This show just went epic nuts at the Bird’s Nest. Tracy and I were watching reruns of the grand finale of The Voice of China.
Obviously, I was in the main room, so I only caught the last parts. But those last parts made it all the more worthwhile. They also formed a very heated debate with other academics in a meeting just a few hours after we watched it at home.
Advertising is all the rage in China — and as long as it’s not “unhealthy” or seriously political, chances are, they’ll let it run. The super-expensive spot — played just before they announced the nationwide winner — tried to really “suck it up” to Jay Chow and his rap. It was basically a rip-off of a Jay Chow kung-fu (?) rap — plugging in a car site, Xin.com.
We saw it — and the whole wide Web went bolonzos. ▶
For academics, China resembles this huge country where you are just captivated — by trains virtually flying by one moment, then huge airports to make Boris mad (sorry, Gatwick), then off-colour-looking buildings hosting Central Television. There is a lot of the glitz and glamour, but remarkably little in the way of theory.
I’ve just been dipping my feet in the China media world, but I have yet to see a solid, oft-cited Chinese-made theory about the Internet and communications (as in: the way we speak; or “talk the talk, walk the walk”). Instead, many a Chinese university freely cite McLuhan, Habermas, or Marx.
Most of China tends to default to citing Marx as often as possible. You can’t blame them: it’s “enshrined” in the country’s constitution, and the replacing of this idea with Western values is almost guaranteed to make Beijing uncomfortable. Yet what are missing here are more “Internet-savvy” / “Internet-ready” ideas, as well as a very “with Chinese characteristics” theory (which should be rather apolitical if possible).
China is indeed in quite a unique situation. ▶
China is this weird and wonderful country where it’s a challenge to make sense, at times, of what’s coming out from Zhongnanhai. Mixed in at times horrifically hard-to-understand officialspeak are national policies of a system that, whilst grey on the outside, actually works in more and more of the country.
I’ve spent 14 years in China in one go. If you’re willing to make sense of how this nation is supposed to be made sense of, here are the media resources I often tune into (in Chinese, as this is what you’d want, right?… If you were serious about China, you’d have learnt the language!)… ▶
Would you work in a place with the slogan Achieve goals or the Sun will no longer rise? (It’s both a scary and a pathetic slogan — Wikipedians would also tag it factually inaccurate. I myself have missed tonnes of goals and I’ve never made the Sun not come out!)
Most of us know about the crass violations of workers’ rights and dignity at Foxconn, where Apple’s iDevices are churned out in record time. But to me, it was just a violation that “had to be swallowed” or even, worse, “accepted as fact”. The full scale of how scary things were weren’t made clear to me until I attended a talk by Dr Jenny Chan of the University of Oxford. She also focused on corporate misbehaviour in the talk, in addition to giving us all an idea of how scary things were on the assembly line. ▶
If you thought China was fully in control and regulating things these days (apparently they completely canned Line), this might only be the tip of the iceberg for you. Presently, the firewall operates on a blacklist (liste noire) principle, in essence containing a list of sites you’re not allowed to go to, and then not restricting access to the rest. (The same goes for keywords, especially those in search machines.) Incredibly, though, as long as you stay away from the two Ps — politics and porn — you should be fine.
Because whilst I was just browsing around on my hard drive as of late, I came across this presentation I did in my first PhD year. It really was a scary moment. ▶
Circulated rumours that you have to claim wages by presenting official receipts seem to be the least of China Central TV’s issues, apparently. The bigger issue is how CCTV can — yes, remain itself.
To many an outsider, CCTV is that one monster that seems untouchable. Those not retransmitting its “flagship” 19:00 news programme are far more the exception than the rule. And yet, the TV channel itself is under massive pressure to be:
- an outlet for official government news / propaganda; and
- increasingly financially self-sustaining as Beijing feeds it less cash; and
- as of around 2003, a service public broadcaster.
Talk about tall orders! ▶
For the Chinese media, critical reporting has always been something very new that just came up in these years. Most notably, they came to the forefront during the era of Hu Jintao as Chinese President — I personally experienced this as the government-run media organisations started emphasising on big political meetings, but also enabling others to “have a say” on the issues of the day.
The question, of course, was how lenient critical reporting was tolerated. For the earliest “free reporting” since 1949, you have to, in fact, understand that Mao, out of all PRC leaders, wanted the press to be more frank. On 02 May 1956, in a meeting of the erstwhile PRC Supreme National Affairs Conference (since disbanded), he clearly stated:
We should take the policies of permitting a hundred schools of art and a hundred schools of academic thinking. ▶