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Digital popular culture as a way to promote Chinese national identity in the Post-socialist Era : a case study of My People, My Country

Haiyan Huang (UGent) , Jan Blommaert (UGent) and Ellen Van Praet (UGent)
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Abstract
The recent Chinese national blockbuster My People, My Country (MPMC hereafter), a movie consisting of 7 stories recounting 7 memorial moments and events since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, has awakened “the shared memories of Chinese people around the world” (China Focus, 2019). According to Maoyan’s website (2019), MPMC is ranked amongst the top ten highest-grossing films in mainland China. Intrigued by why MPMC as a propaganda film is so successful, I focus on addressing two specific questions: a) What strategies are used in promoting nationalism? and b) What are the effects of these discursive strategies? In answering the first question, I adopted a political discourse analysis approach to analyze the audio-visual strategies employed in the film and found that the recurring motives of national flags, household and emotional music and the variety of dialects are used to construct a unified Chinese national identity. It is by means of these strategies, which display shared cultural memories, that MPMC constructs an “imagined community” (Anderson, 1983; Cai, 2016; Wodak, et al., 2009) in PanChinese sphere and promotes nationalism in Chinese diasporas. While propagating political ideologies, MPMC makers also adopt a Hollywoodized movie style and hire celebrities with good reputations to cater to the audience’s taste and maintain an entertaining effect, both of which not only depoliticize the propagandist nature of the movie but also guarantee a profitable cultural product. With regards to the second question, I conducted a small-scale (25 samples) questionnaire survey with open questions among Chinese studying or living in Ghent (Belgium). Feedback suggests that the audience is particularly touched by cultural elements that they share affinity and familiarity with. The survey also revealed that the participants felt dissatisfied with some illogical plots as well as with the overromanticized theme of self-sacrifice. These research findings suggest that in the post-socialist era, Chinese government consciously and strategically draws on popular culture, such as films, to promote a strong national identity by situating itself within a spectrum of two poles—propaganda and entertainment (Wang, 2019). Despite minor dissatisfaction, the incorporation of entertaining elements proves effective in disseminating political ideologies, as evidenced by the laughter and tears among audience.
Keywords
popular culture, national identity, Chinese propaganda film, collective memory

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MLA
Huang, Haiyan, et al. “Digital Popular Culture as a Way to Promote Chinese National Identity in the Post-Socialist Era : A Case Study of My People, My Country.” TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES, no. 243, 2020.
APA
Huang, H., Blommaert, J., & Van Praet, E. (2020). Digital popular culture as a way to promote Chinese national identity in the Post-socialist Era : a case study of My People, My Country. TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES, (243).
Chicago author-date
Huang, Haiyan, Jan Blommaert, and Ellen Van Praet. 2020. “Digital Popular Culture as a Way to Promote Chinese National Identity in the Post-Socialist Era : A Case Study of My People, My Country.” TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES, no. 243.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Huang, Haiyan, Jan Blommaert, and Ellen Van Praet. 2020. “Digital Popular Culture as a Way to Promote Chinese National Identity in the Post-Socialist Era : A Case Study of My People, My Country.” TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES (243).
Vancouver
1.
Huang H, Blommaert J, Van Praet E. Digital popular culture as a way to promote Chinese national identity in the Post-socialist Era : a case study of My People, My Country. TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES. 2020;(243).
IEEE
[1]
H. Huang, J. Blommaert, and E. Van Praet, “Digital popular culture as a way to promote Chinese national identity in the Post-socialist Era : a case study of My People, My Country,” TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES, no. 243, 2020.
@article{8652699,
  abstract     = {The recent Chinese national blockbuster My People, My Country (MPMC hereafter), a movie consisting of 7 stories recounting 7 memorial moments and events since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, has awakened “the shared memories of Chinese people around the world” (China Focus, 2019). According to Maoyan’s website (2019), MPMC is ranked amongst the top ten highest-grossing films in mainland China. Intrigued by why MPMC as a propaganda film is so successful, I focus on addressing two specific questions: a) What strategies are used in promoting nationalism? and b) What are the effects of these discursive strategies? 
 In answering the first question, I adopted a political discourse analysis approach to analyze the audio-visual strategies employed in the film and found that the recurring motives of national flags, household and emotional music and the variety of dialects are used to construct a unified Chinese national identity. It is by means of these strategies, which display shared cultural memories, that MPMC constructs an “imagined community” (Anderson, 1983; Cai, 2016; Wodak, et al., 2009) in PanChinese sphere and promotes nationalism in Chinese diasporas. While propagating political ideologies, MPMC makers also adopt a Hollywoodized movie style and hire celebrities with good reputations to cater to the audience’s taste and maintain an entertaining effect, both of which not only depoliticize the propagandist nature of the movie but also guarantee a profitable cultural product. With regards to the second question, I conducted a small-scale (25 samples) questionnaire survey with open questions among Chinese studying or living in Ghent (Belgium). Feedback suggests that the audience is particularly touched by cultural elements that they share affinity and familiarity with. The survey also revealed that the participants felt dissatisfied with some illogical plots as well as with the overromanticized theme of self-sacrifice.  
 
These research findings suggest that in the post-socialist era, Chinese government consciously and strategically draws on popular culture, such as films, to promote a strong national identity by situating itself within a spectrum of two poles—propaganda and entertainment (Wang, 2019). Despite minor dissatisfaction, the incorporation of entertaining elements proves effective in disseminating political ideologies, as evidenced by the laughter and tears among audience.},
  author       = {Huang, Haiyan and Blommaert, Jan and Van Praet, Ellen},
  journal      = {TILBURG PAPERS IN CULTURE STUDIES},
  keywords     = {popular culture,national identity,Chinese propaganda film,collective memory},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {243},
  title        = {Digital popular culture as a way to promote Chinese national identity in the Post-socialist Era : a case study of My People, My Country},
  year         = {2020},
}