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The Currency of Truth

Newsmaking and the Late-Socialist Imaginaries of China's Digital Era

Subjects: Asian Studies, China, Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Media Studies, Journalism, Political Science, Political Communication
Paperback : 9780472055951, 186 pages, 6 x 9, April 2023
Hardcover : 9780472075959, 186 pages, 6 x 9, April 2023
Open Access : 9780472903276, 186 pages, 6 x 9, April 2023

Open access version made available with the support of The Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies (LRCCS)
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Explores the complex interpersonal networks and differing ethical standpoints that shape the news in China

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: A Contested Medium
Chapter 3: From Propaganda to Publicness
Chapter 4: An Ethic of Efficacy
Chapter 5: News as Currency
Chapter 6: The Newsmakers’ Jianghu


China’s news sector is a place where newsmakers, advertising executives, company bosses, and Party officials engage one another in contingent and evolving arrangements that run from cooperation and collaboration to manipulation and betrayal. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork with journalists, editors, and executives at a newspaper in Guangzhou, The Currency of Truth brings its readers into the lives of the people who write, publish, and profit from news in this milieu. The book shows that far from working as mere cogs in a Party propaganda machine, these individuals are immersed in fluidly shifting networks of formal and informal relationships, which they carefully navigate to pursue diverse goals.

In The Currency of Truth, Emily H. C. Chua argues that news in China works less as a medium of mass communication than as a kind of currency as industry players make and use news articles to create agreements, build connections, and protect and advance their positions against one another. Looking at the ethical and professional principles that well-intentioned and civically minded journalists strive to uphold, and the challenges and doubts that they grapple with in the process, Chua brings her findings into conversation around “post-truth” news and the “crisis” of professional journalism in the West.  The book encourages readers to rethink contemporary news, arguing that rather than setting out from the assumption that news works either to inform or deceive its publics, we should explore the “post-public” social and political imaginaries emerging among today’s newsmakers and remaking the terms of their practice.

Emily H. C. Chua is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the National University of Singapore.

The Currency of Truth is a highly readable, compelling, and insightful study of newsmaking in contemporary China. In addition to offering original arguments about the dynamics of the Chinese media, this book is simply one of the best workplace ethnographies I’ve ever read.”

- John Osburg, University of Rochester

The Currency of Truth provides a fascinating account of how news and publics are co-produced. Engagingly written and thoughtfully theorized, it will become a valuable read for scholars, practitioners, and policy makers alike.”

- Pablo J. Boczkowski, Northwestern University

"Emily H. C. Chua's book provides a rare ethnographic insight into the work of Chinese journalists at a Beijing and Guangzhou-based weekly newspaper. . . All in all, although focused on China, the book's ethnographic insights and theoretical framing of news as currency would be of interest to researchers from around the world."
European Journal of Communication

- European Journal of Communication

"The book has four significant contributions to the journalism literature. First, it offers insights into the Chinese media system, which is understudied. Second, it explores an exciting conceptualization of the news as a currency. Third, it joins other scholars (Almiron, 2010; Anderson, 2013; Boyer, 2013; Henry, 2007; Carlson, 2017) in exploring the transformation of newsmaking influenced by technological advancement and expanding it to China. Fourth, the book offers an interesting insight into what the institution of news can be in a post-socialist society."

- Mushfique Wadud

"Chua details the complexities and contradictions of China’s news sector and makes a convincing argument that news in contemporary China is “a medium of texts that work less as means of mass communication than like a kind of currency,” used by news professionals, company bosses, and government officials seeking personal, professional, political, and financial gains."
--CHOICE Connect, rated Recommended

- Y. Liao

"The Currency of Truth is easily one of my favourite books and I cannot recommend it enough. Scholars and students in a wide array of disciplines such as anthropology, political science, commutations and sociology will benefit from it tremendously. Policymakers or members of the general public who are interested in media politics in China and beyond will find it educational, inspiring and highly accessible. The book even has an open access version. So go and get it!"

- The China Quarterly