Staging Socialist Internationalism: New Roles for Audio and Visual Media in the CCP’s Global Propaganda Network (1940s-70s)
1: Chineseness as Self-Exhibition: Regional Landscape and Folklore in PRC-Hong Kong Coproduced Documentaries in the Cold War Era (1950s-70s)
Saturday, March 26, 2022
4:00pm – 5:30pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Sabrina Yunzhu Tao
University of Oregon, China (People's Republic)
This paper examines how the elements of Chineseness, particularly regional landscape and folklore culture, have played an important role in PRC’s self-exhibition and global cultural propaganda in the Cold War era. In order to break the restrictions of British Hong Kong’s political censorship and US-imposed economic sanctions on PRC from trading its cultural productions in Asian markets, China News Service (CNS) and Hong Kong leftist film companies coproduced and exported a large quantity of scenic documentaries with less politicalized messages to win the hearts and minds of overseas Chinese people. The paper argues that the Beijing government as a northern regime strategically made use of landscape and folk culture from southern ethnic minorities to gain cultural recognition of overseas Chinese people in the South, especially those in Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, regional and folklore elements were also integrated into other types of Hong Kong-PRC coproduced documentaries, particularly sports documentaries in which the 32nd Asian-African-Latin American Table-Tennis Friendship Invitational Tournament in 1973 was juxtaposed with scenes of international travelers and table tennis players touring around different Chinese regions. By visually presenting regional landscape, folk art, and costumes of ethnic minorities to overseas Chinese and international spectators, the PRC exhibited a more benevolent self-image to the world, regardless of socialist allies or those belonging to the capitalist blocs like Hong Kong and Taiwan. The paper also explores Hong Kong’s role as a cultural nexus and gateway for socialist internationalism in East and Southeast Asia.