The Image of China in a BBC Documentary and Chinese Audiences' Reception of it: The Case of The Chinese Are Coming

Date created: 
China’s image
Documentary film
Content analysis

China’s economic rise has led to competing images of the nation-state in the world’s media. Chinese audiences, for their part, are increasingly concerned with how the foreign media represent China. Against this background and taking into consideration the well-known reputation of BBC documentary film as one of the most authoritative Western media genres, this paper examines the 2011 BBC documentary film The Chinese Are Coming’s portrayal of China and its reception by selected graduate students at the Communication University of China and commentators at three online Chinese forums. The first part uses content analysis to break down the film into segments and examines its content in terms of seven subject areas and a series of key events, with a particular focus on the different tones of their treatment. It discovers that while a majority of the content is presented in a neutral tone, the film does contain one-sided representations of China’s global economic activities and thus contributes to the construction of a negative image of China. The reception analysis is equally mixed. Some audience members believe that The Chinese Are Coming is a media product that stigmatizes China on purpose. However, along with a minority of student interviewees and online commentators, I argue that the Chinese audience should take this film as an opportunity to reflect upon their government’s global strategies and foreign policies.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
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Senior supervisor: 
Yuezhi Zhao
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Extended Essay) M.A.