Frame contestation between government, media and the public the controversy over Maoming PX manufacturing
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This study integrates indexing, cascading activation, and integrative model to examine a central question in risk society: how social actors’ definitions over environmental issues are contested and changed through their interactions in the public arena? Empirical evidence comes from the controversies over Maoming PX case (PX is chemical produced in the oil refining process and is used for the production of polyester clothes, plastic bottles and other daily necessities) where the definition of harm for PX project is ambiguous. News coverage and Sina Weibo posts about Maoming PX issue are collected and analyzed with framing analysis which bridges content analysis with interpretive analysis. A pair of merged frame and counter frame, science frame and public accountability frame, has been developed. Science frame attributes responsibility to the public’s ignorance about the low toxicity of PX and advocates the security aspect of PX projects. Public accountability frame blames on the poor credibility of local government. It appeals for public participation and information transparency on chemical projects. The study argues the government cascades its frames to the media. Media follows the government frame, but has different strategies in selection and modification of government frames across time. The public is a strong competing force to government and media frame. However, their voice has a limited opportunity to be heard by the media and the government.