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How Bad or Good is Chinese TV?

January 22nd, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Today also happened to be the day before new year (除夕)in the lunar calendar. I would like to wish everybody a happy, healthy and prosperous dragon year. Instead of the usual heavy subject matter, I would like to talk about something more light hearted. I am in a holiday mood today so I will address some concern about the lack of creativity in TV broadcasting in China. Instead of using academic discussion I will simply provide a link to a hot TV series that has taken my sister by storm. She is the one that actually sent it to me. In fact she considered this love/history drama so good that it triumphed all works from Taiwan and HK (of course that’s her personal view).

The TV series is “步步惊心” or “步步驚心”loosely translated as “Startling by Each Step”, I know the translation is always so corny. It is about a modern girl who went back through time to the later reign of Qing Kangxi period. If you are familiar with this period, you will know the palace intrigue that took place. Although it is considered science fiction, the costume and cultural aspect is very accurate. The author of the original work is 桐华. She did an awesome work by inter-weaning love and politics into the story.

The series and many other mainland works received rave review in Taiwan and HK. Just do a traditional Chinese search on the title and you can gauge the responses. There are many who commented that due to the control of the government, creativity is dead on the mainland. I strongly disagree with this statement. The censorship is on a certain standard that fall out of the mainstream acceptable norm in the mainland be it political or cultural. In my view this limitation actually spurred even more creativity. If the US already has a Jerry Springer shows and a bunch of other reality TV or show that use controversy, sex or violence to sell, why should China offer a bunch of more of the same? Is violence and sex necessary to tell a captivating story? Another question, why should China become a copy cat of the west or a replica? The series has English subtitles. I feel that watching Chinese TV or movies is also another way of understanding the country and culture.


  1. Rhan
    January 22nd, 2012 at 18:33 | #1

    I don’t think “步步惊心” a piece of creative work after the preceding “宫锁心玉”, both are equally cheap (庸俗). However me too don’t agree with the claim that creativity is dead on the mainland, I personally think most of the creative series that worth watching in the past few years were from mainland, for instance 士兵突击, 我的团长我的团, 我的兄弟叫顺溜, 潜伏, 中国式离婚, 我的青春谁做主等等等等。

    My daughter put it aptly….I like China war series, but not the one that talk about Mao Zedong and Jiang Jieshi. 我相信小孩的眼睛是雪亮的, 感觉是最真的。

  2. Kai
    January 23rd, 2012 at 05:23 | #2

    I agree, there is definitely plenty of creativity in China, even with the censorship. But, and there is a but, censorship nonetheless has a chilling effect on creativity. You argue that censorship represents what is acceptable in the mainstream. No, I disagree. Censorship represents what those in power or those with the power wish to CONTROL as mainstream.

    Creativity can challenge mainstream norms, for better or for worse. Past creativity in media has resulted in many of the societal norms and values we take for granted today. And when creativity pushes the limits and breaks them in a bad way, one that mainstream society can’t accept and adopt at the moment, the mainstream market provides the feedback in the form of rejection or backlash. Censorship, on the other hand, subverts this two-way relationship between creator and audience by inserting itself into dictating what can be expressed and potentially consumed. It is an instrument of control.

    Like all instruments of control, good and bad can come from it. The vast majority of people in the world believe in some form and extent of censorship. The arguments over censorship are therefore not about all or nothing, but about what ought to be controlled when and with a very persuasive why.

    Next, if you actually watch Chinese television regularly like I do, there are PLENTY of shows that use controversy, sex, or violence to sell themselves. We can argue about things like whether nudity can be shown or whatnot, but there are still plenty of shows that use the same risque themes and thematic elements. Between what passes as entertainment in China and the West, there are far more similarities than differences. Let’s keep that in mind.

    Finally, I really don’t think anyone is arguing that China should become a copycat or replica of the West when they protest censorship (or more accurately, the extent of censorship). That’s conflating two separate things. To be against censorship is not to be pro-West or desire making China more like the West. China and censorship are not one and the same, where we have to accept one with the other. They are simply against what they consider arbitrary, unnecessary, or harmful restrictions upon speech and expression.

