Spring Festival Gala

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The Construction of a United Great China

A Comparative Study of the CCTV Spring Festival Galas, 1984-86 and 2004-06

Xiaoyan Xu

Thesis submitted to the faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts
Political Science

Dr. Timothy W. Luke, Chair
Dr. Scott G. Nelson
Dr. Yannis Stivachtis

June 7, 2007
Blacksburg, VA

Keywords: China, TV, CCTV, Spring Festival, ideology, nationalism, media, symbolic politics
Copyright 2007, Xiaoyan Xu

The Construction of a United Great China
A Comparative Study of the CCTV Spring Festival Galas, 1984-86 and 2004-06 Xiaoyan Xu


The Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in China. On every Lunar New Year’s Eve since 1983, the state-run China Central TV (CCTV), the only national TV station in China, has held a celebrating gala. This thesis attempts to examine the CCTV Spring Festival Galas as a case study of China’s statist nationalism. The research questions of this thesis are: what techniques and technologies have the CCTV Spring Festival Galas used to construct a Chinese national space? How have the CCTV Spring Festival Galas describe the Chinese national space? And what changes have taken place in these techniques and technologies as well as in the descriptions? To answer these questions, this thesis conducts a comparative research, comparing both the commonalities and differences between the galas of 1984-86 and those of 2004-06. Employing an interpretative textual analysis approach, it analyzes the videos of these six years’ galas and explores the political meanings of words and programs in the galas. This thesis finds that in order to imagine a united Chinese national space, the galas mainly represent China in terms of classes, ethnic groups and places. With the presence of minorities and people from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, the galas focus on the boundary of the Chinese nation to construct the unity of China. Furthermore, in order to construct the greatness of this united Chinese national space, the galas use heroes and sites to symbolize China. The presence of traditional elements helps create a temporal dimension of the Chinese national space. As a result of, and in response to, the socio- economic changes in the last two decades, the techniques and technologies used by the galas have changed. Besides the great changes in stage settings and technologies, the major changes in the techniques include: in the 2004-06 galas, hosts play a much more important role in interpreting the political meanings of the programs and presenting the state’s nationalist narrative to the audience, the Chinese Communist Party occupies a more central place in the galas, and home increasingly means individual family instead of the country of China. Correspondingly, the way the galas treat singers, actors, and hosts from Hong Kong and Taiwan has also changed.


The past three years have passed fast. At this moment, my heart is full of thanksgivings. I am especially grateful to:
Dr. Timothy Luke, my committee chair, for his advising and helping me with revising this thesis for several times, as well as for his patience.
Dr. Scott Nelson and Dr. Yannis Stivachtis, my committee members, for their support and suggestions on this thesis and future research.
Dr. Christopher Clement, for his acceptance for my TA work and his kind flexibility for my responsibility during my pregnancy.
Dr. Ilja Luciak, Chair, Department of Political Science, and Dr. Deborah Milly, former Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Political Science, for their great support. Pat, Kim, Melissa, and Karen, staff of the Department of Political Science, and Jenny and other staff of the Graduate School, for their great help.

God, for giving me life and abundant graces.
My parents and other family members, for their love and encouragements. My...