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Li, Xinru (2022) "Happy China": An Ethnography of Youth, Media and the Nation. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Restricted to Repository staff only until 7 December 2025.


In this research, I explore the cultural, social and political significance of local television by investigating Hunan TV/Mango TV’s role in the reconstitution of the nation and youths (qingnian 青年) in contemporary China from both the perspectives of production and consumption. Hunan TV has been the most popular local television channel among youths since it was established; Mango TV is its online platform. I examine the strategies that Hunan TV/Mango TV use to negotiate the political imperatives of the central state while simultaneously catering to young people’s emotional needs. More specifically, the thesis showcases the production and consumption of Hunan TV/Mango TV programmes and its young producers’ and consumers’ daily lives and feelings, which are interwoven with these media practices and politics. It provides insights into the category of being a youth and their perceptions of their nation. Entering as an intern, I conducted fieldwork for one year in the Hunan TV/Mango TV production teams and three months in Posheng county to study the consumption of this media. This research thereby sheds light on the broader issues of media production and consumption, youth subjectivity, youth culture and nationalism. This ethnography demonstrates that the production-consumption of Hunan TV/Mango TV is embedded in ‘social pain points’ (shehui tongdian 社会痛点), an expression frequently used to refer to the collective feeling of pain caused by social pressure. Youths in urban areas face these ‘social pain points’ in and out of work, and they are also echoed in rural areas, thereby transcending traditional urban-rural divides established by hukou (household 户口) system. These contradictory experiences and feelings draw youths together in a loose ‘community of feelings’ based on the concept of jia (home/family 家), underlining guo (the state国), which serves jia. Jia is distinct from the Confucian concept of the family but represents a sphere for intimate relationships and feelings.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Jacob Klein and Kostas Retsikas
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2022 17:00

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