    Watching Chinese TV and movies is definitely another way of learning and understanding the country and culture, but also the society. They are, after all, “mass media”. Looking at the most popular shows in China, the one thing that should be immediately obvious is that they all feature the same elements that are shared with popular shows elsewhere in the world, including the US, and sometimes, are localized ports of Western shows. China’s Got Talent anyone?

    By the way, anyone familiar with the controversies over that show’s finale? Like how Zhou Libo apparently withdrew because they wanted to rig who would win? Or how the kid from Taiwan misspoke “this country” and the order came from above to make sure he didn’t win? And how blatantly it was carried out? It’s big on the Chinese internet right now, as well as Chinese New Year dinner discussions.

    Happy Chinese New Year, you guys.

  3. LOLZ
    January 23rd, 2012 at 05:43 | #3

    If I am not mistaken I saw the preview of this show in Singapore. It is being played there right now on one of the Chinese channels. The plot reminds me a little of the recent Japanese time traveling drama series Jin.

    Honestly though, out of Asia I would say that the Koreans are at the top of their game right now in terms of pushing their own culture through popular media. Their movies are awesome, just about every female I know in Asia is addicted to their dramas, and they have gotten the whole idol creation concept down better than anyone else. I would attribute the lack of censorship as one of the major reasons for this.

  4. JJ
    January 23rd, 2012 at 07:16 | #4

    I mainly watch Asian entertainment these days and I feel China is definitely improving but there’s still something holding it back.

    I feel that the modern-era series are really boring. The actors are decent, but the stories are just mind-numbing. It’s like they just get a bunch of good actors and actresses together and then grab a random writer to fill in the story.

    The best TV series are often the historical or wuxia ones. They’re often big-budget and a lot of time and attention is spent on the details.

    Also, most of them were initially stories/novels first and then turned into scripts. So the the plot and characterizations are much stronger.

    However, even in these cases I can see where the censorship hinders it a little. For example, when Zhang Ji Zhong ( 張紀中 ) was directing his versions of 鹿鼎记 and 新倚天屠龍記 he said that he had to remove certain scenes to appease the censors.

    So there are moments in the series that feel choppy. Like the hero is in one place, and then all of a sudden he’s somewhere else—and unless you knew the story beforehand it can be a little hard to follow.

    However, from what I’ve seen, the directors and writers of ancient series can get away with a lot more than their counterparts that focus on modern series.

    This is one of the reasons I feel the modern series aren’t as good. The censors are much more strict with plots and stories that apply to the current era. So perhaps the writers are limited in what they can express.


    Korea is simply amazing in what they’ve achieved in so little time. But I wouldn’t say it was only the lack of censorship that helped them.

    I remember reading that back in the 90s, the Taiwan produced 還珠格格 was so popular in Korea that the government did two things:

    1. They enforced a limit on the number of foreign shows on Korean prime time TV (ironically, that’s what Taiwan is doing now!)

    2. They started to invest A LOT of money and attention into their entertainment industry, e.g. funding, perks, tax breaks, etc. Essentially they focused a part of their economy on this sector.

    But yeah, the Chinese government can definitely learn from them in this regard.

    Also, JIN Season 1 was pretty good but Season 2 was boring. However, 步步驚心 was actually first an e-novel before it was a series. And based on the premise, it’s probably more similar to the TVB’s A Step into the Past (尋秦記) with Louis Koo 🙂

  5. aflame
    January 23rd, 2012 at 08:53 | #5

    JJ :
    This is one of the reasons I feel the modern series aren’t as good. The censors are much more strict with plots and stories that apply to the current era. So perhaps the writers are limited in what they can express.

    I read a lot of Chinese e-novels, it seems the censoring rule of novels is looser than the rule of TV. Most of the novels with modern day setting have some sort of ‘sensitive’ stuffs that I don’t see in TV series.

