China: Peking opera and Beijing punk

In a speech in Brisbane last week, Linda Jaivin used two short video clips to demonstrate two markedly different sides to Chinese culture. Viewed together, these clips, Jaivin argued, show that Chinese culture extends far beyond Communist Party propaganda.  

So, take a look. Here is a “gormless” video to celebrate the fifth anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.



And here is indie band Carsick Cars – who have a dedicated international following, including in Australia – and whose song repeats the word “Zhongnanhai”: the name of both the leadership compound in Beijing and a brand of cigarettes. 





Jaivin featured the two clips in a speech, based on her essay in the latest issue of Australian Foreign Affairs, Are We Asian Yet? History vs Geography, which was delivered at an event hosted by the Griffith Asia Institute and the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art. 

As Jaivin writes in her fascinating essay: “Chinese culture is many things. It is Peking opera and Beijing punk. It is ancient classics and internet slang. It can be historical, retro, contemporary, highbrow, popular, propagandist or rebellious.” And: “Australia’s ability to connect with China on a cultural level is crucial to our ability to understand and deal with the challenges of what is often a frictional relationship.” 

To read Jaivin’s the full essay subscribe or buy the book.