China TV

A couple of weeks ago I was in Beijing for the recording of the Dutch TV program China TV. The program uses short clips of Chinese TV programs, and I comment on them and give my views on current Chinese society.

I have not seen the final program yet, but it will air Thursday night on Dutch TV. If you’re in the Netherlands and are interested to learn a bit more about the real China as I experience it, tune into the VPRO right after Nova.

China TV
Date: Thursday, August 14, 2008
Time: 22:40-23:30
Channel: Nederland 2

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  1. I have seen the two first parts and was not really impressed. My (Chinese) company fell asleep as she thought it was too boring.
    They have simplified the China experience to such a degree, it was close to misleading. In the first part we saw as guest documentary maker Zhang Hua (a new name for me). They showed clips from two documentaries, one a state-staged show on how China deals with younger people who fall out of the system (at least according to that system), but was following the correct political line of the tv stations in the bigger cities.
    The second documentary was very rough and more real life, but only one clip made it to Phoenix TV in Hong Kong and would never be shown on mainstream TV. But they did not explain the difference, suggesting that Chinese TV would show almost anything.
    The second part was slightly better, with Stefan Landsberger as guest. He unfortunately sees Confucius still as the leading intellectual force of 1.3 billion people, wrongly I think, and framed his story around that misunderstanding. He also looked at the China TV from an almost exclusively Beijing perspective, ignoring much of the variation and the quality of some of the provincial TV stations. At least he annoyed me enough to look again this evening, unless something better comes up.

  2. Hi Fons, I did not see any of the first two parts yet so cannot judge it, but I hope your Chinese company does not fall asleep during my episode!

  3. I keep my fingers crossed for your part, Marc. But I just saw that Yang Rui of Dialogue is another guest. I might not expose myself to that ultimate test.

  4. I agree with Fons unfortunately. I was full of anticipation with this show. But so far (seen 2,5 of 5 episodes) it’s been quite a disappointment. The show lacks substance and focus. Somehow Julie’s interviews feel like an impressionist exercise. She just keeps mixing the overly particular with stereotypes and do-it-yourself sociology. I never feel she explains the connection between the selected tv fragments. Nor does she guide the viewer with a clear choice of subject. Every time she or her guests interpret a video they make an essentialist statement and subsequently drop the subject. Hopefully it will develop in something more tangible during your episode Marc. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  5. For the presentation it was of course already a blessing they had not asked Lulu Wang to do that. Wang has still to produce her first coherent sentence. They needed of course somebody who had the personality and Mandarin skills to deal with also the Chinese guests, but Julie seemed to lack a decent understanding how China TV is working and how China has changed.
    That was illustrated nicely when she discussed Lei Feng in the third part with professor Zhang Tongdao (a rather unknown media expert from a rather small Beijing teachers college). Julie seemed to think that the concept of Lei Feng would still be a valid one in the China of today, a misunderstanding professor Zhang fortunately noted. Nobody who has lived for some time in China over the past decade would still take Lei Feng very serious, apart from the government propaganda.
    Still, for me it was nice chit-chat, but nothing revealing, while it might still be abracadabra for the Dutch viewer who has only little clue about China.

  6. Thanks for today’s episode Marc. I’m afraid I missed the first 15 minutes or so. But I enjoyed hearing a little bit about tudou, tudou’s operations in China and to see some user uploaded videos subtitled and contextualised.

  7. I agree, Bas: I was just again wondering what the whole idea was behind the program was. Julie O’Yang seemed to stumble from one brain wave to the other where even this anchor of the ‘China TV’ was ignored for most of the program. Suddenly the two of you were talking about suicide in China, while there was not clear reason to do so. And that was only moment when I wondered when she would also leave China as a subject. That did not happen, but again the concept seemed to be rather weak and not helping a lot in piecing things together.

  8. Hi Fons, I have not seen the program yet, but I assume it may be an issue with the editing. I talked for about 2 hours, but the final program was about 45 minutes or so. In the original flow it was clear when we moved from subject to subject. I look forward to seeing the final cut myself 🙂