Media Historians Debate on the Year 1949

For some historians, press control in China before and after 1949 represented more historical continuities than ruptures, while many others argue that the differences were both quantitative and qualitative ones. This is one of the issues to be debated in a conference to be held on 4-5 December 2009 under the auspices of the Center for Communication Research and the Department of Media and Communication.

Acting Provost Chi-hou Chan will inaugurate the conference entitled “The Concept and Practice of Freedom in Modern Chinese Press.” It is a sequel to the 2007 conference that has led to the publication of a critically acclaimed volume, “Intellectuals cum Political Commentators in Republican China” (《文人論政》).

Fourteen leading historians and media specialists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States will present their papers at the conference. “We provide a forum for some of the best brains to engage one another’s mind,” said Professor Lee Chin-Chuan, who organizes the conference, as Republican China offers “a critical distance for historically examining a confluence of factors that served to shape the bourgeoning of a vital and interesting press.”

The conference participants will address a range of issues: How was press freedom introduced into modern China? How was it practiced, under what kind of control? How did it collide and collude with goals of modernization and national survival? How different was the press under the Nationalist and Communist eras? Lee said that the revisionist scholarship to be presented will throw fresh light on the essential tension between freedom and constraints, choice and control, and individuals and the nation.