Chapter 6: The media and environmental education
China remains an authoritarian and decidedly Leninist state, with the Communist Party clearly in charge of all aspects of state policy able to influence the survival of the party. Setting the public agenda of issues and framing the issues – functions played by the media in most countries of the world – have the ability to influence the legitimacy of the party. For this reason, the party constrains what appears in the press, on TV and radio, and most recently has restricted foreign and unapproved content in the blogsphere. Moreover, on large environmental issues such as hydropower development, proponents of development are likely to be closely allied to powerful ministries and may have personal relationships with them, insuring favorable reportage (if any news is published at all). Finally, some environmental issues, such as safety of nuclear power plants, are entirely off the table. In short, the Chinese media consistently rank toward the bottom in world press freedom indices. From the establishment of the People’s Republic of China until the opening to the world in 1978, the media’s role was to serve as the throat and tongue (houshe) of the state, effectively the state’s mouthpiece (or in Marxist terms, the transmission belt). Because most environmental concerns are less sensitive politically than issues such as labor protests and human rights, journalists and broadcasters reported on the environment frequently. Then two developments – commercialization and privatization – both products of liberal reforms beginning in the late 1970s, changed the media environment.
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