  6. January 23rd, 2012 at 09:07 | #6

    I am talking about pop culture here because that’s where it has the biggest audience. Many people read 三国演义but how many read the historical 三国志, same with 西游记 and 大唐西域记. The so-called four classics including 水浒传 and 红楼梦 are considered cheap 庸俗 for many centuries. However, they survived and thrived because regular folks can relate to them more so than 四书五经 which include论语,孟子, 大学, 和 中庸and诗经, 书经, 礼经, 易经,春秋经.

    So these are both sides of the coin. The war series you mentioned usually can’t stay away from two main themes, either against the Japanese or KMT. That’s why the Japanese always called the mainland fermenting anti-Japanese sentiment. However, did the government dictate the subject matter? Or is it because it is etched so deeply into the people’s memories that it is what appealed to them. The sad thing about Chinese historical drama is that pretty much all the so-called enemies of the various dynasties since Han dynasty have all become Chinese. So any series would end up being a civil war be it the Warring States, Three Kingdom, Shui-Tang Chronology, Song-Jin-Yuan etc. The only foreign “enemy” is the Japanese! I think a paradigm shift is in order. Anyone want to take up the challenge?

  7. raventhorn
    January 23rd, 2012 at 09:11 | #7


    “But, and there is a but, censorship nonetheless has a chilling effect on creativity. You argue that censorship represents what is acceptable in the mainstream. No, I disagree. Censorship represents what those in power or those with the power wish to CONTROL as mainstream.”

    I disagree.

    Censorship is the fire which to test the strength of ideas.

    Censorship represents orthodoxy opinion/criticism of new ideas. All censorship are at least based upon some foundation of criticism of the “unpopular” ideas, rational or irrational.

    If the new ideas cannot survive “censorship”, then it is not strong enough to survive.

    Even today’s orthodoxy ideas were once new ideas that had to be tested.

    *And let’s separate “creativity” from plainly ignorant “imagination” of some.

    For example, there is nothing original or “creative” about “Creationism” challenging Evolution teaching in US. (Some have criticized Evolution as a new Orthodoxy that censors “Creationism” in US schools).

    It’s an unscientific work of fancy built upon ignorance of the masses.

    If people want to call teaching Evolution as “censorship” in US schools, I say Let loose the Dogs of Censorship upon the ignorance of the masses.

    To me, there is nothing worse than teaching ridiculous theories of fools as “possible theory”, in the name of blind freedom.

  8. January 23rd, 2012 at 09:15 | #8

    I disagree censorship has a chilling effect on creativity in China, like I’ve said it actually encouraged creativity. The PRC is not a close market, Chinese books, movies and drama has to compete directly with those from the rest of the world, courtesy of the easy availability due to piracy. So in order to even survive in such an environment, the authors and directors have to be creative to get around the corner. The creative market in mainland China is explosive relative to its per capita of $5000. Another problem with Chinese publication market is that all books and movies usually have to be G rated for general audience. Unlike most countries in the west where you can have “parental guidance” or “over 17/18 etc”. Basically, Chinese authors and directors have to compete using just the G rating for their works.

    If what you are saying is true, the French and German government forbidding any positive display of Nazi symbols should have stifled creativity. Nobody is accusing those government of censorship. A few Chinese series might use sex and violence to sell, however like I’ve said they have to compete with the uncensored imports. And since they try to use the same theme they usually failed miserably. How many of these series hit the no.1 spot in the mainland or overseas?

    I do agree that people are fundamentally the same with subtle differences. Shows that sell in the west sell in China like the myrid of reality show in China. It goes both way. For example, The Transformers is Japanese in origin, how many people knew that. Now here is to answer your main disagreement that censorship is imposed by those in power rather than coming from the society. A lot of people has this impression that the CCP is a separate entity from the mainland people. It is rather a creation of the people. That’s like saying it is the Republican or Democrat that imposed their view on the American people.

    Just compare the school system in both countries. In not just mainland China, but also HK and Taiwan (plus overseas Chinese) the similarity of the primary, middle and high school system is shocking. Namely, the students have to wear uniform, lined up before school, stand and greet the teachers before and after class. Did the education ministries of those regions come together and decide?

