PhD Candidiate, UPenn

In the Media

I appear frequently in international media outlets, discussing issues related to media, journalism, digital technology, as well as Chinese politics and society.

Made in China: a conversation on the ideas and principles behind CNPolitics

October 17, 2018, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

Made in China is an open access quarterly (ISSN 2206-9119) on Chinese labour, civil society, and rights. In the coming months, CNPolitics will translate and feature a selection of Made in China's articles, making them available to a Chinese-speaking audience. As the founder of CNPolitics, I discussed the ideas and principles behind his initiative with Kevin Lin in the latest issue of Made in China.

Kevin: How did you start CNPolitics and what do you hope to achieve with this project?

Kecheng: I started CNPolitics when I was a political journalist at the Southern Weekly (nanfang zhoumo). In the early autumn of 2011, our political editor came up with the idea that we should publish something new in addition to factual reporting. He suggested that we could have a special column called ‘Political Views’ (zhengjian, which later on became the Chinese name of CNPolitics), introducing [...] Read more

Reuters: Vaccine scandal tests Beijing’s grip on information control

August 31, 2018, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

I was interviewed and quoted in a Reuters article on the information control after China's vaccine scandal in July 2018.
The enormous impact of the so-called “zi meiti”, or “self-media” article marks a threat to efforts by China’s ruling Communist Party to tighten its grip over content online.

“This is a guerrilla war. The government cannot tackle it just like it does traditional media,” said Fang Kecheng, a Chinese media researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, adding that while one zi meiti account could be shut down, many others would spring up in its place.


The rise of self-media, however, has created a new dynamic.

Media researcher Fang said Chinese authorities could now look to make their own use of zi meiti, having seen its impact.

“What people should be alarmed about is that after realizing how powerful this medium is, the government might [...] Read more

Sixth Tone: How Blockchain Could Revolutionize China’s Media

June 8, 2018, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

Blockchain creations are still in their early phases, but Fang Kecheng, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication who hails from eastern Anhui province, is an early member of Zhang’s website. He sees blockchain as an invaluable tool to encourage content creators in today’s media environment. “Since last year, there has been a bubble around blockchain,” said Fang, referring to the boom and bust of cryptocurrency prices. “However, the potential of this technology itself will not be obliterated because of speculators. When there are more people who really want to do something meaningful with blockchain, this technology will not be wasted.”

But like media and communication lecturer Chin, Fang is skeptical about how effective blockchain can be for dodging censorship. “I think the real value of blockchain is not in preserving online [...] Read more

SupChina: Jordan Peterson And China’s ‘White Left’

April 15, 2018, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

I was quoted in SupChina's article on the popularity of the term "White Left" in China.
A recent talk by Fang Kecheng 方可成 offers the best examination of the term’s history and usage. In the talk, Fang says that “white left” is now widely applied to even those not particularly progressive or left-wing, and he includes the example of the Su Xiaohe 苏小和 essay “How the American white left has led Chinese readers into the gutter” (美国白左如何把中国读书人带到沟里 [měiguó báizuǒ rúhé bǎ zhōngguó dúshūrén dài dào gōu lǐ]), referring to both Ayn Rand and John Rawls as “gurus of the ‘white left’” (白左的宗师 báizuǒ de zōngshī). A couple of terms that Western readers might be familiar with, “social justice warrior” and “libtard,” get close to the way baizuo is sometimes used.


Fang Kecheng makes the point that the [...] Read more

SupChina: How ‘Self-Media’ In China Has Become A Hub For Misinformation

March 29, 2018, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

Like other parts of the world, social media platforms in China are also filled with misinformation. One unique aspect, however, is the role played by the so-called "self-media," usually funded by venture capitals.

SupChina covered this topic and interviewed me.
“Sensationalist titles and stereotypes can always attract higher viewership, which can be converted into advertising revenues and investment,” says Fang Kecheng, the Annenberg PhD candidate.


A research team at MIT, after analyzing some 126,000 stories on Twitter over more than 10 years, found that false information consistently outperforms true information on Twitter in terms of its reach, its influence, and its speed of reproduction. “Ultimately, this is about media literacy,” says Fang Kecheng. “Until a day when people feel naturally repulsed by rumors and sensationalist stories, we need platforms to intervene [...] Read more

The Diplomat: China’s Media Market Competition

December 8, 2017, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

Below is a recent Q&A published in The Diplomat.

Briefly describe China’s traditional and digital media market landscape.

China has a highly regulated media market, where traditional and digital media are subject to different sets of rules. All traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and TV channels) are state-owned. Although a large part of print media are called “market-oriented media” and rely on advertising revenues just as their counterparts in the West, they – including the outspoken ones such as Southern Weekly – nevertheless are owned by the party-state.

On the other hand, the most well-known and popular digital media, such as Tencent, Sina, Sohu, and Jinri Toutiao, are private or publicly traded companies. However, they are not allowed to hire journalists and publish original stories. They can only aggregate news stories from traditional media and state-owned [...] Read more

Sixth Tone: How Western Fake News Took Over China’s Social Media

April 20, 2017, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

(This is an Op-ed I recently wrote for Sixth Tone.)

In February, Wikipedia editors voted to ban the British tabloid the Daily Mail and its website as sources of reference in its entries. The decision was based on the news group’s “poor fact checking, sensationalism, and flat-out fabrication,” which rendered its content “generally unreliable.”

While internet users in the Western world now stand a reduced chance of encountering the Daily Mail’s content, Chinese social media outlets — including microblogging site Weibo and social messaging app WeChat — are frequently abuzz with the tabloid’s stories. In fact, the social media feeds of millions of Chinese netizens are filled not only with translations of the Daily Mail’s stories, but also with a torrent of misinformation from the West’s now-ubiquitous fake news and conspiracy theory websites.

Last month, an article [...] Read more

Wilson Center: Hurting the Feelings of the Chinese People

February 16, 2017, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

A piece published in the blog of Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program quoted me:
By one count, the Chinese blogger Fang Kecheng found that, since its inception, the People’s Daily has used the phrase in reference to 19 different countries and organizations, ranging from the United States to the Nobel Committee and to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Of all the countries and organizations that had “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people,” Fang found that it was Japan that stood out as the worst offender. Beginning in September 1985, when an article criticized a visit by Japanese Cabinet Ministers to the Yasukuni Shrine, the People’s Daily had singled out Japan for “hurting the Chinese people’s feelings” on 47 separate occasions.
Full text here. [...] Read more

Business Insider: Monday’s presidential debate was censored in China — but that didn’t stop people from watching

September 28, 2016, Kecheng Fang0 Comments

I was quoted in Business Insider's story on how Chinese watched the presidential debate.
The Chinese government has one major reason for censoring the debate live-streams, according to Kecheng Fang, a University of Pennsylvania doctoral student researching Chinese politics and the founder of, an independent website on Chinese politics.

"Letting the public know how democracy works has its risks. People might start asking, 'Why don't we have our own debates?' or, 'Why can't we choose our leader from the top two candidates?'" Fang told Business Insider.

Despite the Chinese government's worries, most Chinese people are uninterested in the US election, don't understand how it works, or have zero knowledge that a presidential debate is occurring, according to Fang. A niche population, composed primarily of elites, follow the election and the debate intently.
Full text here. [...] Read more