Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Mass Communication and Media Arts
AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF Yuhui Tai, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mass Communication and Media Arts, presented on October 31, 2013, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: DEVELOPMENT OR DEPENDENCY? THE EMERGING CHINESE CULTURAL-LINGUISTIC TV MARKET AND IDOL TV DRAMA IN TAIWAN AND CHINA MAJOR PROFESSOR: John Downing and Jyotsna Kapur The global expansion of neo-liberalism and the new development of media technology have opened up national TV markets worldwide and the changing structure--a weakened local TV industry, multiple TV channels, and the increasing need for importation--has prepared the historical contingency for the emergence of regional cultural centers. The Chinese regional market based on China, Hong Kong and Taiwan is the most prosperous regional market due to the China hub effect, and it is playing an increasingly important role in world economy. In this research, I examine the formation and the driving forces behind the Chinese cultural-linguistic TV market, the dynamic dialectical global/regional/local relationships, the directions in which these forces push, and the major contradictions between these forces in the context of a global capitalist system. This research indicates that the dominant "cultural proximity" argument tends to naturalize the dominance of the regional cultural center and conceals multiple factors interwoven in the formation process. This research argues that it is important to examine the dialectical relationship between the position of a domestic country in the global capitalist system and its development in the regional cultural market. Second, the confluence of the popular cultural/creative policy and the soft power discourse strengthens the ambition and the competition between different states to pursue the crown of the regional cultural center. Third, the domestic state policy plays a determinant role in the dynamic formation of a regional cultural market. Fourth, the political motivation and manipulation might not be easy to recognize but are influential powers forging the regional cultural market. For example, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) proposed the China-Taiwan TV drama co-production policy near the end of 2007 in order to improve the prospects of Taiwan's pro-China party in the 2008 presidential election in Taiwan. In addition, it is not self-evident to assume that a regional cultural center definitely challenges the existing cultural dominance and that a regional cultural-linguistic market is emancipating. It requires careful examination to scrutinize the power relationships among those societies involved in the regional market to determine whether it increases the cultural diversity in this area. This research examines the power relationship in the Chinese cultural-linguistic TV market and argues the possible existence of dual suppression, in that a member of the regional cultural-linguistic market might simultaneously suffer from the dominance of the global center and the regional center. This research examined the historical development of idol drama in Taiwan and found that the Chinese censorship system has great impact on the production and distribution of cultural products in the Chinese cultural-linguistic TV market. Producers either tend to lower the potential risks by taking a conservative, non-historical approach to making TV drama, or, selling cultural products containing specific cultural odor, such as President Ma Ying-jeou's slogan, "Chinese culture with Taiwan characteristics (Ma, 2011.01.01)." Third, this research analyzes the production mode of idol drama in Taiwan and China from 2000 to 2012 and points out that the Taiwan TV industry has been moving on a dependency road through three phases, with four aspects of dependency. After 2005, some Taiwanese TV producers turned to the secondary export market due to the deepening neo-liberalism and the deteriorating Taiwan TV industry, which impedes its advancement in the regional market. In this stage, the emergence of the first wave of Taiwanese-made Chinese TV drama proved that the combination of the CCP's protectionist policy and a lucrative Chinese domestic market creates magnetic effects and attracts TV workers from the deteriorating region. In the second stage from 2008 to 2010, the CCP's cooptation policy, which encourages Taiwan-China co-produced TV drama, and the Kuomintang's China-centered CCI Policy emphasized the importance of the China market and strengthened the orientation to focus on the secondary export market rather than improve the quality of Taiwanese TV drama and aim at Asia and the global market. In 2010, the CCP denounced the phenomenon of "pseudo China-Taiwan co-produced TV drama," which was the byproduct of the strict Chinese censorship system, and issued a warning against it. It pushed some Taiwanese producers to abandon the Taiwan market and spurred the second wave of Taiwanese-made Chinese TV drama which appeals to Chinese audiences, and lowers or even closes the production business in Taiwan. This research demonstrates the four aspects of the dependency relationship in the Chinese cultural-linguistics TV market, which includes capital, export market, production chain, and cultural products flow. First, sufficient Chinese capital provides the CCP leverage to mold the Chinese cultural-linguistic TV market, purchase resources, and expand its influence into Taiwan society. Second, being the largest TV market in the world makes China an attractive export market, even with strict Chinese censorship. Third, the CCP's cooptation policy and the deteriorating Taiwan TV market gradually make Taiwan TV workers a supplement rather than a force in Chinese TV drama production. Fourth, the exportation of Chinese TV programs, including conventionally weak genres, into Taiwan is increasing. In short, the Taiwan TV industry has suffered from the dual crises of neo-liberalism and the dependency relationship with China, which is making Taiwan a dumping site for regional cultural product exporters, mainly from Korea, China, and Japan.
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