The Internet and the Ethnic Press: A Study of Network-Based Chinese Publications

Kewen Zhang <>
University of Missouri-Columbia

Xiaoming Hao <>
Nanyang Technological University



The ever-growing Internet is ushering in a new era for the development of mass communication. As bulletin boards, newsgroups, and electronic journals are springing up and more and more, conventional newspapers, magazines and even radio and TV programs are going online, the concept of mass media is being redefined and the impact of technology on the mass media has regained the spotlight.

Historically, the advancement in media technology has always brought about changes in the scene of mass communication. After the movable type printing press was perfected in the late 15th century, books began to reach a greater number of people, making mass communication more of a reality. [1] The development of the cylinder press in the 19th century led to the mass production of newspapers and magazines, resulting in a "penny press" era. Radio and television again extended the boundaries of mass communication and globalized its process. "It has become almost commonplace, in fact, to observe that technology altered the older journalism and created the new mass journalism." [2]

This study is part of the growing efforts to examine the impact of the Internet on mass communication, but it focuses on one particular area: the ethnic press. In many parts of the world, the ethnic media, or the media targeted at a particular ethnic group, have existed along with the mainstream media. In the United States, for example, there used to be more than 1,000 non-English-language ethnic newspapers operating in the same year, [3] and there are still a large number of such publications. Although the ethnic press has been playing an irreplaceable part in the formation and development of ethnic communities in a multi-ethnic society, ethnic publications are known for their "high mortality rate, increasing financial difficulties, and problems in incurring criticisms ... if they attempt to be outspoken organs in their communities." [4] The question then is: Will the Internet contribute to the survival or revitalization of the ethnic press?

With this in mind, the authors examined the case of the overseas Chinese-language press. Specifically, the paper discussed major problems with the conventional Chinese media, reviewed the development of computer network-based Chinese publications, and explored the impact of CMC on the Chinese press as well as the significance of the new technology in maintaining the culture of ethnic groups.

Background information

Commonly understood as a worldwide network of computer networks, the Internet has registered a growth rate unprecedented in the history of communication technologies. In 1991, there were 300,000 "domain," or host, computers linked to the Net. (A domain computer can have one user or more typically, hundreds or even thousands of individual users). In 1994 there were a million domain machines. At the start of 1996, there were some seven million such host systems. [5] As for the number of individual users, "today there are anywhere from 20 to 56 million Internet users." [6] And it is expected to exceed 100 million in 1998. [7]

One of the immediate consequences of the development of the Internet is the growing magnitude of computer-mediated communication, including network-based mass communication. Numerous newsletters, journals and even complete volumes of books are published and circulated on the worldwide computer network thanks to its ease and speed of access. An Internet user can connect to a system on the other side of the globe as easily as (and generally not much slower than) they can connect to a system in the next building. In addition, cost is becoming a less significant inhibitor of usage.

The Internet has blurred the distinction between professionals and amateurs in publishing. What used to be formidable to individuals, such as broadcast of images and audio records on a global scale, is within the reach of common people. What is more, the variety of Internet applications has made it possible for the computer network-based publications to operate in a very flexible and efficient way. Through e-mail, electronic journals can be sent to subscribers instantly no matter where they are. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) lets network users initiate an online connection with another Internet-linked computer to retrieve and store files. More sophisticated Internet tools, such as Gopher, WAIS and the World Wide Web (WWW), go beyond the three basic Internet functions to make information on the Net much easier to locate and retrieve.

The significance of changes the Internet has brought about in mass communication lies in the fact that it has led to an explosion of media players. Starting a news media unit used to be easy. For instance, James Gordon Bennett started the New York World in 1835 with an investment of $500. [8] But it was not long before the multiplicity of media units, an ideal of the libertarian theory of the press, became out of tune with reality. In the same country, the amount of investment required for a large metropolitan newspaper plant today is usually in the millions of dollars. [9]

Within this context, there is good reason to say that the question--whether the Internet can contribute to the survival and revitalization of the ethnic press--deserves our attention. In places where the Internet is accessible, ethnic groups are active in taking the advantage of this new communication technology. Taking the Asians Americans in the United States for example, "there are numerous web sites that point to information on a specific group of Asian Americans" [10]

Surprisingly, however, not much has been done in studying the impact of the Internet on ethnic communication. A search of Eric and Academic Index (File 88:IAC BUSINESS) sections of the Dialog Database, carried out on 14 December 1996, found 12,497 records related to the "Internet," and 29 records related to "ethnic media" or "ethnic press," but no records were returned when the two descriptors were combined.

