On Agenda Setting: Who Decides on the Top Research List


Agenda-setting Theory, according to my understanding, is trying to describe a path where the mass media shape the public’s agenda—what we see is just what the media want us to see, that is to say, we care about social problems because the media led us there.

It surprised me that some scholars were insisting that Agenda-setting is not cut out for China, for I thought what the mainstream media in China was totally working hare on agenda-setting. Take Weibo, kind of Chinese version of  Twitter, as an example, we can always find a Top Research List in  Weibo to know what others are caring about. Fans are proud when seeing idols on the list.

But in fact, this list is not automatically formed by the technology system, but by more forces from government and other managers of this platform. Some events pushed up were even of no frequent viewing:

However, as a normal user, I would think it as really an important and public-caring event. I suppose this is done by the government, and it’s definitely setting our agenda.

According to this, it’s for sure that politicians could use this kind of agenda-setting method to tell what the public should care about. But when it’s too obvious, it will hurt the power of agenda-setting, making the audience feel deceived. At least, personally, this is what I feel now about the Top Research List. I would appreciate it if politicians make their agenda-setting approaches much more difficult for us to figure out, ha..ha..ha…




McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public opinion quarterly, 36(2), 176-187.

One thought on “On Agenda Setting: Who Decides on the Top Research List

  1. Dongqing, there you present an interesting example of agenda-setting theory application in China. I guess Weibo may be something new to original agenda-setting theorists, but the way China government treat and manipulate the platform is pretty much same as the way governments used to handle legacy media for their benefit.

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