The Praised and the Obscured: Examining the media representation of rural education aid in China
Chinese rural are facing a huge impact from the market economy since the Reform and Opening Up. Accompanied by the severe gap in urban and rural economic development is the extreme lack of educational resources in underdeveloped rural China. With the introduction of Xi Jinping’s “Rural Revitalization Strategy”, rural education development issues attract continuous media and academic attention. Yet, the media representation of rural education aid (zhi jiao) has been rather neglected from the previous academic discussions. In the mediated society, how media represents this long-standing development measure to alleviate rural education problems is crucial to how the public understands and imagines the rural and its development. Critical discourse analysis and thematic analysis are applied to collected mainstream media content (2019-2021) to investigate how rural education aid is represented in China. Findings suggest that the media representation of rural education aid discursively constitutes the state development ideology. Advocating state policy of development overshadows aid practice in mainstream media representation. Furthermore, by setting up the binary between the rural and the urban, it reveals the huge development injustice between the rural and the urban. Yet it also reinforces the stereotype of rural China, thus justifies the status quo. Moreover, the media representation of different social actors reveals the unequal power relations in development. While the rural community is voiceless and denied agency, the entrepreneurs are given voice and commendable media representation. Such representation is problematic, and it has the risk of further marginalize the rural community.