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Global Capital, Local Culture: Transnational Media Corporations in China

Author: Anthony Y.H. Fung
Publisher: New York: Peter Lang, 2008
Review Published: December 2009

 REVIEW 1: Hanna Cho

First of all, I would like to thank Hanna Cho's for her comments. In general, I agree very much with Cho's interpretation of my book. Global Capital, Local Culture is a book that attempts to capture the emerging media-state relations in contemporary China, with a specific focus on the influx of transnational media capitals. My perspective has always (not just limited to this volume) been a combination of the theory/ methodologies of political economy and cultural studies. My personal project is that I do want to establish an identity of my research based on such perspectives, not by making only abstract theoretical illustrations (or criticism), but by grounding my analysis with concrete empirical data. I would not say that my path of research is the only way to study Chinese media/culture and its globalization, but it is quite true that there is a growing interest about China that in turn generate more works making arguments that ironically contain huge discrepancies with the social reality. The kind of empiricism or ethnographic data is urgently needed for understanding Chinese media under the context of globalization.

Hanna Cho is correct in pointing out two gaps in my book: (1) downplaying interaction between global culture and audiences as it happens in new media and the Internet; and (2) making no mention of the interpretation of the non-urban rural Chinese population over the globalized products and culture. For the former, while I have no systematic study over how netizens consume the global culture in cyberspace, the "pop citizen" audiences mentioned in chapter 7, "Active Audience, Active Nation," could more or less take into account such effect. Audiences in China now are more active, as I described, in choosing what media they consume, sometimes with direct contact with global media programs and sometimes indirectly through mediated discourses online. When I wrote my book that focused on the interactions between these global capitals and the state, it is true that I didn't attempt to scrutinize the fine, microscopic subspace of interaction online. But I would also claim that the conclusions I made about the audiences are still valid and legitimate in that many of the audiences that I talked to were actually recruited from these online groupings or communities. As a matter of fact, many of these groupings develop and crystallize around the discourse, cultural product, and activity of the foreign artists (created by these global capitals) on the Internet. To go deeper, then, I might have needed to write a separate chapter about the relatively free autonomous online space as supposed to the more structured social space. This would be the new book about youth culture and fandom that I am working on!

As for the second point about rural population, I actually hadn't thought of that when I wrote my book. As a matter of fact, my entire trajectory of research has focused on the urban population and the overwhelming capitalistic and consumer culture in different Chinese communities. At this point, I would choose not to touch upon a terrain which is not my strength. I do believe that there are many good sociologists in China (e.g. Bu Wei) and overseas (e.g. Deborah Davis) elaborating more on this thesis better. Actually, in my book, I did want to talk more about the politics of media-state relationship by studying the political economy of cultural production and the interpretation of the latter. To adhere to such problematic, I think focusing on the kind of consumption in urban culture is more appropriate. The study of the phenomenon in rural culture might lead to other problematics such as social inequalities, social mobility, etc.

Thanks for Hanna's reading and appreciation of the in-depth, complex narratives of the cultural product and processes that I mentioned in the book. A successful combination of political economy and cultural studies, as Paul du Gay illustrated, should look at the complete "circuit of culture" that investigates the relationship among production, consumption, text, identity, and regulation. While I have tried my best to illustrate all these relationships, I would agree with Hanna that there are still gaps. One of these is perhaps the "complex weave of regulatory measures, policies, and historical contexts" she referred to. I was aware of that when I wrote my manuscript. But given the authoritarian nature of governance in China, to facilitate the reading of the book, I did not go in-depth into the wordings and details of many of these regulations and policies because many of the regulations and policies are just tokens of the law and order. Most of them are not fully excused, and if even implemented, they appear as high-handed commands of the authorities over the cultural industries and the media. Then it is not a matter of regulation and policy but forms of political control that I highlight in the book. What I attempt to point out as a central thread in the book is an understanding of the intention of the state and its different forms of politico-economic controls, and the strategies (e.g. accommodation, co-optation, or resistance) of how the global responds to them. Without understanding the dual aspects, we are not able to comprehend the global-state media relationship in contemporary China.

Anthony Y.H. Fung


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