In a sense, this seems understandable considering the "equal treatment" of all types of media by technological advancement in communication. But if we think twice, we will find technological advance, even before the computer age, had something special for the ethnic group. An example is seen in satellite transmission of television programs from "mother countries" of some ethnic groups. This had proved to be a great boost to ethnic TV stations as these programs increased their audience. By the same token, the Internet, for all the new dimensions it carries, deserves our attention for its role, actual or potential, in revitalizing the ethnic press.

Problems with the overseas Chinese press

The overseas Chinese press is known for its enormous size. Some 30 million Chinese are living outside China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao [11] and constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in dozens of countries. Serving them are a large number of Chinese-language newspapers and magazines, which could be traced well back to the early 19th century, when the first overseas Chinese newspaper San Francisco News was founded in 1854 and the first overseas Chinese daily was founded in 1856. [12] At the beginning of this decade, there were 64 daily Chinese-language newspapers published outside China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. If the weeklies, biweeklies and magazines were included, the total number would reach 300. [13]

Among many other things, the ethnic Chinese publications cover local Chinese communities, report news from the "mother country" and advocate Chinese values, tradition and culture, and by doing so they have greatly contributed to increasing the cohesiveness of the Chinese community. [14] A study of the Chinatown in New York City, for instance, shows that:

Chinese immigrants in the New York City are living in a rather comprehensive Chinese media environment, complete with diverse and familiar sources of print and electronic materials. Chinese media inform immigrants about events that have taken place within and outside their community and about available social service. These media also offer an easy source by which older immigrants can maintain a stabilizing continuity in their cultural and entertainment life and younger immigrants maintain contact with their roots. [15]

However, the overseas Chinese-language press sometimes became a target of suppression, especially in countries where assimilative policies were adopted by the local government. As the Chinese communities grew larger and larger, governments of the host countries often saw such growth as a potential threat to the social harmony and stability of their countries. In the 1960s, for instance, the Thai authorities ordered that no new Chinese newspapers and periodicals be launched when they adopted a policy of assimilation towards the Chinese immigrants. [16] When the Philippine government declared the martial law in 1972, it closed down almost all the Chinese newspapers. [17] Even in the United States where freedom of the press is defended as a pillar of American democracy, publications by Chinese immigrants were also harassed for their support of the People's Republic of China during the Cold War. [18]

The crackdown on the Chinese-language media was often at its height when the relationship between the host country and China turned sour. In the 1960s, when China and Indonesia ran into conflict over the former's support of Indonesian communists, the Indonesia government shut down all Chinese-language papers and Chinese schools, and disbanded all Chinese organizations in the country. [19] When Vietnam clashed with China in the late 1970s, the Vietnamese authorities also closed all Chinese newspapers except the government-run Liberation Daily. Chinese-language newspapers suffered similar fates in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma) during various periods when relationships between China and these countries soured. [20].

Besides political restrictions, the ethnic Chinese press has also been suffering from a decline in the use of the Chinese language. To maintain a sizable audience, the Chinese press depends very much on the Chinese education of second and third generations of Chinese immigrants, yet this has become increasingly more difficult.

Although the overseas Chinese education saw fast development following World War II, it has been suffering continued setbacks since the 1950s. On the one hand, as more and more Chinese immigrants began to be assimilated into the local culture, the second and third generations of Chinese immigrants often could not use the Chinese language effectively to consume the Chinese-language media. On the other hand, the assimilation policy adopted in many countries towards their Chinese population had a direct impact on the education of overseas Chinese. In some Southeast Asian countries, governments imposed restrictions on Chinese schools. Many Chinese schools were closed by various governments; the remaining ones were allowed to teach only a limited number of hours of Chinese lessons per week. [21] Such restrictions were only abolished recently in Thailand and Indonesia after a continuance of nearly 30 years, causing irreversible changes in the Chinese education there. [22] Even in Singapore, where the Chinese constitute the majority of the population, the promotion of English as the language of instruction by the government as a means to promote economic development and social harmony also led to the decline of Chinese education and eventually the closure of Nanyang University, the only Chinese university outside China. [23] One immediate consequence of the declined use of the Chinese language is the shrinking size of readership for the Chinese-language media.

