25 Pages

Introduction: Transnationalism and a global diasporic Chinese mediasphere


Mention diasporic Chinese media and what springs to mind immediately is the plethora of Chinese-language newspapers published in various cities of the world. To this day, the print media continue to play a central role in the life of various Chinese migrant groups. Their production and consumption are location-bound and thus highly place-specific. After all, Sally Aw’s newspapers would not have flourished in North America and Australasia without the addition of local content. This spatial specificity allows individuals regularly and even predictably to imagine themselves to be members of a diasporic Chinese community. In recent decades, however, we have witnessed a noticeable rupture in the regularity and predictability of this pattern, due to the unstoppable emergence of electronic media, including films, television programmes, videos and music, transported by technologies such as satellite, the Internet and other forms of more personalized mobile technologies. What is partly responsible for such a rupture is not only the multiplication of new and electronic media forms, but also the simultaneous and equally unpredictable and irregular movements of migrants across the globe. Alongside the flow of people and money, the traffic of Chineselanguage media and cultural products across the borders of these countries and regions has increased not only in quantity but also more multidirectionally, forming a truly global diasporic Chinese mediasphere. Media images, in the form of DVD, VCD, VCR, films, television dramas and music videos – not to mention the Internet and satellite TV – have also proliferated and multiplied, reinforcing, destabilizing and challenging prior understandings of what it means to be Chinese. The ‘Pop Culture China’ phenomenon, referring to the dense traffic of popular music products, in various Chinese languages, crossing borders every day between locations, most aptly illustrates this scenario. According to Chua (2000, 2004), the most significant nodes in the corridors of traffic of Chinese-language music products are the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, but they also reach into more peripheral ethnic Chinese populations in cities in the Asia-Pacific rim. In most countries and regions across the globe, these ‘high-tech’ and ‘new media’ Chinese-language or Chinesecontent cultural products only add to, rather than replace, the long-existing

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ideological lookout and cultural affinity. While the diasporic Chinese mediascape may have become, in Appadurai’s words, unstable and irregular, due to the fluid and deterritorialized global media and communication technologies, such a rupture nevertheless brings the promise of a ‘postnational’ or/and transnational Chinese imagination.1