The Construction of a United Great China: A Comparative Study of the CCTV Spring Festival Galas, 1984-86 and 2004-06

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Virginia Tech


The Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in China. On every Lunar New Year's Eve since 1983, the state-run China Central TV (CCTV), the only national TV station in China, has held a celebrating gala. This thesis attempts to examine the CCTV Spring Festival Galas as a case study of China's statist nationalism. The research questions of this thesis are: what techniques and technologies have the CCTV Spring Festival Galas used to construct a Chinese national space? How have the CCTV Spring Festival Galas describe the Chinese national space? And what changes have taken place in these techniques and technologies as well as in the descriptions? To answer these questions, this thesis conducts a comparative research, comparing both the commonalities and differences between the galas of 1984-86 and those of 2004-06. Employing an interpretative textual analysis approach, it analyzes the videos of these six years' galas and explores the political meanings of words and programs in the galas. This thesis finds that in order to imagine a united Chinese national space, the galas mainly represent China in terms of classes, ethnic groups and places. With the presence of minorities and people from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, the galas focus on the boundary of the Chinese nation to construct the unity of China. Furthermore, in order to construct the greatness of this united Chinese national space, the galas use heroes and sites to symbolize China. The presence of traditional elements helps create a temporal dimension of the Chinese national space. As a result of, and in response to, the socio-economic changes in the last two decades, the techniques and technologies used by the galas have changed. Besides the great changes in stage settings and technologies, the major changes in the techniques include: in the 2004-06 galas, hosts play a much more important role in interpreting the political meanings of the programs and presenting the state's nationalist narrative to the audience, the Chinese Communist Party occupies a more central place in the galas, and home increasingly means individual family instead of the country of China. Correspondingly, the way the galas treat singers, actors, and hosts from Hong Kong and Taiwan has also changed.



symbolic politics, media, ideology, nationalism, Spring Festival, CCTV, TV, China