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Shot in Shanghai: Sino-U.S. Media Co-Production in the Post-WTO Era

  • Author(s): Kokas, Aynne Elizabeth
  • Advisor(s): Huters, Theodore
  • Caldwell, John
  • et al.
Abstract

"Shot in Shanghai" examines Sino-U.S. media co-production to reveal the complex negotiation between transnational commercial interests, state regulation of media, and the reform of the Chinese state-run film industry. By situating the study in the commercial center of Shanghai, the dissertation argues that the transformation of media industries exists as part of a delicate compromise between China's "hexie shehui" (harmonious society--a euphemistic explanation for government control of media content) and the forces of global capital. To form a foundation for future scholarship in the fields of media studies and Chinese studies, the dissertation articulates the complexity of film co-production in the ten years between China's accession to the WTO and the PRC's 2011 twelfth five year plan.

The dissertation introduces three central concepts that are crucial to understanding the growth of media collaboration between China and the U.S. These include the role of the urban brand, the importance of latter day compradors (maiban), and the growth of global production ecosystems in the PRC. By discussing the international brand of Shanghai as a place for international business in China, the dissertation argues that co-production in Shanghai de-centralizes the system of state-run film and TV production based in Beijing. Rehabilitation of the term late Qing term "comprador" (maiban) for the media co-production process engages with debates about globalization in China by highlighting how industrial collaborations (and collaborators) act as a bridge, not just a wedge, between cultures. Finally, the dissertation's discussion of the production ecosystem reveals the studio co-production system as a site-based hierarchy of flexible cultural intermediaries who facilitate the production process. Together, these frameworks stimulate further critique of the notion of national cinemas by demonstrating the complex transcultural power dynamics imbedded within the Sino-U.S. co-production process.

Ultimately, the dissertation argues that the cultural phenomena that shape film co-production--city branding, the comprador class, and the production ecosystem are not only essential for understanding Sino-U.S. media co-production, but also for comprehending cultural relations between two of the world's largest economies.

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