Norimitsu Onishi’s piece in the January 2, 2006 New York Times “For China’s Youth, Culture Made in South Korea” is essential reading for understanding that South Korea is filtering “western” culture into China. This piece raises a number of important issues about new media markets: (i) the rise of new sources of creative content; (ii) the importance of so-called South-South trade; (iii) the key positions of countries like Korea, India, Thailand and South Africa in being interpreters of modernization in cultural industries; (iv) the character of the Chinese domestic market for media products.
David Barboza’s “Nick’s Cultural Revolution” in the December 29th 2005 New York Times demonstrates the importance of this underexploited market for the international investments community. The nature of the Chinese market for educational product has attracted a number of targeted business strategies.
The interesting challenge for globalizing cosmopolitans is how to create a product appropriate to a new market. Just as there is a market for Italian films in Canada, there is an emerging market for global content in Mumbai or Shanghai. But there is also a market for specific products, customized and attuned to the cultural sensibilities and educational aspirations of these new media markets.
The task of building customized programming for the Chinese market raises some intriguing questions of business strategy and global politics. One is increasingly struck by a need for a programming which teaches perspective-based history without lapsing into relativism. How does one teach about the Opium War look from a Chinese perspective? How can western-Chinese relations be constructed if there is no such understanding of a key moment in world history? How does one accelerate democratization without the kind of contamination that centuries of world history teach Persians and Koreans comes with imposition of western ideas? Without this Rashoman-like view of history, it is impossible to imagine a global democracy which moves beyond the use of history to assign blame and on to the use of history to promote understanding.
Onishi’s analysis of Korean success in the Chinese market is helpful in this regard. In part, the success of Korean film is explicable in terms of its own success, the remarkable synthesis of Japanese, Chinese, American and unique Korean traditions which go into Korean philosophy and aesthetics. Korean films are among the most innovative and high quality in the world, but there is more involved in their popularity in China than simply an acknowledgement of their quality. Onishi is right about the view of Korea as a place where East Asian traditions and western ideas sort themselves out. In this manner, Korean film and music has become a form of transmission belt for the introduction of non-Chinese ideas and experiments into Chinese culture. A successful approach to developing a media strategy for China will reflect a similar cultural sensitivity and could enable Canadians to make concrete the exportation of our new cosmopolitan ideas as part of an approach at media strategies.
A quick survey of the Chinese media market demonstrates some interesting trends that show linkages in media strategies and put the “bet-on-Korean-or-Taiwanese-imports” strategy into a broader perspective of new content development.
At the core of all these media strategies is the issue of how one creates product that both entertains and informs in a manner which reflects the needs of the Chinese market. The next generation of Chinese will demand a Chinese perspective on Persian history or Indian history which will construct the narrative in a manner that is different from that which comes from a Eurocentric perspective. This raise a number of opportunities for media products in the global community, including ones that offer news on global issues that are customized to different vantage points. This is the key to the next generation of media product development and will determine some significant competitive advantages within the competition between media companies aspiring to be global brands like Yahoo and Google or to position content providers for distribution in a global internet media market structured by the competition of Google, News, Microsoft, Yahoo and other emerging new entrants. The Chinese media market remains a complex but real opportunity for customized investment strategies which learn to navigate these complexities.