Market competition with the mainstream media causes another problem for the Chinese-language press since it is much more difficult for ethnic media to survive financially. The early overseas Chinese media often faced more financial strains than other media because the potential size of its readership was always limited; and the distribution usually more difficult, with many potential consumers living in faraway and isolated places. As a result, the development of Chinese-language press has been fluctuating all the time, with a fast rate of coming and going. For example, of the 10 Chinese dailies published in the United States in the 1980s, more than half of them are gone today. [24]

In the early days of Chinese-language press, a newspaper was often started as a mission rather than a viable financial operation. In most cases, the Chinese-language media were financed by Chinese businessmen through individual or collective investment. [25] Such investment was usually aimed at providing a community service rather than generating profits. In contemporary times, such a practice has become increasingly more difficult with the investment required for a large metropolitan newspaper reaching millions of dollars. [26]

Because of these and many other problems, predictions about the future of the ethnic Chinese press are often pessimistic. Reviewing the development of the Chinese press in the United States, Lai noted that "(p)ublishing a Chinese newspaper was not, nor is it now, a lucrative business." [27] As for the situation elsewhere, Lent also noted that Chinese language newspapers in the Philippines and other places in Southeast Asia were hamstrung by language, production and legal problems, diminishing circulation, limited advertising and feeling of insecurity, and saw the beginning of the end. [28] Statistics provided in The Ethnic Press in the United States gives a good footnote to the Chinese press. In 1917, there were 1,323 ethnic newspapers in the United States, but the number fell to 1,037 after World War II following the shrinking pool of newcomers, and further to 698 in 1960. [29]

In recent decades, the ethnic Chinese press has made a comeback as large numbers of Chinese immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China moved to other parts of the world, expanding the potential market for the Chinese-language media. In addition, restrictions on Chinese education and Chinese press in some countries have also been lifted or moderated with the growing importance of Chinese-speaking regions in the world. Viewed historically, however, the revival of Chinese media in recent decades does not mean that the factors causing the Chinese press to decline are no longer there. The gaining of new audience among the new immigrants, for instance, is concurrent with the loss of market among the second or third generations of Chinese immigrants.

Chinese communication over the Internet

The use of the Internet by the overseas Chinese for mass communication can be traced back at least to the late 1980s when students from mainland China studying in North America started the English-language newsletter China Global News. By now, the Chinese students have launched dozens of electronic publications based in almost all the developed countries. [30] In addition, Chinese students also opened up a number newsgroups on the Usenet, such as soc.culture.china, talk.politics.china, and alt.chinese.text, with the last being the most popular Chinese-language discussion group among Chinese students all over the world. Two large capacity archive sites, CND.ORG and IFCSS.ORG, were set up in 1993 to store most of the Chinese electronic journals and other Chinese materials. Two Web sites ( and were set up in 1994 to cater to the needs of Chinese netters.

Chinese students were soon followed by other overseas Chinese groups. In the United States, the Southern Chinese Newspapers started a Global Chinese Electronic Daily News in 1995, targeting ethnic Chinese throughout the United States. In 1996, the Chicago-based Chinese American Internet News ( was launched to serve readers in middle America. At the local level, Taiwan immigrants in Southern California are served by quite a few networks and electronic publications on the Web, such as the Lake Forest BBS and the New Asian Electronic News & Forums. In Canada, Zhonghua Daobao, targeting Canadian Chinese, was launched in 1995, and the Eastern China Times, a Montreal-based newspaper, also went online. In Europe, the list of Chinese-language electronic journals includes Nordic Chines (Chinese in Northern Europe), and Viking, a Sweden-based Chinese journal on popular science. In South America, Chinese organizations there started a Brazil-China Home Page, ( In Southeast Asia countries, where the development of the Internet lags relatively behind, some Chinese language newspapers have also been put online, including Malaysia's Sinchow Daily, Philippine's Siongpo and Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao. In Japan, the Chinese Computing Club was formed on the Internet to exchange news, opinions and computing information. [31] And in Oceania, the New Zealand Asia News went online to start its WWW Edition in 1996.

