China's Window on the World: TV News, Social Knowledge and International Spectacles

Article excerpt

China's Window On The World: TV News, Social Knowledge and International Spectacles. Tsan-Kuo Chang with Jian Wang and Yanru Chen. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc., 2002. 323 pp. $69.50 hbk. $27.50 pbk.

In today's post-Cold War, volatile, international arena, it is crucial to understand what the world's most populous nation and television audience, and its only remaining Communist world power, is watching. After all, the pictures being created in Chinese minds can influence their views and policies toward America and the world at large.

China's Window offers readers a detailed account of the domestic and international entertainment and news programming broadcast (and not broadcast) to Chinese audiences since Chinese television's inception in 1958. It also thoroughly explains how a wide variety of often contradictory, colliding forces (e.g., historical, ideological, legal, political, economic, cultural, social) have helped create a one-of-a-kind Communist national news television service with "Chinese characteristics." As a matter of fact, this benchmark text represents the first exhaustive, long-term investigation of Chinese national television news.

The author of China's Window, Tsan-Kuo Chang, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, could not have been better chosen. Chang, a renowned expert in Western media coverage of China and vice versa, is well-known for a previous benchmark text that studied U.S. prestige press coverage of Sino-American relations, titled The Press and China Policy: The Illusion of Sino-American Relations, 1950-1984. The many scholars significantly influenced by this previous text and Chang's extensive body of work, who have experienced first-hand Chang's trademark comprehensive and ground-breaking scholarship, will be delighted with China's Window, another landmark Chang work.

China Central Television's (CCTV) primetime national news channel, called Network News, "is the most authoritative and prestigious television news source in China because of its monopolistic status and power as the sole national network allowed to broadcast news to the Chinese people." Accordingly, five of China's Window's nine chapters focus on CCTVs prestigious national news coverage. These chapters highlight the text's original data analysis, both qualitative and quantitative, which examines CCTVs news coverage from 1992 to 1998, a seven-year timespan that began with intense Chinese economic reforms and ended with CCTVs fortieth anniversary. Chang's analysis is guided by a sociology of knowledge perspective, which is based on social construction of reality theory.

Chang's examination of Chinese television content does not end with his analysis of CCTVs 1990s coverage. He expertly places these findings within an exhaustive literature review, which results in an unparalleled analysis of CCTV, the variables driving domestic and international Chinese television news coverage and programming, and how resulting mediated messages shape China's domestic reality and present the world to the world's largest television audience. …