Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series
This thesis argues that the content of popular Chinese TV dramas helps construct and reenforce social and political reality in China by defining what is true. With the increasing liberalisation of the Chinese TV drama market, this construction process is becoming more and more complex: it is not merely influenced by the political interests of state and party institutions, but also by the commercial interests of producers and broadcasters, as well as by the viewing habits and interests of
... interests of audiences. Consequently, Chinese TV dramas create ideas concerning Chinese society which are simultaneously popular and politically 'healthy'. Based on qualitative interviews with Chinese media experts and production crew members conducted in 2007, my research shows how various actors and institutional factors influence the production of political discourses in Chinese TV dramas. This thesis also offers a qualitative analysis of how the discourses on two political concepts (governance and security) are depicted in three particularly popular dramas, one historical epic, one crime drama, and one teen drama. This analysis shows that these programs all link their political message to patriotic sentiments or conservative gender discourses, and that this is not the result of political directives but instead of market dynamics and of audiences' viewing preferences. In this sense, the present research shows how the apparent liberalisation of the drama market in reality imposes a whole framework of new cultural, political, and economic restrictions, which in turn leads to the production of TV content that is firmly rooted in hegemonic discourses. This discourse is then not primarily reproduced because it is politically opportune, but because it is popular.