Title page for ETD etd-11122006-232902

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Chen, Xiaowei
Author's Email Address xchen9@lsu.edu
URN etd-11122006-232902
Title Whose Input Counts and Which Paradigm Prevails? A Content Analysis of Mass-Mediated Debate on U.S.-China Relations in 1990s and a Policy Critique on Republican Virtue of the Policy Tradeoff
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Mass Communication
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Ralph Izard Committee Chair
Eileen R. Meehan Committee Member
James R. Stoner, Jr. Committee Member
Robert Kirby Goidel Committee Member
Irvin Peckham Dean's Representative
  • opinion-policy process
  • communitarian journalism
  • republican virtue of foreign policy making
  • media democracy
  • policy tradeoff
Date of Defense 2006-09-07
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines the public opinion-public policy nexus with regard to the making of U.S.-China policy during the Clinton administration (1992-2000). The researcher investigates how the mass media discourse on U.S.-China relations relates to the policy tradeoff between economic interdependence and confrontation on human rights. Particularly, the quantitative study of the media discourse is placed within a Communitarian perspective to determine: (1) whether the policy tradeoff can claim to have the support of public opinion; (2) whether the media discourse originated from the active civic participation; and (3) how the policy tradeoff broke its promise. As a result, the researcher concludes that the eclipse of co-operative inquiry of the U.S. public, the ascendancy of issue management of special stakeholders, and the entanglement between newsmaking and policy-making may have jeopardized the republican virtue of U.S. diplomacy.

First, the researcher contextualizes U.S.-China relations and relates it to the dynamics of U.S. foreign policy choices among four national interests: power, prosperity, principle, and peace. Then, the researcher sets the Communitarian theory of the press as a normative theory of media democracy and incorporates other positive theories of political communication to make sense of the dilemma of the current media democracy. Following that, a content analysis of the New York Times and Cable News Network examined: (1) who said what; (2) which perspective prevails; (3) the correlation between newsmaking and policy-making; and (4) the congruence/dissension between policy beltway and other social groups.

The finding suggests a significant correlation between/among the policy proposal, the author of that proposal, and the issue/frame espoused; on the other hand, the conspicuous differences among policy-makers, ordinary citizens (issue public), and professional communicators in regard to the policy trade-off indicates a low public accountability of the policy tradeoff. To explain the discrepancy, the investigator examined corporate America's issue management of U.S.-China trade and put the policy tradeoff into the perspective of capitalistic globalization theory. Finally, the lack of republican virtue is explained as a result of corporate-driven diplomacy and the media discourse short of civic participation. Henceforward, a Communitarian press becomes recommendable for the rejuvenation of media democracy.

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