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Chinese television – mouthpiece of the CCP
For the Chinese, televisions have passed from being an unattainable foreign luxury to a household item middle class families don’t even think about any more. Unfortunately, Chinese television programme-making hasn’t improved at the same rate as the flourishing economy.
Chinese Television – Politics
The undeniable blandness of most Chinese television can be put down to one thing – politics. The Cultural Revolution is long gone, but the media is still a dangerous business to be in – there is only a thin line between innovation and rebellion. Chinese television remains the mouthpiece of the government, control over the mainstream media is almost total.
It’s not only news that’s effected, all areas of programming must ensure they don’t show anything which could cast the government in a bad light, or even remotely encourage people to rebel. Watching Chinese television you would believe that all criminals get their just desserts, all government cadres are well meaning men of the people, and Chinese people never, ever have sex.
Chinese Television – English Language Channels
Most foreigners in China will be unable to avoid CCTV’s (Chinese Central Television) two English language channels, CCTV4 and CCTV9. CCTV4 shows mostly internal travel and cultural shows, rarely interesting, always designed to inspire love for the motherland. CCTV4 seems a little unsure of its identity, switching between Chinese and English language programmes. CCTV9 is quite sure of its identity, it is the English language mouthpiece of the CCP. Hence there’s plenty of very positive business news, cultural expos and language learning programmes.
Da Shan, Star of Chinese Television
Language learning programmes also appear on the Chinese channels. A large part of the appeal is the blonde haired, blue eyed the Westerners speaking very good colloquial Chinese, something Chinese people find infinitely entertaining. The undisputed king of Chinese-speaking foreigners is Da Shan (Big Mountain), otherwise known as Mark Rowswell, has been fascinating Chinese television audiences with his mastery of the Chinese language since the late 80s.
Chinese Television – Programming
The Chinese television channels show plenty of wildlife shows, soap operas (both home-made and imported from Korea) and ancient Hollywood movies. Semi-historical war dramas are very popular. Switch the television on at any time of day and you’ll invariably be able to find dramas based on ‘The Romance Of The Three Kingdoms’ or the Sino-Japanese War.
Recent big Chinese television hits include a Chinese version of Pop Idol, which got some people so worked up that they stole other people’s mobile phones to text in votes. Miss China is also a guaranteed ratings hit, and real-crime programmes are also very popular.
More bizarre programmes include kung-fu gameshows and ‘real accident’ shows.
Chinese Television and Sino-Japanese Relations
As a major propaganda tool of the CCP, Chinese television does little to improve Sino-Japanese relations. The Japanese are invariably portrayed as the Imperialist aggressor, whilst the Chinese are at once the underdog, but also racially superior. Films reminding people of the 1937 Rape of Nanjing where Japanese troops raped, tortured, mutilated and murdered at least 200,000 Chinese civilians are an almost weekly staple.
Finding Work on Chinese Television
Foreigners who work for Chinese television companies complain more of perceived corruption and intransigent bureaucracy than those in any other industry, but Chinese television remains a place where a little English language can get you a long way. It’s not that unusual to be approached by TV crews near the tourist sites and asked to comment on some subject or other. Paid television work is also not very difficult to get – but you generally have to be in China already to apply.
Chinese Central Television has recently launched a new channel with French and Spanish language programming – now CCP propaganda is available to more than half the world’s population.
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Wonder at the Great Wall, be awed by the magnificent Forbidden City, drink in the scenery from a boat on the Summer Palace’s Kunming Lake.