East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

April 4, Shilin Jia and Linzhuo Li, “New Wine in Old Bottles: Ideological Creation of Market in China’s People’s Daily, 1946-2003”


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society presents


 New Wine in Old Bottles: Ideological Creation of Market in China’s People’s Daily, 1946-2003”


Shilin Jia and Linzhuo Li

PhD students, Department of Sociology

University of Chicago

4:30-6:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

*Light refreshments will be served*


How could a new ideological regime be established upon and finally substitutes lasting old ideas, institutions, and culture that tend to have strong inertia to persist? For example, one of the most surprising transformations in the 20th century was China’s embrace of market economy under the leadership of a communist party. Such long-term ideological transformations haven’t been analyzed in a systematic way. In this study, we attempt to answer how these transformations could have happened by applying computational content analysis to the full text of the communist party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, from 1946 to 2003. Various exploratory techniques were applied to analyze changing patterns in word frequencies and word embedding spaces in 58 years of newspaper articles. We found that, first, there was persistent path dependency in the party state’s ideology, especially in the economic domain. After the Cultural Revolution, except one or two historical junctures, the party state’s official rhetoric, in the grand scheme, had moved in a very smooth and linear fashion in almost all the time. Second, the transformation was initiated in the late 1970s by first utilizing some existing 1950s repertoires. Third, after some unsuccessful ’trial and error’ in the 1980s, the concept of “market economy” was finally settled down in the mid-1990s in a safe harbor under the main scheme of “socialist reform”. Our methods are useful to detect less-known historical junctures and our findings furthers a Weberian understanding that ideology and culture should be viewed as a semi-autonomous social sphere that interact with other social processes with its own logic.

In the first half of this talk, we’ll introduce the general usefulness of our data analytic techniques in getting rich information from the huge corpus of 58 years of People’s Daily articles. We’ll spend the second half discussing the main findings that are particularly pertinent to our research interest.

About the Speakers

Shilin Jia is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Sociology at University of Chicago. He is interested in applying computational methods to studying macro social-historical change and modeling large-scale stochastic social processes in time.

Linzhuo Li is a 3rd year PhD student in the Sociology Department at the University of Chicago. His research interests are mostly related to various kinds of “substitutions”: evolvement of local financial system, reform of credit unions in China, dynamics of online ideology groups and transformation of ideology.

*To learn more about the full Spring 2017 schedule, please visit: Spring Schedule



Faculty sponsors:

Xi Song (Sociology),  Dali Yang (Political Science),  and Dingxin Zhao (Sociology)

The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.



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