This essay approaches the issue of masculinity through a historical analysis grounded in the Chinese context. It focuses on how the concept of masculinity has been negotiated in prominent examples of popular culture in contemporary China over the last three decades. To unpack these examples, this essay first traces conceptions of masculinity in both the west and China and the rise of a crisis of masculinity produced by social, economic and political changes in the West. The essay then analyzes contemporary representations of masculinity in China drawing on political economy to examine how the struggle over power is reflected in the struggle over masculinities as constructed within the contemporary Chinese media system. The essay concludes by suggesting that changing conceptions of masculinity reflect the dynamic mechanisms of power between the state, society, and media in the context of contemporary China.
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