Emily H. C. ChuaNov 13, 2023
The Currency of Truth
Newsmaking and the Late-Socialist Imaginaries of China's Digital Era
University of Michigan Press 2023
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, China, The Currency of Truth: Newsmaking and the Late-Socialist Imaginaries of China's Digital Era (U Michigan Press, 2023) 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 set out from the preexisting assumption that news works either to inform or deceive its public(s). It also suggests researchers further explore the “post-public” social and political imaginaries emerging among today’s newsmakers and remaking the terms of their practice.
Emily Chua is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the National University of Singapore, working at the intersections of digital technology, media, capital and authoritarian state politics in China and Singapore. Her articles are published in journals including JRAI, Ethnography, Science, Technology and Society, Asian Studies Review, and China Quarterly.
Yadong Li is a PhD student in anthropology at Tulane University. He conducts ethnography among ufologists in China. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of the paranormal, hope studies, and post-structural philosophy. More details about his scholarship and research interests can be found here.