    Well, the west is always arguing about censorship in China but they actually have their own form of censorship. Zhang Yimou movie “Not One Less’ was ignored because it has positive portrayal of Chinese government official. Same with “After Shock”. Don’t pretend that it does not exist in the west. The western form is even more sinister because on the surface it says there is no censorship but it exist. And yes, they want Chinese movie makers to conform to their view. This is what worries me the most, they want everybody to be like them, holding the same view!

    I want this to be a more light hearted discussion, so tell me what’s your favorite series and why. As for me I usually only watch historical drama and war series. My favourite all time historical drama would have to be 雍正王朝 and war dram would have to be 亮剑.

    By the way, anyone familiar with the controversies over that show’s finale? Like how Zhou Libo apparently withdrew because they wanted to rig who would win? Or how the kid from Taiwan misspoke “this country” and the order came from above to make sure he didn’t win? And how blatantly it was carried out? It’s big on the Chinese internet right now, as well as Chinese New Year dinner discussions.

    I think you are too prone to buy into internet rumour especially those floating around. I usually would wait until there are concrete evidence before making a decision. When you say Zhou withdraw because of that, and the order came from above did you see any evidence? Frankly, that’s all you will see if that’s what you believe in the first place. There’s a Chinese saying for that 捕风捉影.

    Anyway, the male lead for “步步惊心” is from Taiwan, so is the lead on many hit series on the mainland. Any one buying into that rumour pretty much doesn’t understand much about China at all. In fact what you have described happened in Taiwan and HK! Anybody care to give the reason?

  9. January 23rd, 2012 at 09:44 | #9


    I agree there’s definitely lots of room for improvement. The mainland doesn’t not allow any glorification of any illegal activities. So there is no gangster movie (unless he is a patriotic anti-Japanese one), no bad cop/soldier movie, even the love stories cannot be too out of whack etc etc.

    Frankly, what I see is sort of a lack of rating system. So for the mainland movie to develop further a rating system must be put into place. To expect a 12 year old to watch the same movie with a 40 year old is unrealistic.

    還珠格格 was a fairy tale style love story. It is more a mainland/Taiwan production. 瓊瑤 was born in the mainland but grow up in Taiwan. Frankly, I think her works are for teenagers. I don’t know what Rhan would think about her judging on his remarks earlier. LOL

    Well, the Korean did produced a bunch of “super perfect” love series and were a hits all over Asia (first time in Japan). However, the audience are now too jaded to fall for it anymore and Korean producers are falling back to historical drama too.

    I use “步步驚心” as an example because my sister mentioned how good the photography and scenery was in the movie. It is a big budget production in the mould of the Korean “super perfect” love story with a historical twist(which is surprisingly accurate if you take out the love story) and with a female lead dating many handsome guys nonetheless. It has a sophistication that a Korean plain love story doesn’t have.It is also very fake like those Korean idol series, After 10 episodes or so I haven’t seen an ugly woman yet!

    Yes, it just started showing in Singapore on the 16th of Jan. Let us know the feedback. I have a feeling this is going to be a hit overseas.

  10. Charles Liu
    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:56 | #10

    IMHO Kai’s fairly single-tracked sentiment on “censorship/control” may be an interesting illustration of just how controlled the Official Narrative on China is (which beg the question is it then censorship?)

    Back in April the transcendental-themed TV show getting banned was well publicized in Western media eventhou it wasn’t true. As popularity of “Chilling Steps” demonstrates, this line of production wasn’t being banned.

  11. Charles Liu
    January 23rd, 2012 at 11:00 | #11

    I would also like to add that TV censor boards are still enforced in many western countries today, US/UK for examples.

  12. January 23rd, 2012 at 11:01 | #12

    I’d like to expand on the point Ray made above a bit, because if recognized, the West could benefit a lot from China:

    Well, the west is always arguing about censorship in China but they actually have their own form of censorship. Zhang Yimou movie “Not One Less’ was ignored because it has positive portrayal of Chinese government official. Same with “After Shock”. Don’t pretend that it does not exist in the west. The western form is even more sinister because on the surface it says there is no censorship but it exist. And yes, they want Chinese movie makers to conform to their view. This is what worries me the most, they want everybody to be like them, holding the same view!

