New Era, New Media: The Postsocialist Chinese Media Ecology

Julia Keblinska
East Asian Languages and Cultures
UC Berkeley

As a consequence of ideological reorientation, the socialist Chinese media system underwent dramatic changes in the postsocialist reform period (1978-1989), the “New Era.” Modernization imperatives foregrounded the development of television; changes in film funding altered the nature of popular cinema; print infrastructure expanded rapidly to complement televisual modernity; and playback technologies significantly expanded consumers’ audiovisual exposure. This project addresses how these new and old media worked together, a hybridized system of state and private actors, to visualize new and desirable materialities and technologies, and in doing so, mediated historical change. These products, systems, and discourses formed a media ecology that enmeshed consumers in new media configurations. Attendant to ruptures of historical change and continuities in media aesthetics and practices, this dissertation is not a teleological account in which old media and ideologies are replaced by new ones, but a genealogy attendant to the materiality and affordances of media that analyzes odd hybrids like television screened on paper to understand the complexity of postsocialist media. Its conclusion points to how the media entanglements of early postsocialism, issues of piracy, resolution, and the mobile screen, reemerge in digital spaces and inform the Chinese media present and its possible media futures.