Television in China

I’m just back from a two week trip to China – my fourth visit to this fascinating country..  I stayed in six hotels and visited five family homes, so I saw a fair bit of local television.  I think you can learn a lot about a country by watching its television   All the hotels and all the flats I visited had large screen, high quality television sets and in homes they seemed to be on permanently (even during meals).  Except for two up-market hotels, all the channels I could find were Chinese.

Even allowing for the special programming at the time of the Chinese New Year, overwhelmingly the content of China’s television is entertainment: lots of singing (usually ballads) and dancing (especially coordinated) and performing (especially acrobatics and magic) with good-looking comperes and singers in neat, bright clothing with huge and elaborate sets. As in the UK and the USA, talent shows are popular. So are comedies and the humour is loud, simple and slapstick. Unlike other countries, uniformed military figures appear on stage and in audiences.

The other main genre is drama which tends to come in two forms. First, there is historic drama set in various dynasties of ancient China with wonderful costumes and characters who often deploy magic and/or martial skills. Second, there is Second World War conflict in which the Chinese always defeat the occupying Japanese and frequently the Chinese guerrilla forces have good looking young women who are ultra brave and brilliant shots. Cutting is frequent and rapid.

There seems to be a paucity of news, discussion and documentaries. Obviously, like any country, the news is selective and slanted. During my visit, much was made of the US President Donald Trump substantially reducing the budget of the Department of State, boosting expenditure of the military, and modernising the nuclear arsenal. What sort of message is this sending to China about the aggressiveness of America’s foreign policy intentions? But then US media represents China’s foreign policy as equally assertive.


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