    This phenomenon in my opinion is governed very much by human nature. When you are rich and mighty, you tend to think everyone else is not worthy. When you are poorer and less powerful, you tend to give the rich and more powerful benefit of the doubt on a lot of things – therefore, you try much harder to learn what is it that makes them richer and mightier.

    In our recent interview with Shaun Rein, he pointed out that many of China’s leaders send their children go to the West to study. They bring back ideas and help adapt whatever helps in China’s situation.

    If we look at Google’s revenue share that still comes from China vs. Baidu’s revenue share in search from the U.S. – you will see that the Chinese are light years ahead in terms of seeking out materials in English as opposed to the other way around.

    So, the West essentially has a mental firewall – one that is inescapable and governed by human nature. I would venture to say this wall is much much bigger than the ‘Great Firewall.’

    I’d also add, when China gets ‘there’ one day, she will run into the same problem. Looking back at history, China built the Great Wall not only out of desire for physical protection, but also out of a conceited view that people beyond it are less worthy.

    So, having lived in the U.S. so long, I completely agree with Ray’s observation. There is such a fear and rejection for views different from the West in the West.

    And one more observation:

    Chinese scientists are actually making a lot of discoveries. The key thing from them realizing their ‘creativity’ (or able to show it off publicly) is because of economics – they don’t quite have the facilities and equipment to experiment. Though this is changing very fast.

    I seldom observe engineers or scientists in the U.S. reading Chinese and seeking out what is being published in China. (Again, the Google vs. Baidu revenue data proves it.)

  13. Charles Liu
    January 23rd, 2012 at 11:52 | #13

    Hey Kai, here’s an example what what CONTROL looks like. This story is narrated in cold war ear red-speak by NPR as “cultural purge”:


  14. Rhan
    January 24th, 2012 at 17:37 | #14

    Ray, the four classic is …… classic, and would not change my view that “步步惊心”, “宫锁心玉” and any “流星雨”现代版或古代版 as cheap/庸俗, I didn’t say庸俗 is bad and would not attract large audience, in fact I think it is good and fun for leisure and peace of mind, most of the series I bought is in the 庸俗 categories.

    “亮剑” do well because there is less talk on patriotism, nationalism or trying to create seize mentality, this series give emphasis on personality, the life of an army (军人或较准确中国军人). “我的团长我的团” went one notch up, the army and the battle is actually by KMT, not much allusion on CCP and 人民解放军, the theme is about living/活下去,the enemy is not the Japanese but war, and dying. In this context, I believe a paradigm shift is already in order. Try it.

    Historical series “张居正” is good, but i still find 乾隆皇帝 my all time favorite, the very positive portrayal of 和珅 make me wonder how much truth is in the history we read, for modern series, “手机” is stuff with humor and surprise.

  15. January 25th, 2012 at 09:12 | #15

    Well, all those “idol TV” are for mass consumption. I take “步步惊心” as an example is because I feel it is going to do for China’s movie industry what the Korean idol series have done.

    I have pretty much watch most war series/movies from the US and China. I have watched “我的团长我的团” and almost want to kill the editors when I see they cut and paste the scene from “Pearl Harbor”. It is about Chinese soldiers with no emphasis on KMT or CCP idealogy. However, the portrayal of the resistance movement in the series showed the standing of the CCP in history. Didn’t the soldiers “got sold off” because of politics of the KMT high level? Most outsiders didn’t know that the “communist” forces are made up by local who have great idealism. It is a ground up organization. “亮剑” showed that effect clearly, Li Yunlong can become a bandit or join the various KMT armies and his soldiers would follow him. I also like “我的兄弟叫顺溜” as I like target shooting too but the ending is way too much for me, and feel that it spoiled the story. “潜伏” is definitely set the bar for spy drama but like “步步惊心” it is fake, but that’s what a good story telling is made of. Likewise “Saving Private Ryan” is a fiction too.

