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Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and CulturesA14, Elvet Riverside I+44 (0) 191 33 43417
Curator (Oriental Museum) in the University Library and Collections  


My research focuses on the study of Chinese media and communication with three strands of interest. The first is concerned with the role of the media in transforming traditional China into a modern society. The second is the impact of language use in the media that shapes people’s perceptions of reality, and how they respond to rapid social changes. The third examines mutual media representations between China and the West, focusing on identity reproduction through the image of the other. My central concern in all these strands is the way in which the mass media impact on the ability of humans to make sense of the world they live in.

Currently I am working on a book ‘Communicating an Alternative Modernity in China’ that investigates China’s modern state-building as a unique form of Chinese approach to modernity from the perspective of China’s classical political philosophy. It investigates the way in which the state media construct public consensus, collective identities and common purposes in China’s current transformations underpinned increasingly by traditional assumptions of politics rather than Western post-enlightenment values promoted in late Qing and Republican periods. I am also working on a publication project as the section editor of the Chinese Film, Media and Communication as part of the Routledge Research Encyclopaedia on Chinese Studies.

My new monograph The Language of Nation-State Building in Late Qing China examines the pivotal role of the late Qing press in transforming China's universalist empire into a modern nation-state. The book is based on a project funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Open World Research Initiative that I completed in 2021. My project translating modernity: a linguistic investigation of the migration of western ideas to China around the turn into the 20th century investigate how concepts rooted in European values were linguistically reconstructed in China’s early modern press and how it shaped intellectual and political discussions about fundamental issues on how to modernize China.
Previously I completed two British Academy-funded research projects. Both examined the way in which the media actively promote a developmentalist identity of the post-reform China contextualised in the historical drive for an industrialist modernity.

My book China under Western Gaze is the first book-length study of the British television documentaries’ representation of China in the pivotal years of 1980-2000. Drawing on Vladimir Propp’s dramatis personae, I analysed the mythic and mimetic narratives of the documentary texts and visual images. The book details how the 1980s’ fascination with a ‘rediscovered’ cultural China turned into the 1990s’ repulsion of a political China; and how the sudden change in a single decade is intricately linked to the global shift of geopolitics from the cold war to the post-cold war world.

I have supervised PhD students working on a range of topics, including the British Conceptions of China and Japan in the 19th century, the BBC reporting of China, Western newsmagazine reporting of US-China and US-Japan trade wars, the 19th century English newspaper representation of China, BBC reporting of Saudi Arabia, Chinese literary representation of modernity in Republican China, discursive construction of China’s national identity, China's diplomatic language, and representation of women in newspapers from late Qing to contemporary China. I would welcome enquiries from students who wish to pursue PhDs in similar fields and those related to my research interests. Proposals that use corpus linguistics as a research method are welcome.


Research interests

  • Mass media and society
  • Late Qing press
  • Western reporting of China
  • China's modern intellectual history
  • Chinese linguistics and translation


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

Edited Journal

  • Cao, Qing & Wu, Doreen (2017). Modern Chinese Identities at the Crossroads. Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies, 31 (6): Routledge.

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • Cao, Qing (2019). Hong Kong protests: why Chinese media reports focus on Britain's colonial past. The Conversation
  • Cao, Qing (2008). Changing Perspectives on China. Guanxi: The China Letter 2(11): 8-11.
  • Cao, Qing (2003). Deconstructing China Threat. Ming Pao Monthly 38(11): 132.
  • Cao, Qing (2003). Tony Blair's Foreign Policy and its Impact. Ming Pao Monthly 38(5): 26-28.
  • Cao, Qing (2003). China's Position in the New Global Structure. Ming Pao Monthly 38(1): 129.

Supervision students