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Book Review: TELEVISION IN POST-REFORM CHINA: Serial Dramas, Confucian Leadership and the Global Television.. 2010

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 49 Electronic Book Review: China and Inner Asia She provides evidence that the Chinese have tried to address these criticisms. In 2008 the Buffelsfontein project in South Africa employed only five Chinese out of a total workforce of 1,000. In 2006 an agreement was signed with Zambia to harmonize labour relations. In 2008 China joined G8 energy ministers in a joint declaration that endorsed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). In 2009 an agreement was reached to bring Chinese products imported into Nigeria into conformity with national industrial standards. In 2004 the ExIm Bank adopted its first environmental policy requiring the submission of environmental assessments of projects it funds. In 2007 China removed tariffs on 450 commodities from least- developed African countries. Some of Raine’s most interesting evidence of evolution appears in the fourth chapter, where recent changes in China’s long-standing doctrine of non-interference in domestic affairs of other countries have appeared. “For example, by 2007, the Chinese leadership appeared to have decided to step back a little from its hitherto close relations with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. When President Hu toured Africa that year, he visited South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia, but not neighbouring Zimbabwe” (157). A case study at the end of this chapter (each chapter ends with one) also illustrates how developments in Sudan have also played a crucial role in modifying China’s approach, highlighting the challenge it now faces as its large strategic assets in Sudan, and increasing number of its citizens there, give it a substantial stake in the country’s stability. “What happens to China’s interests in Sudan if the Comprehensive Peace Agreement falls apart? What measure might the Chinese state take to defend its interests on the ground and how would these fit with its doctrine of non-interference?” (152). “Africa is likely to be among the first arenas to present a real challenge to the Chinese state’s attachment to the principles of sovereignty and non-interference, as it seeks to secure new and reliable sources of oil on the continent and protect its assets and personnel as it does so” (153). American University of Paris, Paris, France Douglas a. Yates TELEVISION IN POST-REFORM CHINA: Serial Dramas, Confucian Leadership and the Global Television Market. Routledge Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia Series, 13. By Ying Zhu. London and New York: Routledge, 2008. xxii, 177 pp. US$150.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-49220-1. Much scholarly and journalistic attention has been paid to the instrumental role of news and informational media in China’s epochal transformation. The past few years, in particular, have witnessed an explosion of literature on the Internet in China and its profound implications for China’s rapidly evolving state and society relationship. Less systematic work, however, has been done to Pacific Affairs: Volume 83, No. 3 – September 2010  50 foreground the mutually constitutive relationship between China’s ongoing transformation and entertainment media, especially prime time television drama. Yet storytelling, especially nationally televised prime time storytelling, remains the most popular media form in contemporary China. Arguably the most influential way in which the Chinese nation tells stories about itself and its place in the world, television drama provides a significant, fascinating, productive site for investigating contemporary Chinese politics and culture. Ying Zhu’s book makes a pioneering contribution to Chinese media and cultural studies by offering a detailed analysis of the political economy and cultural politics of Chinese television drama series. As Stanley Rosen put it nicely in an insightful foreword, the book provides “a wonderful window into the new relationship between the Chinese state and society” (xiv). Locating the evolution of television drama within China’s domestic political, economic, intellectual and cultural developments in the post-Deng era, on the one hand, and the globalization of media capitals, markets, and cultural flows, on the other, the book can be read in roughly two parts. Following the introductory chapter 1, chapters 2 and 3 traces the historical evolution of Chinese television drama series and offer detailed analysis of some of the shows in what Zhu identifies as the most significant prime time television drama genres, the dramas offering revisionist portrayals of Chinese dynastic history and domestic dramas focusing on family sagas during both the Republican and post-1949 periods. In particular, Zhu’s contextual and textual readings focus on three politically charged prime time dynasty drama series, Yongzheng Dynasty (1999), Marching Towards the Republic (2003) and The Great Emperor of Hanwu (2005). She argues that these popular and controversial shows, broadcast consecutively over the period that spans the last years of the Jiang Zemin/Zhu Rongji era and first years of the Hu Jintao/Wen Jiabao era, parallel the evolution of mainstream Chinese political and intellectual thought in the past decade. Specifically, the thematic orientation of the shows shifted from Yongzheng Dynasty’s pre- occupation with economic reform and anti-corruption in the late 1990s, to Marching towards the Republic’s exploration of political reform and a viable form of Chinese democracy in the early 2000s, and culminated with The Great Emperor of Hanwu’s reflection of Hu Jintao’s embrace of the Confucian sage’s leadership. Experts in contemporary Chinese intellectual thoughts will probably question the extent of Zhu’s grasping of the nuances of the different Chinese intellectual positions, especially the differences between the neo-authoritarian and New Left positions and their respective linkages with the Chinese political establishment. Some of the concepts that Zhu invokes, including politically loaded terms such as “totalitarian nostalgia,” might also benefit from more unpacking. Nevertheless, Zhu’s argument, that “TV practitioners actively engaging in the ideological and political debates of the time by selectively (re)covering the events and figures of bygone eras” (20), is certainly well taken. As Rosen also helps to highlight, this argument  51 Electronic Book Review: China and Inner Asia reinforces a well-established observation about the long-standing Chinese tradition of using the past to comment on the present in historical writings and artistic works. The second part of the book’s main body, chapters 4 through 6, moves the analysis of Chinese television dramas from the domestic political to the global economic dimension and from a predominantly thematic focus to an emphasis on narrative styles. Zhu first compares different types of mainland Chinese television dramas with their respective global equivalents, US prime time drama series, Latin American telenovelas, and East Asian lifestyle dramas. She then analyzes the transnational circulation of Chinese television dramas both within and beyond China’s national borders. Based mostly on a synthesis of secondary literature and drawing heavily on relevant chapters from an anthology that Zhu herself co-edits, this part of the book employs the analytical framework of a “cultural–linguistic market” in transnational television studies and extends it to the “Great China” context. While this framework has much to offer and Zhu makes a significant contribution in enriching this framework and offering insights into the shifting power dynamics of global cultural flows, one wonders whether this framework has compelled Zhu to strategically select the comparable Chinese television genres over the more “uniquely” post-socialist Chinese ones. The “red classics,” a popular dramatic television genre that offers revisionist interpretations of China’s communist revolutionary history and one that gains both official approval and popular market appeal in the past decade, for example, hardly gains any attention. This is surprising given that Zhu makes such a strong claim for how the thematic orientation of television dramas reflects a convergence between the official ideology of the Hu Jintao leadership and China’s intellectual New Left. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada Yuezhi zhao


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