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China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture First Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1565842502
ISBN-10: 1565842502
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Zha, who was born and raised in Beijing, examines the ways in which the proliferation of pop culture and mass media is changing traditional Chinese society.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

As one who fundamentally believes that culture, not economics, will "save" China, Zha (a Chinese journalist who now lives in Chicago and works for the Center for Transcultural Studies) writes about how popular culture has developed in Beijing, China's cultural capital. She discusses the major individuals involved in the production of the nation's most popular soap opera, Yearning; the development of contemporary Chinese architecture; the production of such award-winning movies as Farewell My Concubine and Raise the Red Lantern; the transformation of the Ministry of Culture's China Culture Gazette; pervasive corruption in the journalistic world; the wholesale promotion of the novel The Abandoned Capital; and, from Hong Kong, the proliferation of the avante-garde via the CIM investment company. Much of what Zha discusses is supported in other recent accounts (e.g., Frank Viviano's Dispatches from the Pacific Century, LJ 4/1/93; Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's China Wakes, LJ 7/94; and Orville Schell's Mandate of Heaven, LJ 8/94). However, since her stated intention is to portray China in a "minute fashion," the result is that the book reads more like an extended gossip column than a serious analytical work. An optional purchase.
Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, Ill
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565842502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565842502
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #652,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Zha Jianying. 1996. _China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture_. New York: The New Press. Pp. 210. ISBN 1565842502 (pbk).
Zha Jianying captures in this book the ferment - intellectual, artistic and commercial - of China's post-Tiananmen urban culture industry. She presents a lively mix of reportage, personal revelation, personality profile and ethnographic insight centered on pop culture events and trends in the People's Republic. Through her focus on creators and consumers, _China Pop_ illustrates people who have "...shed their old skins and picked up new lives." (p. 7).
China's developing pop culture industry is media-driven; like its Western counterparts, the industry spans TV, movies, literature, journalism, music, art and more. Zha looks at a hugely successful TV melodrama, Yearnings, and traces how the show was conceived, written and produced (chapter 2). She lays out repercussions the show had on its writers' and producers' lives and careers and its effect on China's TV industry. In "The Whopper" (chapter 5), she shows how money and business combine to corrupt journalists; corruption is so severe, she thinks, that "...most of what the Chinese read in the paper or see on television as 'news' these days is little more than paid advertising." (p. 117). She tackles developments in the movies by contrasting the career trajectories, personalities and works of Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou, China's leading directors in the 1990s (chapter 7). Chen directed the 1993 Cannes winner Farewell My Concubine; Zhang is perhaps known best in the west for his Red Sorghum (1987).
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Format: Paperback
Written more than 12 years ago, Ms Zha, at 34, wrote one of the first books on the effects of popular media in the New New China. Written by a native who later emigrated to the US in her mid-20s for graduate school in Lit, the reader should look at is what is said and just as important what is not said. She emigrated right after Tiananmen incident, which had a great impact on her while attending Beijing U. Her arguments with her father, a researcher at one of the China Academies in BJ, caused a great dichotomy in the family. She believes that "...culture will save China, I (father) believe the economy will (p14)."

As most American readers, we have to filter the official mouthpieces of China Daily, Xinhua, and People's Daily, which are approved newsources of the China Gov't. And there are different editions, for Chinese and English consumption. We have to evaluate their points of view for any hidden agenda. And so it goes in the US too, such as the Epoch Times newspaper published in Chinese in NYC publishes a slant critical of the China Gov't, pro Falun Gong.

Now 46, with a 2003 Guggenheim fellowship under her belt, she has returned to BJ to write more fiction, perhaps break into the movie / TV biz and write a sequel to this book. Her husband, Benjamin Lee, a PhD who has been recently been appointed Graduate Dean of Social Research at The New University, NYC, a 1st gen Chinese anthropologist is also joining her as a mentor and confidant in BJ. His topic of social research is in the field of speculative finance.

Her book, which reads like a novel and easy-to-read multi-layered one like a Tom Clancy novel. Enticingly it gives pomp and circumstance, before delivering a B-school reader in disguise.
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Format: Paperback
Face it. When it comes to China, most Westerners -- especially those of us in the United States -- are clueless. That is why ''China Pop'' is such an important book, even if it seems, at first glance, to be about a frivolous subject.
Even as many in the US are, for political reasons, demonizing ''Red'' China, China is opening up to a greater extent than it has in centuries. (Yes, it still has a long way to go, but it has come a long way from the dark days of the Cultural Revolution.)
''China Pop'' is a helpful study of one result of China's slow opening: the rise of an increasingly Westernized and increasingly commercial popular culture.
The Chinese are already embracing economic freedom. After reading ''China Pop'' I have little doubt that freedom of expression is only a generation away.
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