    I was very surprised by ” 乾隆皇帝” portrayal of He Shen. Frankly, I don’t think He is as bad as some historians want to portray him, same as YongZhen or QinShiHuang. What most people know of historical figures is through hearsay. Sometimes, it depend on what angle you want to look at them from.

  16. Jason
    January 25th, 2012 at 21:37 | #16

    What happen to Zhou Libo of China’s Got Talent?

  17. Al
    January 26th, 2012 at 10:50 | #17

    He has his own show…I don’t remember on what channel here in Beijing…next time I’ll see him I’ll check 😀

  18. January 27th, 2012 at 10:38 | #18


    I find the claim that from Asia “…the Koreans [sic] are at the top of their game right now in terms of pushing their own culture through popular media…” to be highly subjective and even demonstrably false. It’s a fact that S. Korea films have been financially slumping for years; and I just read an article in “Film Business Asia” that for most of the last decade their film export earnings have been quantitatively declining.

    As far as “just about every female I know is addicted to the dramas”, my experience in mainland China does not nearly support that. Also, based on TV watching habits in my household, I seem to see less Korean programming across the spectrum of channels than in the past.

    And finally there’s the unsupported attribution of “…the lack of censorship as one of the major reasons for this [S. Korea’s alleged advantage in cultural export].” “Lack of censorship” in S. Korea?!? Giving just one example in the case of pop music, over 2,600 songs have been banned in the past 2 years by one of their government ministries:


    Regarding the topic of Chinese TV, I can’t really say too much as I’ve yet to live in a country where
    TV is particularly good. I think there’s a reason why this medium has been variously referred to as the “boob tube” or “idiot box”. Also I’m not so familiar with Chinese TV’s high-water marks.

  19. jxie
    January 31st, 2012 at 00:00 | #19

    A typical Asian TV series can easily consume 40 or more hours, so it’s hard for me to follow them. Based on my unscientific survey of my family members, Korean shows are out in China.

    It kind of comes down to the money, which is dictated by the market size in money term. It’s not unlike the artpiece auction. In 2011, Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi overtook Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol in auction prices, which was unimaginable only a few years ago. BTW, the story is especially interesting if you consider the interactions between Zhang and Picasso.

  20. Rhan
    January 31st, 2012 at 03:03 | #20

    I agree not many could manage to spend 40 hours on series, I did that simply because I am curious to find out what is happening to that country and culture as mentioned by Ray, normally I will stop after I can’t find any elements that could carry on to excite me, for instance, the storyline of most Korean series remain no change after many years, perhaps their popularity have much to do with their look and fashion, I notice the same happen to series from HK, Spore, Japan and Taiwan, but China seem to have very diverse topic to tell, “乔家大院”,”金婚”,”闯关东”,”蜗居”,”走西口” etc etc is something very fresh to me, I have to say my interest toward historical/dynasty and war theme series is now almost nil beside the few I bring up.

    However, China movies is the opposite, most are lousy with bad plot, just take the recent popular “雪花秘扇” and “钢的琴” as indication, I would say China made movie is over pretending and lacking creativity, not to mention entertaining value, perhaps my taste and background is different, I find most China produce movie is bore and the story is vague, most of the time, I ask myself what the hell this movie is trying to tell? I read a interview from one HK director, he said HK movie industry future is dim, reason being that no more investor are willing to pay 2 million to hire a good actor and actress unless it is a joint investment with China company considering the huge market, but the censorship and regulation have too many restraint towards creativity. I don’t know if his claim reflects the true happenings but I think the China authority should take note of his view.

  21. January 31st, 2012 at 13:04 | #21

    That’s the special attributes of E.Asian Drama. Some Korean or Japanese series lasted around 80 episodes too. The new Water Margin and Three Kingdom is around 80-90 episodes.

    China has different copyright law from the US lead model. Most of their series are up for download after initial release. Basically, if you have the time, this is a window to China too. Unfortuntaley, none are subtitled.


  22. January 31st, 2012 at 14:13 | #22


    I’m not a copyright lawyer, but as far as I know, China has similar copyright laws as US – even if content creators may pursue different uses of the copyright.

