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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Biographical Note

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.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements 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 Bibliography Appendix 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 Index


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.