Communication Control and its Impact on Political Legitimacy in Four Asian Cities

Puay-Hoe Chua

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the relationship between perceptions of communication control and political legitimacy. Four Asian cities (Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei) are compared and analysed as these societies have different levels of governmental influence in the media landscape while having similarities in other aspects. Importantly, the media systems in the societies to be analysed are often ranked vastly different by international civil society organizations. While vastly different in media control policy, these societies are frequently analysed together as they are at similar level of economic development and frequently seen to be of Confucian heritage culture that emphasizes on collectivism and deference to authority.

A survey (n=830) was conducted with university students from the four cities and OLS regression models are utilised for analysis. Perception of economic performance predicts support of government, hence supporting the view of performance legitimacy. Perception of the importance of media freedom predicts support of government for Beijing’s respondents with those placing less importance to media freedom being more supportive of the government. This suggest that respondents from Beijing have internalised and accepted media control as necessary for the country. Assessment of higher level of freedom speech in general significantly predict higher support for the government in Beijing, Singapore and Taipei. This suggest that communication controls that impact on individuals will lower political support. Data from Hong Kong displays quite different results from other cities, suggesting that there are conflicting values amongst the respondents as Hong Kong undergoes transitions in its political landscape.

This research also conducted focus groups in the four cities. The data shows that third person effect is common in all cities as most respondents think that some media control is needed as “others” may not have the literacy or ability to critique information. Scepticism is also a common theme across the four cities with respondents from Beijing and Singapore being sceptical of media while respondents from Hong Kong and Taipei are sceptical of the government.
This thesis argues that a moderate level of scepticism is beneficial for process legitimacy as scepticism towards the government would push people to monitor the government. Respondents from Hong Kong and Taipei show more willingness to consider contentious policy and think that government cover ups are unlikely with a free press. However, being highly sceptical of media hinders crisis communication and places undue pressure on performance legitimacy. Finally, implications within the context of widespread disinformation and economic slowdown for the cities are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • O'Loughlin, Ben, Supervisor
Award date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021

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