Regional Soft Power/Creative Industries Competition

Authored by: Chua Beng Huat

Routledge Handbook of East Asian Popular Culture

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415749428
eBook ISBN: 9781315643106
Adobe ISBN: 9781317285014


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Although there is a long history of exchanges and flows of media products among East Asian countries, the emergence of a loosely integrated East Asian pop cultural economy is of more recent vintage. Aided by rapid developments in new communication technologies, which have radically transformed processes of production, transmission, dissemination, and consumption, the dense traffic of pop cultural products across the region was, by the early 1990s, a routine phenomenon, constituting a regional, East Asian media cultural economy. At the industry level, producers of films, television programs, music, and other conventional pop culture products are no longer satisfied with the domestic market but aim to penetrate the regional and the global markets. Parenthetically, “pop culture” is used here to denote commercially produced, profit-driven cultural products to distinguish it from “popular culture,” which embraces cultural practices by the masses, namely, inherited vernacular cultural practices without identifiable progenitors such as folk religion and vernacular architecture. The emergence of a regional media cultural economy is made visible through different modes of cooperation: pop musicians stage concerts in major urban centers across the region; film and TV directors frequently work abroad; actors and actresses are featured in “pan-Asian” productions to expand the market for their works; and financial capital flows across national boundaries in search of coproduction opportunities. Significantly, coproduction arrangements are not always voluntary but are necessitated by restrictions on the importation of foreign media products imposed by the local state, pointing us to the politics of pop culture.

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