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February 2010
 
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Thu, Feb. 4th, 2010 02:01 am
Regal Zonophone

65CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Thu, Feb. 4th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)

The list of Chinese options is big coastal cities and Beijing (and its satellite, Tianjin). The only exception is Changsha, the birthplace of Mao Zedong, in Hunan province, where the only Chinese entry is for a Taiwanese artist. But... as you noted, this is LastFM, not QQMusic or Baidu MP3's list. Stuff like Lady Gaga does okay in Shanghai (or Taibei), but doesn't really break into the other half of China, the vast inland region, which is still very nativist in its media consumption. I think Koreans and Taiwanese are making a lot more money and have a higher profile in Changsha (or Lanzhou, or Nanjing, or Ha'erbin) than Lady Gaga has. I think LastFM is giving a good picture of what urban elite kids are listening to in these towns, though: Wang Fei and Green Day.

A lot of Western critics think of Chinese censorship as a means of protecting the position of the Chinese Communist Party, but I think a lot of it also has to do with protecting indigenous culture, whether it's pop music or Twitter-clones or homegrown neoliberalism. Superficially, China does look pretty confident, right? But that confidence quickly crumbles in the face of any imagined meddling by outside forces (whether the United States or Uighur activists or Han Chinese who are too fond of elections). China, a lot of the time, swaggers and puts on fabulous shows for the world, but it is still deeply culturally anxious, in a way that Japan isn't. Chinese cultural critics often combine a sense of superiority with an amazing capacity for self-doubt. I think that's one of the reasons why China will continue to resist, or minimize, the influence of world monoculture.

I think the vision of liberalizing China that Western thinkers love to describe often clashes with the vision of liberalizing China that Chinese thinkers are working with. In the Western vision, China is opening up to Western ideas and influence; people are watching Prison Break and buying Nikes, embracing neoliberalism. But in the Chinese imagination, the opening up definitely does allow Western culture/ideas to enter China but the most important part is the opening of the exit gate for Chinese cultural products and ideas. Western thinkers look at Chinese culture and, viewing it through the prism of Western thought and culture, see, of course, Western thought and culture and the glorious or inglorious spread of monoculture. Chinese thinkers (except far left nationalists who are quite fond of seeing the negative parallels between the new Chinese elite and the Western elite) are a lot less likely to identify the Western DNA in ideas like neoliberalism or televised singing contests.


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