Imagining China in the Era of Global Consumerism and Local Consciousness: Media, Mobility, and the Spring Festival

by Ren, Li

Abstract (Summary)
Using the Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year) as a springboard for fieldwork and discussion, this dissertation explores the rise of electronic media and mobility in contemporary China and their effect on modern Chinese subjectivity, especially, the collective imagination of Chinese people. Informed by cultural studies and ethnographic methods, this research project consisted of 14 in-depth interviews with residents in Chengdu, China, ethnographic participatory observation of local festival activities, and analysis of media events, artifacts, documents, and online communication. The dissertation argues that “cultural China,” an officially-endorsed concept that has transformed a national entity into a borderless cultural entity, is the most conspicuous and powerful public imagery produced and circulated during the 2001 Spring Festival. As a work of collective imagination, cultural China creates a complex and contested space in which the Chinese Party-state, the global consumer culture, and individuals and local communities seek to gain their own ground with various strategies and tactics. This dissertation has five chapters: Chapter one introduces the project and situates it within a theoretical, historical, and scholarly context. Chapter two details the methodological framework and lays out a specific design for the fieldwork in Chengdu, China. Chapter three probes Chinese mediascapes with the focus on two image-centered media—television and the Internet. Discussion includes the transformation of the annual festival into a mediated national ritual, the China Central Television (CCTV) Spring Festival eve gala, as well as the virtual celebration of the festival on the Internet. Chapter four concerns holiday consumption and tourism as China undergoes a profound transition from a production-oriented to a consumer-oriented economy. The chapter examines the reconfiguration of urban spaces by market forces, a collective desire for festival consumption, and the revival of folk traditions as packaged tourist spectacles. Chapter five, the conclusion, reiterates the researcher’s interpretations, reflects on the methodology, and acknowledges limitations and implications of the present study.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Ohio University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:the spring festival media china mobility nationalism


Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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