Professor Ying Zhu, Chinese media expert, speaks at USALI

On Thursday, January 23, Professor Cohen resumed USALI’s weekly lunch series with Dr. Ying Zhu, Chair of the Department of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island-CUNY and the author of several books on Chinese cinema and media, including Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television (2012).

Over the course of an hour, Professor Zhu – whose work has appeared in major academic journals, books, and publications such as The AtlanticLos Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal – spoke on several topics, including the government’s infusion of political allegory into China’s national television network’s (CCTV) primetime dramas. Through her research, she has found that “the government actively utilizes CCTV as an organ through which the state’s voice can be transmitted through vast, particularly rural, audiences.” Professor Cohen noted that drama exists off screen as well, in the trials of Bo Xilai and other well-known figures. Professor Zhu agreed, observing that “theatricality” is inherent in Chinese trials, as can be seen from the frenzy that surrounded the Gang of Four to the secrecy enveloping this week’s trial of Xu Zhiyong.

On where the media is heading now, Professor Zhu called attention to “Officialdom Drama,” primetime shows – not unlike the U.S. dramaHouse of Cards, popular among Chinese viewers – that “take corruption as is.” Moral indignation used to be the chief sentiment expressed through what Professor Zhu calls “Anti-Corruption Drama.” Now, she believes, that tone has been “replaced by a sense of resignation…speaking to the politics of where China is at this point.”

For more on Professor Ying Zhu’s publications and current research, please follow this link.

USALI’s next weekly lunch will take place on Thursday, January 30 with guest speaker Carl Minzner, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University.