China Media Timeline, an excerpt

Below is an excerpt from Danwei’s timeline of media and visual culture in China since 1978. The portion of the timeline that appears below chronicles only the last two years. You can see the full thing here: China Media Timeline.

The first version of this timeline was commissioned and edited by Christine de Baan for the ‘China Contemporary’ exhibition at Nederlands Foto Museum in Rotterdam in 2006.

The original timeline was created by Joel Martinsen and Jeremy Goldkorn. This updated version was compiled and designed by Lydia Wallace and edited by Goldkorn and Martinsen.

Instead of being all-inclusive or comprehensive, our timeline aims to portray the flavor of each year and to allow readers unfamiliar with recent Chinese media history to have an all-round feeling of what it has been like to live through the changes of the last 30 years.

We welcome readers’ comments and suggestions and will continue to edit and update the timeline on a monthly basis.

Media and Visual Culture in the People’s Republic of China

An excerpt: 2007-2008



  • At the two-day Fourth Annual Forum on Chinese Cultural Industries held at Peking University, General Administration of Press and Publicaiton vice-director Liu Binjie laments the race toward the bottom in contemporary culture. He said the standard for judging whether a cultural work or action is or is not cultural garbage lies in whether it will cause harm to society and posterity. The statements at the conference express a new resolve in the administration to pass regulations aimed at reversing the trend toward “cultural garbage” manufactured under the auspices of the cultural industries.


  • According to statistics from China’s telecoms regulator MII (Ministry of Information Industry), there are over 426 million mobile phone users in China, the biggest user group in the whole world.

UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow


  • Mia Farrow, UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador, calls the 2008 Beijing Olympics the “Genocide Olympics” because of China’s sale of weapons to Sudan while the Sudanese government supported soldiers carrying out genocide in the Darfur region. When Beijing reverses it stance later in the year and urges Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, The New York Times credits Farrow with the reversal.
  • opens a special minisite about a fan of pop star Andy Lau whose father committed suicide. The attitude is reminiscent of a British tabloid newspaper: condemning an event while enjoying all the salacious details of the story, and the traffic it brings to their website.

’Nail house’ in Chongqing


  • The term ‘nail house’ refers to a house whose owners refuse to move out to make way for redevelopment. One ‘nail house’ in Chongqing rises rapidly to national fame largely because dramatic pictures spread over the internet. In April, the residents succumbed to the developers and the iconic ‘nail house’ is finally torn down.

Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho
  • In the wake of the Virginia Tech Shootings, the largest incident of mass murder in the history of the US, rumors that the killer is Chinese cause wide spread anxiety that the incident might spark anti-Chinese sentiment. Two threads on Netease, a popular web forum in China, garner over 10,000 comments apiece within the first 24 hour.


  • A Shanghainese man sues his Internet connection provider China Telecom because his U.S. hosted website was blocked, and China Telecom will not or cannot explain to him why. He does not win the case in court, but his website is unblocked.

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution


  • Beijing TV airs a story about a restaurant that served steamed buns (baozi) made with cardboard instead of pork to save money. Soon after, Beijing TV issued a retraction and apology — the report had apparently been staged. But many people in Beijing believed that that the news about the cardboard buns story being fake was itself fake. The controversy continues as people question the authenticity of an apology reportedly written by the journalist himself. The whole incident reveals a severe crisis of trust in China as people struggle to decide what sources of information can be trusted to tell the truth.


  • Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is censored for the mainland market, with thirteen minutes of explicit footage deleted. Dong Yanbin, a PhD student at the China University of Politics and Law, sues UME International Cineplex and SARFT over their choice to edit Lust, Caution. This is the first attempt at a lawsuit of this kind.



Cartoon Spoof of “Very Violent, Very Yellow” girl


  • The catch-phrase “Very yellow, very violent” (很黄很暴力) circulates throughout the web and is dubbed the China first online meme of 2008. The meme originated in a CCTV broadcast featuring an interview with a middle-school student about the dangers of online pornography; she said she went online to look for information and found a website that was “very yellow, very violent.” The phrase draws ridicule and becomes the subject of spoofs targeted at CCTV and the national anti-pornography campaign.
  • Steven Spielberg, who had been invited to be the artistic director of the Beijing Olympics and was working on the video to be shown at the closing ceremony, resigns from his position in protest of China’s economic involvement in Sudan. China reacts by refusing to release his subsequent movies in theaters, and netizens encourage a boycott on buying even bootlegged copy of his earlier movies.

Chinese angry with perceived western media bias


  • A peaceful protest by dissatisfied Tibetan monks in Lhasa devolves into a riot of Tibetan citizens; rioters target Han Chinese and their property. Riot police are sent in to quell the violence. Western media covers the incident as yet more evidence of Chinese “cultural genocide” of ethnic Tibets; Chinese media depicts the incident as evidence of the Dalai Lama’s “clique” seditious attempts to thwart Chinese authority. These two interpretations – that of the western and Chinese media – are so far apart that the controversy ignites an international online propaganda war. Angry Chinese citizens condemn western media, beginning “anti-CNN” campaigns and websites, and propose boycotts. Meanwhile, as the Olympic torch makes it was through Paris, London, and San Francisco it becomes a focal point for the controversy. Supporters of Tibetans hold “Free Tibet!” signs along the torch route soon attracting droves of Chinese sympathizers to hold “Go China!” posters.

A building in Dujiangyan, a city near Chengdu, destroyed by the earthquake.


  • On May 12th, a massive and devastating earthquake hits Sichuan claiming 70,000 lives and leaving 5 million homeless. The government initially directs journalists not to travel to Sichuan, but the directive is universally ignored. In the first two weeks after the quake, journalists travel freely through the area with government permission. Earthquake coverage dominates every form of media in China. Sympathy for China and admiration of the government’s quick response almost entirely subsumes the Tibetan controversy in domestic and international media. About a week and a half after the earthquake, disproportionate numbers of school children killed in the collapse of poorly constructed schools in some areas spark questions of local government corruption and cause some grieving parents to stage protests. As these concerns begin to surface, the government once again begins to assert control over earthquake coverage and access to affected areas becomes increasingly difficult. Still, Chinese anger is generally directed at local government officials, rather than the central government.

Weng’an riots


  • A possible connection between the suicide of a young girl and local police sparks a riot in Weng’an including over 30,000 people; cars are burned, police attacked, government buildings sacked. The government promptly holds a press conference, mainstream Chinese media reports the riots, and fairly open discussion is allowed to remain on government run news sites like Xinhua. On the other hand, discussion of the riots on popular public forums is tightly censored. This censorship angers many netizens and they begin to refer to “push-ups” to indicate the Weng’an riots (one of the suicidal girl’s friends was doing push-ups when she jumped off a bridge.) When the word “push-up” begins to draw online censorship, whole websites are set up devoted to push-ups, and netizens fill forums with references to push-ups in protest.
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