Statistics show a growing readership penetration by these publications. For example, the Chinese students' China News Digest-Global had some 35,000 direct subscribers by March 1995, located in 50 countries and regions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America and South America, where the total number of Chinese students is estimated to reach 200,000. [32] Table 1 shows the growth of the CND readership.

Table 1. CND Readership Since 1989
Period Direct Subscribers Countries & Regions
March 1989 400 2
March 1990 16,000 N/A
March 1993 24,148 30
March 1994 34,281 40
March 1995 35,200 50

Source: CND special issues published on 6 March 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, respectively.

The growing readership of Chinese students' electronic publications is also indicated by the growing number of users of FTP and Gopher to search the archive sites where Chinese publications are stored. According to CND, more than 17,000 users visit the CND.ORG archive and retrieve about 50,000 documents every week. [33] Another Gopher server, Sunrise at Montreal, Canada [34] also registered a continued increase in the numbers of users (sees Table 2).

Table 2. Monthly Visits to the Sunrise Chinese-Language Gopher Site in Canada
Months Files Read Visits
November 1994 113,129 11,839
December 1994 118,120 12,725
March 1995 316,899 36,236
April 1995 336,273 44,968
August 1996 1,027,283 141,024

Source: Compiled from Sunrise Gopher server's monthly records. [35]

The use of the World Wide Web page of CND ( is even more frequent. CND' s statistics in early 1996 showed that this Web site received some 87,000 requests a day, or about half a million a week. According to figures released by Huaxia Wenzhai (CND-Chinese Magazine, accessible at on 26 December 1996, the Web site received approximate 1.5 million hits a week. In addition, there were about 33,000 file transfers from the anonymous FTP site ( every week. Besides, there were still some 15,151 subscribers to CND-Chinese Magazine's Listserv mailing list. Table 3 shows the access statistics for CND.ORG Web site before 1996.

Table 3. Use of the CND.ORG Web Site
Periods Files Transmitted Daily Bytes Transmitted Daily
19 May to 29 Sep (1994) 663 6,696,717
29 Sep to 13 Nov (1994) 2,507 32,857,490
1 Aug to 31 Aug (1995) 76,256 1,448,179,490
Nov to 30 Nov (1995) 103,140 2,047,702,749

Source: "World-Wide Web Access Statistics for" accessible at

Statistics for other Chinese computer media are difficult to collect. But Sinanet, a new WWW-based electronic plaza dedicated to the community of Taiwan immigrants, claims to get over half a million hits each day on its three servers. [36] The Global Chinese Daily News, which was launched in September 1995 by the Taiwan-immigrant-oriented Southern Chinese Newspapers in the United States, received more than 6,000 visits per week in March 1996. [37] The Walton infoNet (, a U.S.-based Chinese online service since 1994, claimed in December 1996 that its home page received more than 50,000 visits a day.

A new turn for the ethnic Chinese press

Although the Internet is still fledgling and computer media are not yet in a position to replace the traditional media, there are already signs that computer-mediated mass communication is bringing about a new turn for the conventional Chinese-language press by solving or easing some of its problems.

First, with the Internet publications, the Chinese press as a whole is more likely to survive political suppressions. On the one hand, the new technology straddles the border between a mass medium and interpersonal medium with a convergence of mail, information retrieval, message posting and broadcasting functions. That means an interpersonal exchange of information could easily result in a mass broadcast, and the blending of personal communication and mass communication makes it difficult for censors to decide where and when to strike. On the other hand, the global nature of computer-mediated communication has drastically changed the way information is disseminated, making it hard to identify and terminate the source of origin. A government will find it more difficult to keep its people from publicizing and receiving information. In other words, although the Internet does not necessarily lead to change in government attitude towards the Chinese publications, it reduces the effects of restrictions imposed on them.

