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All East-Asian nations have long histories of censorship and government involvement in cultural production. Both Taiwan under martial law (1949-1987) and the PRC during the Revolutionary Period (1949-1978) continued ancient practices where popular culture is treated as a popularity poll, and one governments want to influence. Confucius said: ‘the music of a peaceful and prosperous country is quiet and joyous, and the government is orderly. The music of a country in turmoil shows dissatisfaction and anger, and the government is chaotic.’

The most extreme equation of culture and politics occurred in the PRC during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1978), implementing Mao Zedong’s directions first laid out in his Yan’an talks on literature and art in 1942.

When the open door policy picked up speed in the 1980s, market-forces were slowly reintroduced in the production of culture. The state ceased to be the sole legal producer of culture.

  • In 1982, propaganda departments within the CCP and the military were reduced and the PRC Ministry of Culture again became the central agency on cultural policies.
  • Although not privatised, song-and-dance troupes as well as other core institutions of the CCP and PRC’s ‘propaganda machine’, such as publishers, newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasters have over the last thirty years been increasingly expected to become competitive and profitable.
  • Since the 1980s, singers that are employed by the military as part of their propagandistic song-and-dance troupes find themselves competing with popular culture imported from liberal market economies such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. In response, state-sponsored singers such as Teng Ge’er, Han Hong and Song Zuying increasingly cultivate images of individualised pop stars, even though their allegiance to the state and the party is never in question.
  • Slowly but irreversibly, the state has changed from a monopolistic producer to the more distant role of commissioner in and regulator of a cultural market.


For the complete chapter, please download the PDF below