Re-examining Herbert Schiller’s cultural imperialism thesis with cases of chinese and korean cultural industries and China’s quest for soft power: A comparative study of chinese film and online gaming industries’ going-out efforts

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(Thesis) M.A.
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Author: Zhang, Yuji
First essay: In the climate of a new orthodoxy foregrounding de-centralization and cultural diversification in globalization since the 1990s, Herbert Schiller's theory of cultural imperialism has been largely discredited in communication studies. Schiller's cultural account of U.S. imperialism is considered unsatisfactory for explaining emerging markets and rapid developments in global cultural industries. Both the Korean wave and the rise of China’s soft power seem to support this proposition. This article goes back to Schiller's thesis with the challenge represented in the successes of China and Korea. To be sure, real-world developments and current global power shifts challenge Schiller’s state-centric analysis of “imperialism”. However, Schiller's core-periphery framing of “domination” and “subordination” in power relations is still adaptable to today's environment. Additionally, his observation of the global cultural dominance of transnational corporate authorities and their dependence on class exploitation remains valid. Cultural imperialism successors need to account for both the state and class relations when studying contemporary cultural and economic exchanges among established powers and new powers. Second essay: China’s rapid growth over the last several decades has reshaped the international economic and political order. Against the backdrop of ongoing global power shifts, China’s steps to develop and increase its soft power have attracted immense attention. This essay continues Yuezhi Zhao’s study of global power shifts and communication in China by locating China’s quest for soft power within its historical and geopolitical contexts and addressing the complexities of Chinese cultural industries’ global integration through a political economy of communication (Zhao, 2013; Zhao, 2014). This analysis foregrounds the identical nature of capital accumulation in the domestic and global developments of China’s film and online gaming industries. If China’s cultural revitalization is to be understood as offering an alternative to the current capitalist order, then the global commercial expansion of China’s online gaming and film industries do not represent soft power breakthroughs. Rather, they represent the market imperatives and business strategies underpinning China’s cultural integration into global capitalism.
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Thesis advisor: Zhao, Yuezhi
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