Second, with the Internet publications, the Chinese press as a whole is more likely to overcome financial difficulties, as evidenced by the case of the Chinese students' publications. Almost all of the dozens of Chinese student publications were started by using university facilities and relying on voluntary work, with little financial investment. [38] On the other hand, to those organizations unable to take the advantages of free services, the commercial Internet service is basically affordable. Take the SuperPrism Net in the United States for example. The setup fee for the Dedicated Web Server [39] is $2,500, with a monthly maintenance fee of $500 (as of February 1996). Depending on the type of services, prices for non-profit organizations range from $15 to $500 for setup and from $5 to $20 for monthly maintenance fee. [40] In short, with the Internet as a network for distribution, launching a publication is no longer a formidable undertaking. It has made it possible for media operations to survive on subsidies, donations and voluntary work as non-profit organizations. The China Monthly (Minzhu Zhongguo), one of quite a few Chinese-language magazines run by Chinese dissidents in the United States, had been depending on grants, donations, and voluntary work to maintain its operation, but it ceased to exist as a print publication in 1995 when financial support drained. [41] Nevertheless, the magazine found a new birth over the Internet by launching an online edition in 1996. [42] If the number of ethnic Chinese media organizations on the whole had been decreasing before the Internet, the new technology is turning the table.

Third, the Internet has expanded the role of the traditional mass media by blending their news function with entertainment and education. The diversified services provided by the Internet allow Chinese immigrants in various parts of the world to form numerous archive sites from which users can receive not only news, but also literary works, educational materials, audio and video records. These archive sites will prove to be significant in helping the Chinese immigrants and their children to maintain their cultural roots. For example, the Web page at directs the surfers to the following materials:

Prospects of the ethnic Chinese press

The significance of the Internet does not just lie in solving or alleviating problems faced by the conventional Chinese press but also in contributing to the development of the ethnic Chinese press in other aspects.

First, the vacuums left by the conventional press in the past will be filled up. As the Table 4 shows, the distribution of ethnic Chinese is uneven, with the majority of Chinese immigrants located in Southeast Asia and North America. In other areas, the Chinese communities may not be large enough to support their own media.

Table 4. Distribution of Ethnic Chinese in the World
Countries Chinese Population (in Millions)
Indonesia 7.2
Thailand 5.8
Malaysia 5.2
Singapore 2.0
Burma 1.5
Vietnam 0.8
Philippines 0.8
Rest of Asia and Australia 1.8
United States 1.8
Canada 0.6
Latin America 1.0
Europe 0.6
Africa 0.1

Source: Overseas Chinese Economy Yearbook, reprinted in The Economist, 18 July 1992

In Britain, for instance, there are only two Chinese-language newspapers, which are the European editions of two Hong Kong newspapers, Singdao Daily and Wenhui Daily, in addition to two irregularly published bilingual periodicals. [43] On the other hand, in countries where Chinese are concentrated, the distribution of Chinese media is also uneven. In North America, Chinese immigrants are mainly located in a few large cities. Chinese immigrants in other places are also short of their own community media.

The development of the Internet provides Chinese communities, no matter how small they are, with the means to communicate among themselves on a massive scale. For example, Chinese residents in Columbus, Ohio, in the United States have taken advantage of the new technology to set up their own home page "The Chinese Community in Great Columbus" (URL: These pages cover local Chinese activities, points to two local Chinese electronic journals--Overseas Campus (Christian) and Liaoyuan, and links to the Web page of the Ohio Contemporary Chinese School and two other Chinese organizations, helping to strengthen the awareness of local Chinese residents of their community.

Second, there will be more specialized and cross-regional publications, which help foster the establishment of virtual communities among Chinese immigrants. It has long been established that the level of communication has a direct bearing on how far a community can stretch. When communication relies just on word of mouth or other primitive means, a community is understandably small because the means for communication are spatially limited. A community, in such a sense, is a "physical concentration of people who are spatially delimited." [44] New communication technologies have made it possible for a community to evolve out of its physical boundaries. It can simply exist among people "bound by a sense of identity, shared values, and, at least within areas of communicable action, a common language." [45] A community, in this broader sense, is a social group. [46] For example, Steiner, in a study on the role of newspapers and journals produced by 19th-century woman suffragists, discussed how these media helped American women to locate themselves in an exciting but entirely plausible community and find there a sense of significance and purpose. [47]

The ethnic Chinese press, enormous as it is, lacks such specialized as well as cross-regional and international publications. A review of overseas Chinese publications listed in China Journalism Yearbook and in the Proceedings of International Conference on International Chinese Press and Chinese Cultural Communication shows that the overseas Chinese newspapers and magazines are mostly general news publications either at "national" or "local" levels. Publications devoted to special interest groups, especially cross-country interest groups of overseas Chinese, are rare. The lack of such publications has much to do, among other things, with the fact that specialized publications find it hard to generate enough readers within their existing distribution networks and there are no efficient distribution systems for international publications.

