China's Cultural War against the West

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


In July 2014, Chinese media reported that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT )had been considering a plan to impose a quota system on the licensing of imported programs by popular Chinese video websites, which collectively stream about 400 American and British TV shows including Sherlock and The Vampire Diaries. By October 2014, rumors started to circulate that SAPPRFT was mulling over whether to follow the movie-import system by applying a quota system to TV shows. The bread and butter impact of such a policy could be devastating to Chinese video websites, as imported programs have been their major attractions among the well-educated young audiences, the core web users. Sohu, for one, is known for licensing popular US TV shows in the likes of House of Cards, Saturday Night Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It is also home to, up until recently, the most popular show among the Chinese viewers, The Big Bang Theory, which was canned in April 2014, together with The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice. The ban in April left Western media abuzz and China watchers scratching their heads. After all, the banned TV shows pale in their depictions of violence, sex and/or political scandal when compared to other foreign shows that can still be streamed online on Sohu. But for those who’ve been following the moves of China’s censors more closely, the ban shouldn’t come as a surprise. Back in March 2014, SAPPRFT reissued two Internet content regulation notices that it had previously rolled out, which aimed to root out excessive violence and sex online programming. The online content guidelines were mostly targeted at domestic programming. The regulator’s inaction on foreign exports agitated domestic content providers, who appealed to censors for equal treatment so that they could better compete with foreign content providers. Foreign TV shows are viewed as a threat to state-owned broadcasters who have seen new media undermine their revenue streams. It is a further threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who is wary of Western culture influence. Since March 2014, authorities have required that U.S. and U.K. shows obtain approval from censors before they are posted on video streaming sites. In April, Chinese president Xi Jinping launched a campaign to rid Internet of porn, rumors and other unruly contents, domestic and imported, which soon precipitated the ban of four U.S. My paper explores how an all-encompassing market force has complicated China’s renewed cultural war against the West launched initially on political and ideological fronts. While fending off Western cultural incursion, the battle is now frequently fought on the home turf between China’s privately owned online media and the state controlled broadcast media, both vying for preferential policies from the state. Meanwhile, the West continues to serve as a punching bag and a convenient archenemy for the Party to rally popular support in the name of patriotism and cultural identity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
EventInternational Association for Media and Communication Research Conference (IAMCR 2016) - Leicester, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Jul 201631 Jul 2016


ConferenceInternational Association for Media and Communication Research Conference (IAMCR 2016)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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