    A good use of copyright allows creators to make some money but also the public to disseminate. See e.g. this interesting article by James Boyle (home page here) on how copyright might be used in a way that incentivizes creation as well as empowers dissemination of information.

  23. January 31st, 2012 at 15:07 | #23

    I am not sure what you mean by similar copyright law. The penalty and rule of engagement is totally different. Pretty much all of the Chinese TV series we discuss here is up for download (the latest ones are only available to mainland users).

    The Chinese government also treat copyright for medicine very differently from the US. If you mean in principle copyright law is similar I agree but from what is going on in both countries there is major differences in the detail. Mass media is one. Chinese DVD did not start with an FBI warning for instance.

  24. January 31st, 2012 at 20:05 | #24


    Due to many nations (China included) joining WTO and signing various treaties, the copyright regime in most nations are effectively the same. Now, the procedures and processes may be different (depending on how finely you probe); in the U.S. there are civil as well as criminal provisions. I think it’s mainly civil in China. But in general, China is considered to have world-class IP laws but poor IP enforcements (see, e.g. this article)

    From wikipedia (cause I’m lazy).

    In 1980, the PRC became a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
    It has patterned its IPR laws on the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
    The PRC acceded to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property on 14 November 1984 and became an official member on 19 March 1985. The PRC also acceded to the Madrid Agreement for the International Registration of Trademarks in June 1989.

    In January 1992, the PRC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States government to provide copyright protection for all American “works” and for other foreign works. Several bilateral negotiations have been conducted between the two governments. At some points, trade sanctions were threatened by the two governments over IPRs issues. At the conclusion of negotiations in 1995, the Sino-US Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights was signed. In June 1996, the two governments entered into another agreement protecting American intellectual property in the PRC.

    Generally, once the PRC has acceded to an international treaty, the People’s Courts can quote the provisions of the treaty directly in deciding an intellectual property infringement case, without reference to a Chinese domestic law by which the treaty provision is incorporated.

    As for your reference about mass media – it’s how they want to enforce their rights. Chinese DVD don’t start with FBI warnings because the Chinese content owners don’t do that (nothing prevents them from slapping on some other draconian warnings if they want though). The U.S. has such warnings not because the law requires them, but because content owners think it helps to deter infringement (see, eg this article). Think of it like a “Intel Inside” campaign – except it’s of a draconian nature.

  25. February 1st, 2012 at 07:42 | #25

    While in principle all WTO signatories have the same copyright understanding, the fine detail is not the same, as you point out the civil and criminal distinction. If I upload or sell even a copy of music/movie in the US I am liable for the whole nine yards. In China, unless the court can proved that you make commercial gain from it, it is not even a misdemeanour. On top of that, in China, one has to sell several hundred copies and be proven to be a “pirate vendor” before a conviction can be made. Basically, because IP profit is still relatively low in China, enforement is not a priority. As someone also pointed out, China has among the lowest law enforcers per capita in the whole world so it is even more difficult.

    However, I don’t think China is lax on IP infringement as a whole. Nevertheless, if I may make a comparison it is like enforcing prostitution ban in China nowadays, it is almost impossible, it is too prevalent. The authorities would like to get rid of corruption, prostitution, fake food/medicine, piracy etc but they can’t.

    The main point I want to make is, China unlike the US will not use its FBI equivalent to attack piracy and the rule of engagement is also different.

  26. February 1st, 2012 at 14:17 | #26


    My favorite Chinese movie directors are Feng Xiaogang and Tsui Hark. Incidentally these two have had great commercial successes.

    For wuxia and ancient settings, Tsui Hark is the leader in film innovation. For instance, his latest films, Detective Dee (狄仁杰), and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (龙门飞甲). In Detective Dee, Tsui built a city of Luoyang that was previously less known to the general public. The Grand Canal was much wider then, and the city was practically a port city unlike today. Also the underground Ghost City is quite intriguing. His budget of Flying Swords was $35 million (bumped from $20 million for Detective Dee), which is quite a lot compared to a decade ago when he would be lucky to get a quarter of that. Even then, the budget was one quarter of the Hollywood big-budget movies such as Inception, Mission Impossible 4. It will thrill me like nothing else if Tsui Hark gets $150+ million to play with and shoots an epic film like Zheng He’s navy, which he can literally build many ships instead of relying on CGI.

