Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

The China8 Interviews: On Chinese media with Daniel Ang


Wandering China is pleased to release the second of the China8 series of interviews. China8 is where China’s perceived and presenting selves are discussed. This it hopes to achieve by looking closely at both China’s international and domestic coherence of its harmonious ascent. Ultimately, Wandering China hopes these perspectives will be helpful for anyone making sense of depending on how you see it, the fourth rise of the middle kingdom, or sixty odd years of consciousness of a new nation-state with a coherent identity emergent from a long drawn period of ideological strife.

On close examination it seems the Chinese are finding it increasingly difficult to bide their time. Laying low may have been the mandate in dealing multilaterally with the world from Deng’s point of view. However, without the superhero-charged idolatry of the monolith of party holding as much currency, legitimacy to rule China has for the first time in a very long while shifted to one that is based on performance indicators and this means that Chinese leaders now have both top-down and bottom-up pressure to perform. Sons of Heaven need not apply as China communicates a resurrection vaunted to be peaceful and harmonious.

Wandering China catches up with Daniel Ang, who shares with us his perspectives as both a lecturer on Chinese media from the vantage point of Singapore, and as a fellow overseas-born Chinese of the Chinese diaspora. On top of his teaching interests, Daniel is also a globe trotting food blogger and radio DJ on a well received Mandarin station.

Greetings Daniel! How are you? For starters, could you tell us about yourself!

I am currently a lecturer with Ngee Ann and Republic Polytechnics in Singapore, teaching the modules of Trends in Emerging Media and Media & Society. Interestingly, I teach in both languages – English and Chinese. I never found my Mandarin good enough, but I suppose it is sufficient currently in a country like Singapore.

China8.1: How would you describe China’s place in the world today? That said, how do you think China sees itself as an actor on the world stage?

Using a Chinese idiom, it is like a ‘strong dragon waiting to cross the river’. We have all seen China’s boom in the economy in recent times, and in an astonishingly fast speed. Within the next 5-10 years, I foresee that China would be that force to reckon with in all aspects – from technology, politics, economics, media, sports, arts & entertainment. It could be a bold prediction – but a reversal of roles between the East and West is very possible. China will be THE country to look out for.

China8.2: As an overseas-born Chinese, how do you see China’s re-emergence as a great power – China’s peaceful rise 和平崛起 or peaceful development 和平发展? Which of these officially communicated narratives better describes China’s behavior in dealing with other countries? Alternatively, do you think there another way of looking at this?

和平崛起peaceful rise would be the more appropriate word – because of the speed China and its people took to overcome all odds to earn its place in the world today. We mustn’t forget that the collapse of China’s long dynastic system happened just a 100 years ago.

China8.3: Chinese media can be said to have come a long way from the one-to-many model of propaganda synonymous with early red China. What do you think is the biggest change to happen to media in China?

The social media would definitely play a very big role in the change of the media landscape. We have seen how Baidu, Sohu, and Sina have gathered so much support and popularity, and they did not take too long a time to achieve that. Take for example the microblogging world, Twitter took years to achieve 300 million users, how long did Sina Weibo take? In less than 3 years.

The fact that social media plays such an important role in China can also imply that the power is gradually ‘transferred’ to the people, rather than just top-down information.

Even though many critics have slammed the Chinese for being ‘copycats’, we cannot deny that they ‘borrowed’ ideas and do it their way, if not better.

China8.4: What in your mind is the role of the Internet in China? Force for open-ness and democratization or…? That said, what are your thoughts on the Great Firewall of China?

The Chinese government has its reasons for the Great Firewall, but it is only a matter of time that its people become better educated, better travelled and better equipped to know better.

China8.5: China seems to be making a big push of its state media (CCTV America, Xinhua paying for a giant electronic billboard to prominently display its logo to an American audience, for example) outwards of the Great Wall, in what has been described by some in China as a media aircraft carrier 传媒航母 , what do you think of its efforts to date? Has China’s voice been indeed amplified on a world stage with a media ecology it feels has been dominated by the Western perspective? Can you share with us any other noteworthy examples?
A interesting example would be the blatant product placement of Chinese products in Hollywood movies and American sporting events. In Transformers 3, there are at least 4 Chinese products featured – Yili milk, Lenovo laptops, Metersbonwe T-shirt and TCL televisions. However, how many Americans could really identify these products?  These placements are really more meant for Chinese citizens when they view these American movies – they probably get a sense of pride when they see their own products in the global platform.

The to-be-released Iron Man 3 would be a movie to look out for, invested by rich Chinese estate tycoons and featuring one of Asia’s most known actor Andy Lau.<

China8.6: China’s twelfth five-year plan has the culture industry given pillar industry status for the first time. Chinese cultural capital in the form of popular culture such as film and music seem to be amassing. Do any come to mind as successful?

As of 2012, Chinese cinema is already the third largest in the world, and has now surpassed Japan in box-office takings. However, the international audience may not this impression yet, because of the lack of international marketing and awareness – few Chinese movies ever make it to the prestigious film awards such as The Oscars.

To date Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon remains the most known Chinese film in US history. Though technically, it is filmed by a Taiwanese American director (Ang Lee) with cast from all over Asia – Chow Yun Fat (Hong Kong), Michelle Yeoh (Malaysian), and Taiwanese (Chang Chen).

Unfortunately, successful Chinese films overseas continue to play on the typical stereotypes – the genre is generally sword-fighting or kungfu, with talented Asian cast playing the usual 2nd fiddle, with roles that involve some kind of martial arts.

One of my favourite Chinese movie has to be Let The Bullets Fly. It has a unique film-making style and Chinese style of humour – I don’t think the American audience would appreciate it as much though.

China8.7: I’ve actually seen that movie! I thought it was pretty awesome though there’s a minior disagree there, I think an American audience might just appreciate it as it exudes a style akin to Quentin Tarantino films! Moving on however, as a Singaporean Chinese, how do you identify with the wider Chinese diaspora?

This question is a tough one, and I cannot speak for other Singaporean Chinese. From the various local news reports, I gather that there is a sense of animosity from Singaporean Chinese towards China Chinese. The situation is probably the same at Hong Kong.

China8.8: Any parting words for our readers?

So far, we have always been looking at China from the view point of China versus the rest of the world, and not so much as Asia. If the Mainland Chinese can have further collaborations with the diasporic Chinese (as in the case of Chinese films Crouching Tiger, Let The Bullet Fly), the synergy would be unimaginable. A China-Taiwan film collaboration, or China-Korean music group (Super Junior M?) – Not quite possible yet, but only if you could imagine it happening.

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Filed under: Charm Offensive, China8 Interviews, Communications, Culture, Greater China, Influence, Internet, Nationalism, Overseas Chinese, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, The Chinese Identity

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