Chinese Television in Mao’s Era (1958–1976) — A Historical Survey


Yu Huang


Although quite a number of research have been done on the development and reform of post-Mao Chinese television in the last decade, very few, if not any, have ever published on the origins and early evolution of Chinese television both in China and the West.[1] In this paper, I have set out to examine systematically the historical development of Chinese television prior to Deng Xiao ping’s era (1958-1976), and to provide a comprehensive analysis and descriptive account of important events in the contexts of Chinese society. I have focused on its establishment, policy evolution, the change of programming content, the structure of its political/ideological control, and its operational models. As a result of this examination, I have tried to make two particular contributions to the field of the history of Chinese television studies:

1) Assessing the origins of Chinese television and its performance in Mao’s era with particular reference to primary materials and original sources;

2) Producing the argument, based on the above study, that Chinese television was a political creation; that, although media development in communist China (with reference to television) was broadly in line with that of the Soviet Union, the Chinese case presents a unique experience with typically Maoist characteristics in pursuit of its radical ideological goal.