Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan L. Woodward

Committee Members

Vincent Boudreau

John Torpey

Subject Categories

Communication Technology and New Media | Comparative Politics | Mass Communication | Other Political Science | Other Sociology | Politics and Social Change | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Influence and Political Communication | Social Media


China, state theory, mass media, social media, new media, censorship


In this dissertation, I employ a Weberian concept of social power in order to theorize the challenges posed by, and the varieties of state response to, the dilemma of state power: the need of all states to empower societies with social capacities that may, in turn, threaten state interests. Through a comparison of traditional and new forms of media in China, I show that rather than posing qualitatively new types of challenges to authoritarian states, new media exacerbate the dilemma of state power. They do so because along each of three dimensions of social control, new media shift the relationship between social actors and the means of social power away from conditions most conducive to state intervention. Although the state's most comprehensive interventions into society are direct, centralized, and preemptive, exercised over social capacities that are expropriated, concentrated, and dependent, new media engender conditions in which critical social capacities—to author, publish, distribute, or consume media content—are held privately, diffusely, and may be employed more independently.

Case studies from China support my contention that the kinds of interventions states make in order to control political speech reflect interactions between states and social actors constrained by distinct features of the various media ecologies within which media are employed. These interventions vary, not simply between new and traditional forms of media, but also among the traditional media and, indeed, within them. Thus, lessons about how control would be exercised over new media were foreshadowed by how control was exercised over traditional forms of media.