The Challenge of China Contribution to a Transcultural Political Economy ofCommunication for the Twenty-First Century
Assuming as I do that Mao Zedong correctly predicted the zigs and zags of China's struggles toward socialism, itseems obvious that thefuel is beingaccumulated which will power a later phase of class struggle taking off from where the Cultural Revolution ended. Dallas Smythe 1981, 247
I'm notputting bets on any particular outcome in China, but we must have an open mindin terms ofseeing where itisgoing. Giovanni Arrighi 2009, 84
If the political economy of communication as an academicfield counts the 'blind spot" debate, initiated by Dallas Smythe, as one of the ...view middle of the document...
Smythe's interviews with officials and academics in various ftelds led him to conclude that while "proletarian politics" were beingput "in command of all cul- tural life," "our common cultural heritage of capitalist thinking" continued to inhibit Chinese academics from seeingthe political nature oftechniques and tech- nology (Smythe 1994, 238). Having a "gutfeeling" that this couldbe a problem in the Chinese pursuit of socialism and realizing that this was more than a question of scholarlyconcern, Smythe submittedhis report to the Chinese authorities as a piece offriendly criticism from a concerned "family" memberwithin the interna- tional socialist movement (Guback 1994, 229). Although the Chinese authorities never respondeddirectly, theindirectanswer to his question 'MerBicycles What?" has been a thunderous "Of Course, Cars!," along with all the capitalist social . relations that the private automobile embodies. Today, political economists of communicationare facing "the challenge of China" producedbythis titanic trans- formation. This chapter explores the theoretical challenges thatChina's ascending role within the global political economyposes for a political economy ofcommu- nication and culture in the twenty-fIrst century. Building on an earlier attempt to contribute to a transcultural political economy of communication that aims to transcend the Euro-American biases of the fIeld (Chakravartty and Zhao 2008), Ibringthe Chinese case tobearuponsome ofpolitical economy'sbasic conceptual categories in relation to communication: the nature of the state; the relationships between class, nation, and empire; the problem ofhistory and culture; andfmally, byway of conclusion, agencies andalternatives.
The West, the Rest, and the Centrality ofthe Chinese State
"Like a giant oil tank, the world is turning. New growthpoles of the world econ- omyhave beenemerginginthesouthandeast. Globalization oncebelongedto the west and now the tables are turning. We have entered the era of the 'rise of the rest'," writes SOciologistJanNeverveenPieterse (2009,55). Butwhatmakes China's rise standout? Its demographicweight, continentalgeographicscale, as well as the dizzying variety of ethnic communities andidentities, do not provide anadequate answer- afterall, theIndiansubcontinent, theothermajoremergingpowercenter, shares all these features. However, there is one crucial difference: "the modern state of India '" does not carry China's long heritage of political unity or recent experience as a Leninist state" (Cheek2006, 13).
560 YuezhiZhao The Challenge ofChina 561
Despite the mainstream western and Chinese dichotomous portrayal of an economically devastated Mao era versus the economically miraculous reform era, the Mao period laid the essential political, industrial, as well as social foundations for China's spectaculargrowthinthereform era(Shirk 1993, Meisner 1996). Walden Bello (1999), writingfromthePhilippines, hasgonebackfurtherarguingthatChina's post-Mao...