My research interests are social media in China, a general overview of media in China as well as making sense of the messages coming from Beijing.


DF AcR China Social Media T 1000x200

Some questions I’m interested in answering…
In what and which ways — and to what extents — are Twitter and Weibo same / different?
What new challenges and communications concepts and paradigms does WeChat bring?
Is it true Generation 70s tune out of social media whilst Generation 00s tweet always on the trains?
Can one possibly compare (plausibly!) WeChat and Facebook?
How are Chinese government-owned organisations in transition handling social media?
If someone was to look at a random Westerner / Chinese’s iPhone, what apps would be seen the most on their Home Screens?

I became increasingly interested in social media, first as a user, then as a topic of research. During a tech gathering in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in late 2008, I started tweeting so much Twitter had to block me from tweeting a few times (they said I was doing over 100 tweets per hour!). All of these were part of an event of tech people travelling to China to find out more about China’s tech startup environment.

The tweeting and observations meant that I had a front row seat to China’s evolving social media world. In May 2009, I was accepted by the Communication University of China as a PhD student, where I graduated three years later. In my PhD dissertation, I proposed the idea that:

  • the Web is no longer truly anonymous as, in most cases, live humans man the lines at both ends;
  • government should be permitted to intervene (but not needlessly interfere) if needed;
  • the Web should be a place for people to demonstrate their viewpoints (as the Law sees fit); and
  • progressively, fuller Web democracy should be enabled.

In 2014, I next proceeded for further research to the China Media Centre of the University of Westminster.

My research interests are closely linked to my tweeting — indeed, my interests are in social media (in general), as well as media and policy in China, and new media’s social impact on the country.


DF AcR China General Media T 1000x200

Some questions I’m interested in answering…
What are the misconceptions of China’s media system?
How are we (mis)reading the news from China?
How big is the gap between what Beijing says and what really happens in China?
How did Chinese media evolve through all those years?
How digitised is China’s media landscape?
How is public opinion management the same / different in China and the West?

I was only so interested in introducing general media topics in China — until an early 2013 opportunity meant I had my own course at Hebei University, just on the outskirts of Greater Beijing (distance-wise, a little like Reading from London). This lesson was such a success that I was given a second go in 2014. This further fuelled interest furthering research in this topic.

Intended mostly for introductory students and media professionals going into China, “general media” research for China focuses both on its history, policies, and statistics. As a media academic, but also media practitioner, I’ve both “the theory” and “the practice”, which means to the audience a far more complete and comprehensive look at media in China.


DF AcR Beijing Messages T 1000x200

Some questions I’m interested in answering…
When it comes to China-related reports, what is the news media getting wrong?
How does culture “mix” into the news when it comes to China?
What PRC terms do people get wrong all the time?
How is Beijing conveying its message — both inside China and to the wider world?
How do you read between the lines of Chinese officialspeak?
In what ways has the message from Beijing altered and evolved over the past decades?

When China held a huge political meeting in 2007, white-on-red propaganda banners suddenly appeared all over town. Curious, I set out and photographed as many as possible. The same happened for the Beijing Olympics, and in particular, for the PRC’s 60th anniversary in 2009, and for the 2012 leadership change. Before I knew it, I had amassed a collection of almost 2,500 such pictures, and I’m now taking a particularly good look at how the message has changed over these years.

Some might find “PRC jargon” to be overwhelming. What precisely are the (deliberately loosely-translated) five talks, four beautifuls, and three warmful loves? Does the Scientific Development Concept require the use of microscopes or other “sci-tech equipment”? As much as I can, I’ll decrypt “the usual” from the 19:00 news show, and help people make sense of China for themselves.