Wing-Fai Leung: Chinese Cinema in the Era of Capitalisation, Globalisation and Digitalisation


06 February 2019, 13:00


Trainee centre 3.40, Vodární 6


This talk presents a comparative study of Chinese and Indian freelancers who use the global crowdsourcing platform Upwork. It is the result of research conducted in collaboration with Professors Premilla D’Cruz and Ernesto Noronha of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.  In this lecture, Dr. Leung examines (a) how the workforces in developing economies experience these platforms, and (b) how their participation in the global digital platform economy can be understood through their specific national contexts. The data indicate that both Chinese and Indian freelancers are relatively young and highly educated, and they consider the digital platform as an opportunity to work with international clients and hone their skills, while they often suffer discrimination by virtue of their geographical locations. The notions of self-realisation and entrepreneurialism are evident in China and India as a result of neoliberal and global influences. Platforms such as Upwork engender the individualisation of the labour force, perceived as empowerment while absorbing the freelancers into a new capitalist logic in which the gig economy exports precarity through the new international division of labour. This lecture focuses on the recent development of Chinese cinema. Following the relaxation of state control on film production in the mid-1990s, private investment in the sector has fostered a film industry which has now become the second largest in the world and is set to overtake the USA by 2020. However, the commercial industry closely collaborates with the government’s media policy and produces features films within the limits of state control over the ideological content. Furthermore, the lecture will analyze to what extent global and regional trends such as co-production with Asian and western partners has impacted on the film industry in China. The Great Wall (Zhang Yimou, 2016), an US-China co-production, will be used as a case study. In the second half of the lecture, Dr. Leung will turn to the impact of digitalisation on the Chinese film industry. In particular, the involvement of the most profitable Internet providers/companies (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) and corporations (e.g. Wanda) have changed film production and distribution. iQiyi (part of Baidu) will be used as an example, and I will consider what we can learn from the Chinese platform in terms of online film production and distribution. Dr. Leung argues that we may have to consider film production only as a part of the wider development of China’s media industry and the evolution of business models in the film and media sector following a digital revolution.