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Professor Qing Cao

Professor / Director of Studies

Professor / Director of Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures+44 (0) 191 33 43417


My research focuses on the study of Chinese media, communication and modern intellectual history 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 socio-political changes. The third examines mutual media representations between China and the West, focusing on identity production and 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 way people in China make sense of the modern world they live in.

Currently I am working on a new book Communicating an Alternative Modernity in China: Media and the Chinese State (Routledge forthcoming) that investigates the role of 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 collective identities, public consensus and common purposes in China’s current socioeconomic transformations underpinned increasingly by traditional assumptions of politics rather than Western post-enlightenment values promoted in late Qing and Republican periods. Meanwhile, 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 recently published monograph The Language of Nation-State Building in Late Qing China examines the pivotal role of the late Qing press in facilitating the transformation of China's universalist dynasty into a modern nation-state. The book is based on a project funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) 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 modern 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 first monograph 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 of China's image in the British media 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

  • China's modern intellectual history
  • Chinese politics
  • Mass media and society
  • Western reporting of China
  • Chinese language and linguistics
  • Chinese translation


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

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Supervision students