A still image from the TV series Beijing Youth (FILE)
A "Chinese wind" is currently blowing through member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), spurred by the growing quality of China's television industry. As more and more Chinese TV shows go global, their influence has shifted cultural weather vanes abroad.
Nirvana in Fire , for example, is the most popular Chinese historical drama in 2015 and will be broadcast overseas amidst great fanfare. According to its producer, it has received a large number of orders from foreign countries including Singapore and Malaysia.
ASEAN plugged in
Recently, the Thai-version of the inspirational TV series, Beijing Youth , dubbed by China Guangxi Television, was broadcast on Thai TV 9, which is a part of the Mass Communications Organization of Thailand. By doing so, it became the first modern-style Chinese series to air on mainstream Thai television.
Sivaporn Chomsuwa, head of Thai TV 9, said it enjoyed great popularity since it was suitable for family members to watch together, and helped Thai audiences understand Chinese youth lifestyles. Besides attracting a large number of fans, it has also enriched Sino-Thai cultural exchanges and cooperation.
Korn Dabbaransi, Chairman of the Thai-Chinese Friendship Association, believed that the dissemination of television productions abroad is an important part of cultural promotion.
The year 2015 marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Viet Nam. Just two days before President Xi Jinping's visit in November 2015, the Viet Nam Television network began broadcasting Beijing Youth . Over 50 Vietnamese individuals participated in the series' translation and dubbing, including Vietnamese movie and TV stars, presenters and students studying in China.
Myanmar, the Philippines, Viet Nam and Thailand have always been major consumers of Chinese television programs. Even so, recent years stand out from the norm due to changes in the types of shows that are popular in Southeast Asia. While historical pieces are always popular, now, modern shows set in urban stages also enjoy high popularity among ASEAN audiences.
A still image from the TV series Nirvana in Fire (FILE)
Chinese films and television programs are certainly good windows into Chinese culture. Indeed, good TV series might play a more obvious, profound and lasting role on society than any single construction project. Thanks to the translation of modern works, Chinese stories are breaking language barriers and have started to present the modern society of China to the outside world.
The TV series Turbulence of the Mu Clan aired in China in 2012, for example, a panoramic depiction of traditional culture and local conditions and customs of the Naxi ethnic group in southwest China's Yunnan Province, was later broadcast by Myanmar Television Station. The ups and downs of the Mu clan and the excellent performance of the cast quickly established popularity in Myanmar.
It was also broadcast to much acclaim in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos and other ASEAN countries. The series was even presented as state gift by Chinese leaders to their Lao counterparts during a visit there.
"The more national, the more global. The Turbulence of the Mu Clan , with a background in Chinese ethnic culture, has achieved international recognition," said Jiang Xiaorong, General Producer of the Turbulence of the Mu Clan .
As exhibited by Empresses in the Palace , Nirvana in Fire , Beijing Youth , Beautiful Daughter-in-Law and Turbulence of the Mu Clan , an increasing number of Chinese TV programs are spreading abroad. At the same time, Chinese film and TV stars such as Nicholas Wu, Liu Shishi and Sun Li have gained fans throughout Southeast Asia.
Ma Runsheng, President of the China Radio, Film and Television Programs Exchange Center, said that as more and more Chinese films and TV programs have been broadcast in various countries, including those along the Belt and Road, Chinese stories are rapidly going global and helping foreign people understand China.
The Belt and Road initiative is a development initiative crafted by the Chinese Government aiming to increase connectivity and collaboration between China and countries throughout Eurasia. Although the initiative is usually referred to as one of economic and infrastructure development, Ma's statement denotes that cultural ties can also be forged.
New cooperation model
With increasingly close cooperation in the dubbing of films and TV series in recent years, media centers in Guangxi and other localities in China have actively carried out exchanges and cooperation with radio and TV stations of ASEAN countries.
The Guangxi People's Broadcasting Station and Cambodia's Television Khmer formally signed a cooperation agreement on Chinese Theater in August 2014.
The Cambodian version of the cartoon Bao Dada: The Cat Eye Boy , dubbed by the Guangxi People's Broadcasting Station, is the first Chinese cartoon to be broadcast on Television Khmer. The Cambodian versions of Chinese films and TV works have been broadcast via Chinese Theater shows in the past year, and have been highly recognized in terms of plot, dubbing quality and actors' performances.
"The Chinese Theater has been widely acclaimed in Cambodia, which is a significant milestone in terms of cultural exchange, and also gives rise to a new model of in-depth cooperation between the media of the two countries," said Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
Cheng Hongbo, Director of the Political Department of the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia, said that the aim of broadcasting Chinese film and TV works via the Chinese Theater is to present various aspects of Chinese history, culture and economic development as well as friendly exchanges between China and Cambodia, and further mutual understanding between the two peoples.
Meanwhile, Li Degang, Head of Guangxi Television Station, said that their organization will deepen China-ASEAN media cooperation by establishing a Southeast Asia Multimedia Dubbing and Communication Center and ASEAN Workstation.
Guangxi Television Station has also showed the Chinese Theater on Lao National Television Station, and about 100 episodes have been broadcast in Cambodia and Laos so far.
The author is a reporter with China Report ASEAN magazine
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan
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