is regarded as one of the founders of the [...] Read more

The Glory of Print Journalism and the Dream of Digital Media

June 20, 2015, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

(My talk at the Symposium "Global Communication Research in the 21st Century" on June 16, 2015 at the Penn Wharton China Center, Beijing, China)

Two years ago, I left my job as a journalist at Southern Weekly (南方周末) and went to the U.S. for PhD study. At that time, I carried the pride of being a print journalist, which was reflected in my personal statement. In the not very well-written statement, I said, “I plan to pursue my inquiry into the relationship between media and democracy with a more reflective and scholarly approach.” After the word “media”, I added a note in parentheses: both traditional and new media. I knew that both the industry and academia were shifting their focus to the digital world, but I firmly believed that the new media was still relying on traditional media. The best content, the quality and serious journalism was still produced by print journalists. [...] Read more

Behind the Fall of China’s Greatest Newspaper

January 29, 2015, Kecheng Fang2 Comments

This January marks the second anniversary of the Southern Weekly incident, Maria Repnikova and I write on the aftermath of the incident for Foreign Policy. The following version is slightly different from FP's published edition.

In early January 2013, hundreds of protesters gathered in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in support of one of the country’s most influential liberal newspapers, Nanfang Zhoumo, or Southern Weekly, in a rare standoff against local propaganda officials. The Weekly, established in 1984 and claiming a present-day circulation of over 1.7 million, had long been regarded as a model of watchdog journalism. But under the thumb of then-new, conservative chief provincial censor, Tuo Zhen, the paper’s scheduled annual 2013 New Year editorial advocating constitutional reform had been secretly scrapped and replaced with a different version praising the Communist [...] Read more

A virtual conversation between Chinese government and netizens

March 26, 2014, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

Last week, I briefly introduced some examples of Internet governance and online activism in China in the class "Comparative Digital Politics" at the University of Michigan. I created a virtual conversation between Chinese government and netizens as the conclusion.

Netizens: With the Internet, we can get access to all kinds of information.

Government: Except those I blocked. (see GFW)

Netizens: With the help of anti-GFW tools, we can climb over the wall.

Government:In fact only a small number of netizens would use these tools. Most of you are not interested in exploring the world beyond the Great Fire Wall.

Netizens: Even inside the Wall, there is still far more information than before. You can’t censor them all.

Government: I don’t need to censor them all. I focus on those may lead to collective actions. (see Gary King's study)

Netizens: They are already some [...] Read more

Guest lecture at the University of Michigan

March 14, 2014, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

I will be giving a guest lecture at the University of Michigan on Monday March 17th, at the invitation of Doctor Muzammil Hussain, assistant professor at UMich's Department of Communication Studies. I will deliver the lecture in his class "Comparative Digital Politics", which explores several important ways in which digital media and Internet infrastructure are shaping and constraining citizen participation and social organizing in developing and emerging countries. I will introduce the Internet governance in China (with an emphasis on the censorship system), as well as the Internet activism. Hopefully the case of China could contribute to the understanding of Internet infrastructure and citizen participation in the comparative context.

I translated a chapter from a book on digital media in Arab Spring co-authored by Professor Philip N. Howard and Hussain, you can download [...] Read more

Hello, New Semester!

January 20, 2014, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

Thanks to Martin Luther King Jr., we are not only encouraged to dream, but also given a holiday before the new semester begins. :)

This coming spring semester is my second semester in UW-Madison, and is as exciting as the first one, for I will start teaching in just a few days. I am one of the TAs for Journalism 201: Introduction to Mass Communication, which has 400 students from different majors. I will be teaching two sections of 18 students each. I can’t wait to see who are my students and to discuss and share ideas on media with them.

Another fact that makes this course really exciting is that Professor Molly Wright Steenson is the instructor for J201 this year. In just a few sentences, you will understand why I say this: Molly will soon get her PhD in architecture from Princeton; she started working with the Web in 1994 and built some very first websites ever; she is also a design [...] Read more

An Internet For All and By All

November 21, 2013, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

When I was invited to participate in the 2nd annual Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) which was held in Sweden in May 2013, I was expecting debates on government regulation and criticisms of China's "Great Firewall" since the forum highlighted "freedom and openness on the Internet" in its mission statement. After the two-day sessions, however, I realized that my mind was too "China-centric" and that Internet freedom means much more than against censorship.

One major topic of the SIF, which consists of about 400 participants from more than 90 countries, is the low Internet penetration and high cost in many low-income countries. As a Chinese netizen who pays $15 per month for the Internet, I was quite astonished to learn that it costs a doctor’s half-month salary to spend 30 minutes in a cyber Cafe in Cuba and only 3% of Cubans have access to internet. A participant from Mozambique said [...] Read more

Understand the Diversity of Chinese Media and Journalists

November 1, 2013, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

On October 23rd, the Guangdong-based newspaper New Express filled its front page with a big headline “Please Release Him”. “Him” refers to one of its journalists Chen Yongzhou, who was taken away by police after he wrote a dozen articles about a state-owned construction equipment company Zoomlion. The next day, the newspaper published another plea for the release of Chen on its front page. It’s rare for a Chinese newspaper to openly call twice for the protection of its staff journalist and question the police. Many Chinese journalists expressed support for New Express and underscored that journalists' legal rights should be protected and police must follow legal procedure.

Two days later, however, there was a dramatic turn in this case. The detained journalist Chen made “public confession” on state broadcaster CCTV, saying that he wrote false stories for money. Chen said [...] Read more

From “Angrily Denounce” to “Be Gravely Hurt”

August 6, 2013, Kecheng Fang0 Comments


As China continues to expand its role in the international community, its diplomatese stays mechanical. Many people notice that “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” becomes a phrase the Chinese government chooses for nearly every statement when dealing with international disagreement. For example, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama on December 6th, 2008, Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei said, “The meeting grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, severely undermined China’s core interests, gravely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and damaged the political basis of China-France and China-EU relations.”[1]

This kind of expression has deeply influenced the thought and expression of ordinary Chinese people. They are using it frequently, no matter genuine [...] Read more