    It’s a great joy to watch the evolution of Feng Xiaogang in the last 15 years or so, and he has constantly surprised me in his storytelling. Personally consider Feng and Christopher Nolan the two best movie directors in the world. 2012 likely will turn out to be a great year for movies. 2 of the films I’m eagerly awaiting are “Remember of 1942”, and “Dark Knights Rises”.

    You know what film I would love to watch? A movie about Liu Yong (柳永) shot by Ang Lee who is for sure a 婉约派. He would need a team to recreate the Song era surroundings – cities, clothing, music, etc., in other words, a live version of 清明上河图. More importantly I want to see the inner changes of Liu after he was rejected by the emperor for his care-free lifestyle, and his officialdom track was closed; and how he gradually shifted and became the king of the popular culture, and how his poetry touched the hearts of the mass… I might be in tears when Liu started singing 今宵酒醒何处,杨柳岸晓风残月, saying goodbye to the 青楼女子 of his life.

  27. February 1st, 2012 at 14:45 | #27

    Please delete 26-28, and this one. Thx.

    [Allen: Ok – done.]

  28. idarklight
    February 12th, 2012 at 18:36 | #28

    I definitely agree.
    BBJX came off of a long series of similar stories, and the story is not that unique compared to other intrigue dramas. It’s far from originality, if more so than Gong. The script is also kind of boring and follows the book too closely at times.
    In contrast, 士兵突击 and 我的青春谁做主 have much more original scripts and better production values. But none of those are in super original genres.

    While production values have gone up over the years, what both TV and filmmakers need to focus on now is scripting. There have been a number of series with great, new concepts, but the essence of TV is the scripts, and that is often lacking.

    In the past year so far, i would say that the two best younger scripts have actually been those by two Central Drama Academy actors-turned-writers – Wen Zhang’s “Age of Naked Weddings” and Chen Sihan’s “Beijing Love Story.” The scripts were witty, concise and capturing.

  29. idarklight
    February 12th, 2012 at 18:51 | #29

    Also, a few objections to the article. This and other series did not enjoy a “rave view” in Taiwan. Most mainland shows are shown on the daytime 10 p.m. time slot, which is the “housewife slot,” and the most popular shows have traditionally been Taiwanese shows in Taiwan. In Taiwan, the most popular mainland shows last year were New Water Margins, New My Fair Princess, Gong/ Palace, and then BBJX. S

    As for BBJX’s claims of historical accuracy. It’s not, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s not because it’s an intrigue series at its heart, and that’s what really matters. Nevertheless, it is a signal of how the internet has allows pop culture to flourish, especially pop literature, and it does symbolize a new popular genre of series. Series like Gong and BBJX are also an example of how the idol series for the youth are moving away from Korean/TW/Columbian remakes and moving toward more original content. It’s especially an important and growing genre because of its impact on the young generation.

    As for original TV formats. I think a good example is the recent Exchange/Transformation show on Hunan TV that switches a spoiled city kid with a poor country one. The show created quite a stir, and I think it does a great job of highlight issues important to China – the issue of urbanization and wealth/opportunity disparity. It’s also an example of a TV channel creating original shows fit for the Chinese audiences versus borrowing from others.

  30. ltlee
    February 16th, 2012 at 02:59 | #30

    My grade school teacher made a comment on the Romance OF The Kingdoms. When he was small, he enjoyed Zhuge Liang’s clever tactics. But when he was older, he began to appreciate the psychological games played to win by all sides to win hearts and minds. I had the same experience. Basically, great literature are great to the degree that it can be read in many levels. Young readers find it interesting in one level. Old readers find it interesting in another level.

    I find “Startling by Each Step” belong to this category. It has many layers. The protagonists also mused about freedom. And how a system could be structured such that none was really free. In some sense, it offers a more realistic view than how the West has conceptualized the issue. The series also triggers thoughts on the nature of power.

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