The Rise of China’s Media Supermarket: An Appraisal of Cultural Imperialism's Relevance to the Chinese TV Industry

Yu Shi


This essay examines a series of online narratives by a group of Chinese TV professionals. Through their eyes, this analysis seeks to reveal the impact of commercialization on Chinese television in terms of programming, genres, formats, and content themes. Also, I evaluate their attitudes toward commercialization as expressed in their online narratives which reveal their interpretive limits. While many of them condemn the commercial symptoms of Chinese television, they paradoxically embrace commercialization as the destined, inevitable path for the development of Chinese television. Factors that set boundaries to the professionals’ interpretive agency are identified, including the global influence of the neoliberal capitalist ideology; the Chinese party-state’s ideology of developmentalism; the professionals’ own elite social perspective; and a propaganda-weary popular mood in post-communist China. I argue that these interpretive limits, as well as the constraining factors, are indicative of the prevalence of the neoliberal capitalist ideology in China, and therefore prove the continued pertinence of scholars’ concern over corporate cultural imperialism. Finally, this essay concludes with a theoretical discussion of an implosive mode of corporate cultural homogenization, which is globally conditioned, but often foregrounds the domestic forces of a country as solely responsible for their “domestic” cultural sphere, and therefore frees global media corporations from the charges of cultural imperialism.

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