With the Internet, distribution will no longer be a problem as computer media can reach anywhere as long as it is covered by the Internet. The Internet acts as a distribution system better than any distribution systems employed by the conventional media. As a result, there have been a much greater variety of specialized Chinese publications on the Internet than are available in the conventional media. These include Xinyusi, a culture-oriented electronic journal; Huazhao, [48] a journal of literature for women; Yuwen yu Xinxi, [49] a journal devoted to the study of the Chinese language; Mirage, a journal for science fiction stories in Chinese; Soccer World, the first Internet soccer magazine in Chinese; East Asian Diplomacy and Defense, a Canadian journal devoted to China-related diplomacy and defense issues; and Olive Tree, a Chinese journal devoted to poetry.

While these specialized publications may differ in the subjects they cover, they have one thing in common. They all target particular groups of Chinese immigrants living in different places. They gather around them various groups of Chinese with the same interests, thus contributing to the formation of virtual communities "unbounded by geographical, temporal or other physical barriers." [50]

In addition, the Internet provides the means to set up forums for overseas Chinese to come together to discuss issues of common interest. For instance, Chinese newsgroups on the Usenet serve as town meetings to allow Chinese immigrants to freely exchange views on Chinese-related issues, pulling its participants together to form virtual groups of "like-minded individuals, regardless of where they live, work, or play..." [51] the following is a list of such newsgroups, which shows how wide and extensive their coverage is.

Worldwide China/Chinese Newsgroups
Local China/Chinese Newsgroups

Source: "The Complete Reference to China/Chinese-Related Web Site" (

Fourth, the Internet allows a more direct link between the Chinese immigrants overseas with their home country, which is economically and politically divided into the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. Before the Internet came onto the scene, only the most powerful media from these regions were able to penetrate into the overseas Chinese groups. Most information about the mother country and regions was relayed by the local media to Chinese immigrants. With more and more publications from these regions going online, Chinese immigrants will be able to acquire such information firsthand, thus promoting closer ties between these regions and the overseas Chinese communities. Currently, overseas Net surfers can be informed about China by accessing information directly from China through at least the following sources:

There are even more online Chinese publications from Taiwan, which has put nearly 60 publications on the Net. These publications, together with Chinese publications launched overseas, help to form a much larger Chinese community in cyberspace. If cyberspace is driving the world to become a global village, the Chinese condominium within the global village is already taking shape.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the Chinese electronic publications are by no means in a position to replace the traditional overseas Chinese media at this stage depite their fast growth. Their role in communication among the overseas Chinese is still supplementary. A major problem with the Internet as a vehicle for mass communication is that it still remains a medium for the elite. The reason that the Internet has become a popular means for communication among the overseas Chinese lies in the fact that the new Chinese immigrants are dominated by the better educated. The computer network-based publications may have successfully satisfied the needs of the better educated Chinese immigrants for Chinese-related information, but they cannot yet replace the traditional media for mass communication among the overseas Chinese as a whole.

In addition to its elite nature, the Internet among overseas Chinese is also faced with the problem of incompatibility of different coding systems. Differences between the GB code used in China and Big5 code used in Taiwan, like differences in the complex and simplified Chinese characters, are still splitting the world of Chinese communication over the Internet despite the fact that more and more compatible software titles have been produced to solve the problem.


Changes brought about by new technologies are never confined to what is technical. As Rae put it, "The history of technology is the study of the changes through which economic, cultural, and military techniques have evolved and of the social, economic, and political consequences those changes have produced." [52] Within this context, this paper has shown how the Internet could help the ethnic press as well as the overseas Chinese communities to survive and revitalize by maintaining and expanding their communication networks.

Despite the large number of Chinese immigrants in various parts of the world, the ethnic Chinese press has been on the decline due to political restrictions, financial strains and the decline of Chinese education overseas. Although the new waves of immigration from China and other Chinese-speaking regions over the last two decades helped to boost the development of ethnic Chinese press overseas for the time being, there is no guarantee that the new immigrants and their children will not follow the steps of earlier immigrants in being culturally assimilated.

The development of the Internet is thus bringing a new leaf to the life of overseas Chinese language press by effectively easing its problems. Moreover, the Internet is also helping to expand the functions of the traditional media by offering more diversified and specialized communication among overseas Chinese.

