Localism in Internet governance: The rise of China's provincial web

Angela Xiao Wu, Luzhou Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Often analysing ‘the Chinese Internet’ as a national entity, existing research has overlooked China's provincially oriented web portals, which have supplied information and entertainment to substantial user populations. Through the lenses of the critical political economy of media and critical media industry studies, this article traces the ascendance of China's provincial web from the late 1990s to the early 2000s by analysing industry yearbooks, official reports, conference records, personal memoirs, archived webpages, and user traffic data. We uncover interactions between Internet service providers, legacy media organizations, commercial Internet companies, and the central and local governments – each driven by discrete economic interests, political concerns, and imaginaries about the new technology. Delineating the emergence and consolidation of China's provincial web, our study foregrounds the understudied political economy of online content regionalization at scale. Further, it sheds new light on Chinese media policy, Internet governance, and Internet histories, especially the widely noted conservative turn of online cultures after the mid-2010s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-282
Number of pages21
JournalChina Information
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Internet governance
  • cyber sovereignty
  • localism
  • media policy
  • propaganda
  • regionalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • General Social Sciences


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