Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series


Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series has been granted the EastAsiaNet 2014 Award!

In Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series, Florian Schneider analyses political discourses in Chinese TV dramas, the most popular entertainment format in China today. Schneider shows that despite their often nationalistic stories of glorious emperors and courageous officials, such programmes should not be mistaken for official propaganda. Instead, the highly didactical messages of such series are the outcome of complex cultural governance practices, which are influenced by diffuse political interests, commercial considerations, viewing habits, and ideological assumptions. Schneider argues that these interlinking factors lead to a highly restrictive creative environment and to conservative entertainment content that ultimately risks creating precisely the kind of passive masses that Chinese media workers and government officials are trying so hard to emancipate.

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Florian Schneider, Ph.D. (2009), University of Sheffield, is Lecturer for the Politics of Modern China at the Leiden University Institute of Area Studies. His research focuses on political communication and mass media in contemporary China.

1. Introduction: Cultural Governance and Chinese TV Drama Series
Chinese TV content between liberalisation and control
Regulating TV content to regulate Chinese society – an issue of cultural governance
Researching popular TV series – a semiotic approach to visual discourse
Structure of this book

PART 1: Political Discourse in Popular TV Series

2. The State and its Officials in TV Dramas
Emperor Wu – the benevolent ruler
The Commissioner and his superior - devoted CCP officials and government leaders
Professional bureaucrats and effective state administration

3. Securing the State: Law Enforcement and Military Action
Human trafficking and loitering: public security as comical plot complication
Strong men and their war against crime
Securing the homeland through warfare

4. Justifying the State: Political Legitimacy and Accountability
Wholeheartedly serving the people
The perfect hero and model worker
The masses are watching
Constructing the general public

PART 2: The Factors of Discourse Production

5. Creating the Political Discourses of TV Dramas
Chinese production companies
Risks and moral hazards in China’s drama market
Investors and their motives
Creatives at work – planning and producing a TV drama series
Selling the drama – marketing and distribution in the Chinese TV drama market
The Buyers: TV Stations and their motives
The forces of production

6. The Chinese Television Drama Audience
Constructing the audience: the Chinese audience measurement system
Finding an audience: who watches TV dramas in China?
Addressing the audience: broadcasting conventions and viewing habits
Likes and dislikes: the genres that audiences watch
TV as a public sphere? The role of audience feedback

7. Government Regulations and Censorship Mechanisms
Effectiveness of media governing mechanisms
State institutions involved in television censorship
The Party’s propaganda system
Legal and administrative censorship tools
Money rules – the financial side of censorship
Anacondas in chandeliers – uncertainty as a governance mechanism
A new snake nesting in the chandelier? The power of persuasion

8. Chinese Perceptions of Television’s Function and Influence
Media content’s impact on viewers
Possible effects of harmful content
Risk groups
Justifications of censorship and government control in China
Putting censorship advocacy into perspective
The didactical functions of TV
Making successful dramas
The psychological and social relevance of TV drama

9. Conclusion: Chinese TV Discourses and the Factors of their Production
Homogeneity in drama discourses and the didactics of TV entertainment
Visuality, emotions, and the construction of imagined community
The ruptures in TV drama discourses
The factors of drama production
The effectiveness of cultural governance

Glossary of Technical Terms


Appendix 1a: Methodological notes – analysing TV drama content
Appendix 1b: Methodological notes – interview analysis
Appendix 2: Central Members of the Production Team and their Functions
Appendix 3: Directors
Appendix 4: Positive Viewer Feedback as Presented by CUC researchers
Appendix 5: Negative Viewer Feedback as Presented by CUC researchers
Appendix 6: Main Functions of the SARFT (国家广电总局主要职能)
Appendix 7: SARFT Organisational Structure and Main Jurisdictions
Appendix 8: 2004 SARFT Censorship Regulation Decree No.40

All those interested in political communication in the People's Republic of China, particularly the political relevance of contemporary Chinese popular entertainment and visual discourse.