Considering the role the ethnic press plays in the formation and consolidation of ethnic communities, the impact of the Internet goes far beyond the fields of publication. It has long been established that minority language newspapers helped minority people to keep their ethnic identity [53] because they function to pass on knowledge, values and norms from one generation to another or from the members of a society to newcomers. In this way they serve to increase social cohesion by widening the base of common experience. [54] It is in this sense that the ethnic press is said to be a force in adjusting the balance between the maintenance of native ways and adoption of new ways of life by immigrants, who are pulled in two directions. [55]

Chinese immigrants, with 30 million of them living in dozens of countries, [56] constitute one of the largest and most distinctive minority communities in the world. These ethnic Chinese, to varying degrees, have maintained their cultural identity. A 1994 Far East Economic Review report, for instance, said that in Southeast Asia, "the many Overseas Chinese continue to generate controversy and sometimes hostility as non-Chinese residents of Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries allege that the Overseas Chinese resist assimilation ...." [57] Besides a variety of factors, such as marriage among themselves, residence in compact communities and attendance in Chinese schools, [58] exposure to Chinese mass media, first newspapers and magazines and then radio and television broadcasting, is found to have contributed to the preservation of the cultural identity of ethnic Chinese in various parts of the world. With the Internet, the ethnic Chinese are expected to become more resistant to cultural assimilation and further strengthen their communal ties.

The Internet has thus brought about a new phase in the media and ethnic community relationship. If many previous studies found that the use of the ethnic press contributes to the slowdown of the process of acculturation, [59] or assimilation of ethnic groups into the mainstream culture in a multi-ethnic society, then in the age of the Internet, the role of mass communication in fortifying the cultural traits of ethnic immigrants is expected to be further strengthened. As McLuhan and Powers predicted, the "electronic proximity" brought about by new technologies will help the Chinese and other major ethnic groups in North America or elsewhere set up self-sufficient, electronically coordinate enclosures. [60]


[1] Tony Schwartz, "Mass communication," The Software Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia (Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1992).

[2] Calder M. Pickett, "Technology and the New York Press in the 19th Century," Journalism Quarterly (Vol. 36, 1960), p. 398.

[3] See Sally M. Miller (ed), The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), XIII. The book said, "The following statistics on non-English-language newspapers in the United States (exclusive American Indian publications) have been compiled from a number of authors: 794 in 1884; 1,163 in 1900; 1,323 in 1917; 1,037 in 1930; 698 in 1960; and 960 in 1975."

[4] Rosanne Singer, "Ethnic Newspapers in the United States." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism (61st, Seattle, Washington, 13-16 August 1978).

[5] Radio and Television News Director Foundation: Wired Journalist: Newsroom Guide to the Internet (Washington D.C. Radio and Television News Director Foundation, 1996), pp. 6-7.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jayne Levin, "Businesses Are Making the Internet Connection: More Companies Are Turning To This Data Superhighway to Find And Serve Customers," InfoWorld, 21 (24 May 1993), p. 71.

[8] Ray Eldon Hiebert, Donald F. Ungurait, Thomas W. Bohn, Mass Media, an Introduction to Modern Communication (London: David McKay Company, 1974), p. 121.

[9] Ibid.

[10] See "Virtual community: Diversity & ethnic studies." Available WWW:

[11] Sources: The Republic Of China Yearbook 1995. Available WWW:

[12] Fang Hanqi, "Chinese People, Chinese Language and Chinese Publications," Communication Research Newsletter (December 1995).

[13] Fang Jigeng & Hu Wenying, "A Review of the Present Condition and Prospects for Chinese Press Abroad," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), p. 47.

[14] Li Jianmin, "Tentative Views on the Role of the Chinese Press in Disseminating Chinese Culture in Southeast Asian Region," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), p. 167.

[15] Casey Man Kong Lum, "Communication and Cultural Insularity: the Chinese Immigrant Experience," Critical Studies in Mass Communication (No. 1, 1991), pp. 95-96.

[16] Wu Tingjun, "The Historical Stages of the Development of Overseas Chinese Publications," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), pp. 42-47.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Wang Shigu, "History of Overseas Chinese Publications," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), pp. 29-34.

[19] Wu Tingjun, op. cit.

