iPartment: one Case of Modern Chinese Sitcom

iPartment is a surreal sitcom in mainland China, it is produced by Shanghai Film Group corporation and Shanghai film studio. The story mainly takes place  in iPartment, and the word “i” means love in Chinese. A bunch of friends live in the  neighboring apartments, many funny things happen in every episode. It is basically a life-show comedy that fits well to the Chinese consumers’ tastes.

However,  recently it is under fire of copying the jokes from the American sitcoms, Such as friends and how I met your mother.  According to my experience of  viewing , “yes”, there are several scenes and jokes 100% percent same to the sitcom: How I met your mother.

Confronted with the issue, one iPartment producer denied plagiarizing the American shows,but he acknowledged the joke is gained from different resources. When asked about the detailed scene, an actor in the sitcom responses ” it is the homage to the American sitcoms .” One thing can be put forward here is the lack of creativity and originality. Economic boom in China  leads the media market to be inpatient in gaining profits. And the heavy censorship and block of American TV production also makes the situation worse, production team can copy a huge amount of materials without being detected by the majority of Chinese viewers.

Nevertheless, the situation also changes a lot in the digital era. For younger generation, we can use the Internet to access more resources including American TV series. Therefore, though it is hard to be found by major audiences,the buzz still exists  in  small group discussion. Meanwhile, due to the advantage of internet , when trailer of new iPartment season released, the short video spread swiftly on the online world. For instance,  the company uses a method called viral marketing though WeiBo ( A twitter-like service).   Despite the copy issue, many contents in the sitcom also contains the recent event and culture in China both online and offline. Some internet language are also used in the play  that are favored by the young audiences. Sometimes, this phenomenon can be categorized as a ” glocalized” procedure, which means the content is globally produced and it fits well to the local content. But in this case, it is quite different that in China the content is produced locally and contains the global content. Due to the two reasons, at first the ideology of  protectionism in  domestic cultural sphere  makes the transnational media corporation hard to enter the local market.  And then is the central government remains to be highly skeptical to the oversea cultural production.   And as said above , the content of sitcom is derived from various resources, it may incur copyright infringement in the future. Moreover, the process of what we called “Shan Zhai” (which means imitating or copying the content from other resources) also gradually deteriorates the original and innovative production in China.


Girlfriend or DOTA? Game market and addiction in China

Online gaming market is one of the largest and fastest growing internet business sectors in China. There are 457 million Internet users with the two-thirds  engaging in playing online games.  One typical game which called DOTA  is extremely popular in China. DOTA(Defense of Ancient Towers) is a map for Warcraft 3. Recently,  a  game addiction story  caught the eye-ball on Chinese Internet. It is a general story that a boy is deep in playing the game DOTA, and  lost his interest in the relationship with his girlfriend. Meanwhile,  the girl is pledging with the net users to find a way to win her game-addicted boyfriend back. At last, the girl decides to challenge her boyfriend with a winner-takes-all solo game of DOTA. If she wins , he must quit the game forever.

Game playing can sometimes affect the reality and relationship. Like the blog and other social media , information market tends to attract the attention of users, to spend the money and time on their products. Meanwhile, force drives the network to faster and faster , more and more sources of distraction are added to the market that is too powerful for individual to change. As the online love story: DoTA or girlfriend shows, some people are losing their real lives into the game world .  80% of readers illustrate that playing DOTA is a way to against lonely.  This kind of  team working game allows 5 players to play together and use different team strategies. When I  was playing this game at first, it attracted  me a lot for all the combinations , skills and the element of being social in virtual world. However, it is still a game . Sometimes, game is so attractive to people who has  time to kill , but it is essential to remember that  game is  just designed to entertainment, but the whole life is not just for entertaining.  Likewise when attention is  solely caught by this kind of media, passion of real life reduces, besides the ability of innovation.

Meanwhile , the essence of capitalist economy is to locate as many consumers as possible. In the information society , basic resource of profit is attention, same for the game market. It fosters a certain degree of addiction, as several games tend to create an alternative virtual reality for individuals. In China  , game addiction of people who is between age 17 to 30 is very severe that 64% gamers spend money on the free game platforms to purchase some tools to improve performance. Another shocking news is that a young couple even sells their children to pay for the online game addiction.

