Kong-Tai style

Kong-Tai style
The pervasive influence of the ‘Kong-Tai style’ has been of immense importance in the cultural amalgam of Greater China (the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and international Chinese communities). The expression itself is a shorthand for the introduction into China of Hong Kong and Taiwan advertising and pop culture from the late 1970s onward. But the commercial impact of Kong-Tai should not be seen simply as part-and-parcel of an overall influx of capital, the conversion of China into an avaricious consumer society and the vulgarization of social mores. The process of cultural osmosis that has existed since the late 1970s is complex and multi-faceted, and Kong-Tai has in many ways provided the mainland the means for bridging the gaps with both its own past and its possible future.
After the Communist takeover of 1949, Kong-Tai culture had initially survived in isolated offshore centres, which increasingly from the 1960s–70s onwards were transformed into wealthy consumer societies. Hong Kong and Taiwan developed the popular written and performance culture that had once been a feature of mainland urban life, in particular of Shanghai and Beijing during the Republican period. Commercial styles of film, music, essay writing and journalism flourished in these offshore Chinese cultures and provided indigenous forms of modern pop culture that infiltrated the mainland from as early as the late 1970s, when the first Kong-Tai films were screened inland.
From the 1980s, the Kong-Tai style, with its evocation of hip, modernized Shanghai decadence, worldly petit-bourgeois patina and consumer sheen, profoundly influenced the face of mainland culture. Writers on the mainland generally had only a marginal interest in it, rarely taking it seriously, however, even when debates within elite culture have been sparked by issues related to commercialization. Mainland critics have generally been blinded by their own linguistic bias, chauvinistic prejudice or lack of resources to appreciate the transformative significance of these formerly peripheral worlds.
Many of the early advertisements for consumer items were often imported from or inspired by Kong-Tai and Japan, the leading entrepôt cultures for the mainland. In the 1980s, as ideological justifications for the new commercial culture were found, advertising producers and outlets proliferated. Advertising companies, many of which were spawned by state-run film and television organizations, first flourished in southern cities like Guangzhou. Due to ease of access these ad agencies came more directly under the sway of Hong Kong archetypes, and thereby set the standards of quality and innovation for inland provinces and the north.
Kong-Tai had become cultural trendsetters because they were perceived of as being modern, integrated urban environments, their communications more developed and their consumer cultures more sophisticated than those of the out-of-touch northern capital of Beijing. Satellite TV boomed in the boondocks, and throughout the 1990s access to it increasingly allowed audiences to feel that they were part of a virtual global village even while they imbued narrowly defined nationalist ideology.
The consumer age also led to a new style of campaign, not a repetition of the theatrical political movements of the past, yundong, but ever-new waves of media-generated and media-enhanced frenzies and crazes (re, xianxiang, chao, as they are variously called). These crazes included the rise and fall of a broad spectrum of ready-made fashions, from the re-consumption of Chairman Mao that began in the late 1980s, to the hula hoop fever of 1992, as well as the media-fired cultural debates of 1993–6, and the contretemps between neoliberals and the new left wing in the late 1990s. Manufacturing re, literally ‘fevers’, became the focus of many publicists, be they official (the Party, for example, attempted to engender a ‘fever for the study of Deng Xiaoping’s works’ in 1993, and new ‘patriotic fevers’ at various times) or private. The style of these Party-PR campaigns was imitative of Kong-Tai commercial culture, and much of the language used for the promotions, whether it be in the political or in the cultural realm, was taken from the Kong-Tai media, sometimes with a further input from the neo-Chinese state propaganda of Singapore. The Kong-Tai style has also had a major impact on the public face of the Party. This is obvious in regard to the updated political paraphernalia of congresses and meetings, the new style of political slogans (now cannily recycled as ‘public service announcements’) and banners, as well as language, within every realm of the media and the Chinese Internet.
The Koreans of China are virtually the same, culturally and linguistically, as the Koreans of Korea. Their architecture, female clothing and diet remain basically the same as in Korea, despite changes brought about by Han and modernization influences.
Immigration began in the seventeenth century, but the first major wave was in the 1860s, with others following later. Although there was major emigration also back to Korea, especially after the victory against Japan in 1945, the PRC censuses show numbers rising from 1,120,405 in 1953 to 1,920,597 in 1990. The overwhelming majority live in the northeastern provinces, especially Jilin, which borders Korea and is the site of the most important of Korean autonomous places, the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, established in September 1952.
The Koreans are the most literate and educated of China’s nationalities. In 1998, 99.97 per cent of school-age children in Yanbian were in primary schools, with 99.98 per cent of them entering a higher grade.
Not only is Korean-language education widespread at primary level, but it also exists at secondary level, complete with the appropriate textbooks at both levels. In Yanbian public life, Korean is used alongside Chinese. Buddhism was never as strong in Yanbian as in Korea and is now all but dead. Christian missionaries were once influential, and there are still both Protestant and Catholic Christians among Chinese Koreans, although the Catholics are not in communion with Rome.
The Korean arts feature elegant dancing, females dominating. Korean musical instruments like the zither-like kayagum are popular among the Chinese Koreans. There is a tradition of drama and novels. Since the late 1970s, Korean writers have produced good plays and novels in Korean, illustrating contemporary life, including the new family, gender and generation relations. The novels have attracted interest among Koreans outside China.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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