[20] Fang Xiongpu & Xie Chengjia, Overseas Chinese (Beijing: China Overseas Chinese Publishing House, 1993).

[21] Hong Yilong & Liang Honghao, "Changes in Chinese Publications in Southeast Asia Since the 1960s," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), pp. 160-64.

[22] Fang Jigen & Hu Wenying, "Overseas Chinese Publications: Current Situation and Future Perspectives," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), pp. 35-41.

[23] Robert Stephen Milne, Singapore: The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990).

[24] Each issue of the China Journalism Yearbook (Beijing: People's Daily Press and China Journalism Press) carries a column "Overseas Chinese-Language Newspapers" to review the development of Chinese-language dailies in various countries . In the 1984 issue, 10 such papers were listed under the heading "the United States," but in the 1993 issue, more than half of them were no longer listed. And they had been reported earlier to have been closed.

[25] Chen Meifang "Scholar-Businessmen and the Overseas Chinese Language Press," Proceedings of the 1995 International Conference on the Chinese-Language Press and Communication of Culture (Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, 1995), pp. 20-24.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Sally M. Milliter (ed.), The Ethnic Press in The United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook (Greenwood Press, New York, 1987), p. 39.

[28] John A. Lent, "The Troubled Chinese Daily of the Philippine," Journalism Quarterly (Vol. 47, 1971) p. 131.

[29] Sally M. Milliter, op. cit.

[30] These publications fall into three categories: United States-based but globally circulated journals, national or regional publications, and university-based publications.

[31] See Zhou Bin, "Welcome to the CCJ," Dong Bei Feng, No.17. Available WWW:

[32] Xinhua News Agency, "More Chinese scholars abroad returning to Shanghai," (21 April 1995).

[33] See CND-GLOBAL special issues (6 March 1994 and 6 March 1995). Available WWW:

[34] Available WWW: gopher://

[35] The records are available at gopher:// on WWW.

[36] See "Introduction" to the home page of SinaNet at

[37] The access figures were originally available at, now at

[38] "The Making of China News Digest," CND-Global Special Issue in Celebration of CND's Third Anniversary (6 March 1992). Available WWW:

[39] Dedicated Web Server means the exclusive Web advertising server for corporate clients with the machine owned by the client and run under an exclusive domain name by the choice of the client pending InterNIC registration approval, such as

[40] See

[41] The China Monthly announced in February 1996 that it stopped publishing its print edition. See

[42] Ibid.

[43] Fang Jigen & Hu Wenying, op. cit.

[44] George A. Hillery Jr., "Definitions of Community: Areas of Agreement," Rural Sociology, 10 (1995), p. 111.

[45] William J. Goode, "Community Within a Community: The Professions," American Sociological Review, 20 (1955), p. 194.

[46] E.T. Hiller, "The Community as a Social Group," American Sociological Review, 6 (1941), p. 189.

[47] Linda Steiner, "Finding Community in Nineteenth Century Suffrage Periodicals," American Journalism, 8 (Summer 1991), p. 1.

[48] Available WWW: gopher://

[49] Available WWW: gopher://

[50] Anne Wells Branscomb, "Anonymity, autonomy, and accountability: Challenges to the First Amendment in Cyberspaces (Emerging Media Technology and the First Amendment)," Yale Law Journal, 104 (May 1995), pp. 1639-79.

[51] Ibid.

[52] John B. Rae, "History of Technology," The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia-Release 6 (Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc. 1993).

[53] Rosanne Singer, op. cit.

[54] Werner J. Severin and James W. Tankard, Communication Theories, (New York: Hastings House, 1984), p. 213.

[55] Won H. Chang, "Mass communication and acculturation." Paper presented to the Minorities and Communication Division at the Association for Education in Journalism annual convention, (57th, San Diego, 18-21 August 1974).

[56] Sources: The Republic Of China Yearbook 1995. Available WWW:

[57] George Hicks and J.A.C. Mackie, Far Eastern Economic Review, 157 (14 July 1994), p. 46.

[58] Wei-Na Lee and David K Tse, "Becoming Canadian: Understanding how Hong Kong immigrants change their consumption," Pacific Affairs, 67 (Spring 1994, No. 1), p. 70.

[59] Marshal McLuhan and Bruce R. Powers, The Global Village (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 85.

[60] Ibid.