Wenna Zeng

Year of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Communication.

Principal Supervisor

Sparks, Colin,1947-


China; Power (Social sciences); Television broadcasting




Traditionally, there have been two contradictory views on the nature of power in the body politic: that of the centralized and top-down power structure within the state apparatus and that of dispersive power, based on knowledge, exemplified by the work of Max Weber and Michel Foucault respectively. This PhD thesis will demonstrate that a better path to the understanding of power, at least in relation to the localization of television formats in China, is that explained by the theory of negotiated power. Based on these theoretical foundations on the nature of power and continuing discussions on globalization and production studies, this thesis introduces a new approach to understand power via dynamic value exchanges among resources, capital and interest. The findings are positioned in relation to the literature on power theories, globalization, television format research and Chinese media studies. Based on six months' of ethnographic study on Hurry Up, Brother, which is a Korean format show localized by a Chinese network, this research examines the power relations in the decision-making process concerned with the format localization among several different parties - internal and external - involved in the operation, namely Chinese Zhejiang Satellite TV and its production team, Korean Seoul Broadcasting System and its travelling producers, the Chinese government, sponsors, celebrities, Chinese independent companies and their editors, and audiences. It integrates the theories of negotiated order, cultural proximity and the mechanism of production into its theoretical framework to demonstrate how negotiated power is exercised in a project network via exchanges of resources, capital and interests among different parties. This theoretical framework helps to challenge the hierarchical power approach by the Chinese media; and to provide detailed empirical evidence to show how political, economic, cultural and social factors impinge upon decision-making. In conclusion, it is noted that initially power is neither centralized nor dispersive in China, but rather, power is negotiated; later it suggests an innovative approach that power is the result of competition of capital based on changes of primary interests among different parties, indicating that localization is part of the process of power negotiations. This doctoral thesis provides first-hand and detailed data as well as a dynamic picture of how power is exercised in the contemporary Chinese television industry where entertainment production increasingly breaks free of governmental centralized control by replacing it with power negotiations. This approach overcomes the geographic dichotomy between global and local, and expands the boundaries of cultural, economic, political, professional and social fields. This thesis is an experimental study which the author can motivate a new direction in the discussion on power theories as well as help in the understanding of the globalization of cultural products and of Chinese television in general.


Principal supervisor: Prof. Colin Sparks. Thesis submitted to the School of Communication.; Thesis (Ph.D.)--Hong Kong Baptist University, 2017.


Includes bibliographical references.

Available for download on Thursday, October 10, 2019