Media Piracy in China

In China,  it is very common for people to get digital resources without any charge through the Internet. By the process of downloading bit-torrenting, a large amount of media materials can be found , such as music, film and television dramas . Most of these are pirated, which severely damages the copyright issue and leaves the production company in a  low-profit status quo.

For the music industry, there is a transition for singers and bands in China . As one BBC report points out, the music piracy leaves the whole market in chaos. Agi is a singer who runs a band in London, the singer made about $2000 a month from music with her band Mika Bomb. But she can earn nearly double price  just in one commercial gig in China. Without the royalties, the illegal downloading of music and pirated CD makes the bands finding another way to survive in China.  Websites such as Baidu, offers a search engine for music downloading through website links, however, many resources are somewhat illegal. What makes the situation worse is that due to the less revenue earned by music production , the band has no sufficient fund to market themselves. They  have to join the large brands, such as Apple to use the  resource of big company to promote their self-images. It harms the diversity of music production, as the market is dominated by the decision of big media corporation, on the other hand, it is also hard for grassroot music composers to gain profit.  Unlike the concert in London, Agi says the music in China is just as tool to sell things, and  the basic  motivation is not for the enjoyment of music or  attraction for the genuine music fans.

The DVD pirates also run rampantly  in China that 50% of DVDs sold in China are unlicensed. The Legal viewing of foreign films is scant among the Chinese audiences. Combined with the illegally copied music , designer clothes and other goals, in China it  causes approximately $50 billion loss of potential sales a year.

Nonetheless, digital technology also liberates the information flow. It leaves the choices of accessing information on the hand of consumers , and breaks the blocks of media regulation in different places. For instance , in China , people can watch the different versions of films that are prohibited by the government. Another advantage is for the overseas film companies,  pirated DVD or digital recourse can also open a new market which it couldn’t reach.

And the piracy issue has also been emphasized by the Chinese government recently, as the paramount leader Hu Jintao says “to deal with piracy is the urgent need for enhancing country’s core competitiveness”.  Baidu and Youku, one is the largest search engine in China and another is the major uploaded video website (like YouTube), have deleted huge amount of pirated videos and musics. YouKu also operated a user-pay service for watching the recent released blockbusters. In addition,  several torrent-supply websites have been shut down. The battle continues and the problem needs more effort to deal with.

The Diao Yu island dispute between China and Japan

Recently, there is a high tension between the government of China and Japan toward the Island Dispute issue.  This chain of uninhabited islands, Called Diao Yu island in China and Senkaku island in Japan, has generated a long-standing conflict.

Meanwhile,  the Obama government showed its stand by including the DiaoYu island(or Senkaku island) into the mutual protection treaty of Japan and US which obliges the United States to come to Japan’s aid if attacked. However, the US government also manifests its neutral attitude toward the issue, that it won’t support any side of the dispute.

This incident  fostered a strong reaction in China. Several Anti-Japan demonstrations took place in major cities of China in the past few months, and  grew into a  riot scale.

The anti-Japan demonstration has a long history in China.  In 2005 the  prime minister Mr Koizumi to a shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals, triggered massive protests in China. Tensions flared again in 2010 when Japanese police arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels near the islands .   The situation is worse now , as the Japanese government try to buy the island from a private owner.  These actions are also supported by the mainstream media and government with several reports are written in an aggressive tongue.

The mainstream Chinese media coverage is about the tough action of Chinese military to send vessels to the spot declaring sovereignty , and the violent protests. Reports even become critical toward some extreme violent actions by the protestors. For instance, one man in his Japanese brand car was hit and destroyed by the angry demonstrators and he himself also suffered severe damage.   A branding expert commented on the incident that  these anti-Japanese protests leveled up due to the social media services in China, anti-Japanese activists have the ability to rally large numbers of Chinese consumers to ban the Japanese products. However, an interesting point can also be portrayed that by using the social media , the police also tracks down a man who did some extremely radical behaviours during the protest.

And also due to the media censorship in China, it is difficult to hear the voice of the other side of the story. There is few way for Chinese people to reach the information from outside through western media or Japanese media partly because of the language barrier . In the meantime, the mainstream media always reports in a conservative way that the editing sector should be very careful to some sensitive issues. Through the social media enhances the information flow, the major amount of news on the WeiBo are  lack of authenticity and credibility to leave the voice remain to be a  “white noise”.