My project is going to explore the development of television in mainland China and it will also put this technical development into the broader narrative in China’s social development and changes. It will discuss how televisions have evolved, under what social conditions they are developed and what are their influence on the society.

When the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, the telecommunications systems and facilities were rudimentary and they lagged behind most countries in the world. But after the establishment of the new government, communications were established rapidly in the 1950s. On the mainland, the first black and white TV Beijing was created on March,18, 1958, the first national broadcasts began on May 1, 1958, and Beijing Television (now China Central Television since 1978) was formally launched on September 2, 1958. At that time, the television only broadcast four programs a week, and each lasted for 2-3 hours. Those programs were basically official propagandas and local news.

With a good start, however, the young industry fared poorly due to a profound economic crisis in the early 1960s. On December, 26, 1970, China created its first color television and in 1978 China introduced the first line of production to make color TV. However, during this period, the poor economy, unstable political environment and less-developed technology could only push forward the Television industry slowly and sometimes even backwardly.  Television still belonged to the very privileged. Television programs were also made by and served for the government.

After the Reform and Opening up Policy was adopted in China since 1979, China’s television industry entered into a blooming period. China began to produce televisions in large scale and since China has opened its door to the outside world, it also began to introduce foreign brands of television from other countries. Competitions among different brands of televisions also became much more intense.  In 1985, China became the second largest producer of television in the world. Many domestic brands of television also emerged during this period. Also at this time, programs on TVs have also been highly diversified. There began to appear many excellent TV programs, soap operas and pop stars.

In August, 1989, there was the first price war of televisions, and it was also at this time that the government decided to abolish the planned-economy in television industry and let market to decide the price. Since then, the price of television has decreased significantly, which contributes to the widespread of television among average people. Televisions now could be an entertainment for common people.

Entering into the 21st century, people’s requirements on television have become higher. Only watching programs can no longer satisfy audience needs. Therefore, televisions in China also needed to suits the changing environment. Flat Panel Display, 3D television and Intelligent TVs have begun to take their shares on the market. What is worth noticing is that in nowadays China, the internet has played an important role in television industry. Now many people choose to connect their television to the internet and watch TV programs online. With this development, new form of watching TV programs began to emerge rapidly, which is also a participatory way to watch these programs.

On January 14, 2010, a website called Bilibili was launched. It is a video sharing website where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos. It can play user submitted videos hosted by either itself or third-party sources, while featuring a real-time overlaying subtitle system for interactive playback experience. Since then, this new form of watching videos became popular among audience, especially among young people. Many websites have borrowed this form and to provide an interactive environment for their users. Therefore, if people connect their TV to video websites, they can also see other viewers’ comments scrolling over their screen. This participatory and interactive way of watching videos have transformed the one-way mode of watching TV, it now makes your screen a platform for communication and fun rather than a one-direction displayer.


Example of how Bilibili works