Corruption and its (dis)content: The rise and fall of Chinese officialdom television dramas

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Over the past decade –and-a-half, Chinese serial television dramas dealing with political intrigues of both bygone and contemporary eras have spurred considerable popular and critical interest, particularly with respect to the allegoric functions of these dramas. This essay focuses on the politically charged television dramas set in the dynasty era, treating them as a form of political discourse by linking their thematic preoccupations with China’s overall popular and intellectual discourses concerning the path, steps and speed of China’s economic and political reforms. I discuss how dynasty dramas reflect, engage in and, in turn, influence China’s major intellectual and policy debates as the country undergoes rapid political, economic and social changes. My major focus is on the transformation of politically charged dynasty dramas from anti-corruption to officialdom, which registers China’s shifting cultural ethos from righteous indignation at corruption to acceptance and resignation, which take corruption as part and parcel of a modern bureaucracy. The essay further calls attention to the curious disappearance of China’s corruption drama during the Xi Jingping era and uses the popularity in China of a US officialdom drama, House of Cards , as a point of comparison to illustrate Chinese television drama’s intricate relationship with Chinese politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-249
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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