I’ve only just looked at Chinese Cyberspaces (Routledge 2006), a book edited by two former colleagues at the Free University of Berlin, Jens Damm and Simona Thomas. One of the more interesting chapters is by Johan Lagerkvist about municipal Internet portals in Shanghai and Peking. Lagerkvist points out that the freedom of Chinese news portals to publish political news is much more restricted today than it was in the late 1990s, and suggests that this has to do with the fact that national and municipal official media decided to compete in cyberspace (and therefore wanted to assure their own primacy).
His interviews with editors of the two portals, Dongfangwang and Qianlong Xinwenwang, overseen respectively by the Shanghai and Peking CCP committees, reveal that the Hu-Wen leadership instructed the media to reduce the coverage of political meetings and increase that of “news that was closer to the lives of ordinary people,” such as “entertainment news, including life-style issues, private housing, cars et cetera” (p. 55). This does not mean, of course, that the “thought work” function of media is reduced; rather, more of it has to manifest itself in precisely this type of “entertainment news”.