chapter  5
Framing visions of China and the world: the state, documentary, and history in comparative perspective
Pages 31

The three cases of Chinese documentaries looked at above provide interesting insights into the changing context Chinese politics and the media are operating in in recent years and how this infl uences historical representations: while on the side of the state obviously political considerations of how to modernise China without endangering the CCP’s ruling position are paramount, the ever greater integration of China into global developments challenges also received ways of handling history and opens up new spaces for discussing history. These developments are actively taken up by the state as well as by the media and the public, though not necessarily with the same aims in mind. Trying at an ‘updated’ version of ‘using the past to serve the present’, historical documentaries are employed to discuss questions of political legitimacy and of developmental strategies offered by the Chinese state, but historical reading by the public has at times its own dynamics, is in the plural and does not necessarily conform to the state’s intentions. In either case, the framing of the others’ history is clearly linked to the central question about the national Self, but whereas the state’s offi cial history views, also transmitted in world history classes in school (cf. Müller 2011b), is focused on this ‘self-serving’ side, the public at times used it also as a window on ‘alternative’ historical ways. Thus, the reception side was a mixture of nationalism and the tourist gaze. The media on their part use their own man oeuvring space, and scientifi c historiography is another player coming in, again with very different ‘voices’, 1 complicating a simple binary relationship between the state’s desired historiographical view transmitted on various levels and in multiple ways, and its supposed ‘receiving’ public. Therefore, more general questions, including the workings of the media in historical representations and the implications of formats, but also their role vis-à-vis other forms of memory culture, have to be discussed in more detail and have also to be considered in a comparative view, as will be done later in this chapter, to situate our Chinese documentaries in a meaningful way.