Fang, Ph.D.

Communication researcher

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.

Reuters: As Trump touts trade war truce, China holds its tongue

On December 6, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 Comments

I was interviewed and quoted in a Reuters article:

“Apparently, the Chinese government doesn’t want its people to consider the agreement as a failure for China,” said Fang Kecheng, a Chinese media researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The 90-day limit sounds like an ultimatum given by the strong actor to the weak actor,” added Fang, a former journalist for the publication Southern Weekly.

Washington Post: China’s ‘responsive’ authoritarianism

On November 28, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 Comments

My co-author Dr. Maria Repnikova wrote an Op-Ed for The Washington Post and introduced our research:

my research with the researcher Kecheng Fang at the University of Pennsylvania shows that the decline of traditional channels for party propaganda has inspired Chinese authorities to take advantage of digital platforms to make persuasion more playful and interactive. Since 2014, party media outlets have recruited young talent to launch and operate their public WeChat accounts. These accounts, many with intentionally different names from their official media umbrellas, mix politics with entertainment content and even relationship advice.
These outlets are also highly interactive. Some platforms allow users to track Xi’s travels, while others offer a chance to win apple-picking vouchers and Kindles in exchange for reposting official content. Social media users take part in a process [...] Read more

Financial Times: China censorship moves from politics to economics

On November 28, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 Comments

I was interviewed and quoted in an FT article:

Fang Kecheng, a Chinese media researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “The propaganda department aims to guide public opinion, so when things are doing badly they are definitely more nervous and want to highlight the positive.”

“Ironically, the more the party-state intervenes in the coverage of the economy, the more doubt people could have . . . which would lead to even stricter control. This cycle shows the limitation and possible backfiring effect of censorship,” he added.

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

On October 17, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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

On August 31, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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

On June 8, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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’

On April 15, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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

On March 29, 2018, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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

On December 8, 2017, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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

On April 20, 2017, by Kecheng Fang, 0 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