Popular Music and Youth Culture in Modern China

 Popular Music and Youth Culture in Modern China



Wang, Jing (Adel), College of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University











Course Description:

This course focuses on China’s popular music culture contextualized in post-Mao, neoliberal China.  There are several advantages in exploring China’s contemporary socio-cultural-political milieus from popular music.   Popular music includes a range of music genres from rock music, jazz to hip hop and urban folk music, thus it is one of the largest and richest public spheres in China today.  Popular music is everywhere: broadcasted daily non-stop on local radio and TV programs, sold on CDs, downloaded from the Internet, performed live in bars, clubs, livehouses, stadiums, sung and danced to in karaoke bars, discos, and bars, and written by critics in newspapers, online, and in books.  Different social, cultural, political forces—such as the state, the mainstream, the entrepreneurs, cultural elite and dissidents—all use popular music to establish identity, express beliefs, aspirations, feelings, and to interact with others.  As such, popular music culture provides us a unique opportunity to find out what contemporary Chinese people, particularly the youth culture (as the major consumer of popular music in China) think, feel, experience, do and want to do.   It also allows us to analyze more complicated issues of class, power, gender, money, taste and etc. 

This class will be conducted in a mixed lecture/seminar+fieldtrip format.  In the first half of each class meeting, the instructor will present basic background issues and themes of that week’s topic. The second half of each class will be more interactive, with in-class discussion based on the readings and discussion questions submitted ahead of class.  There will be one to two fieldtrips in the class.  The class will visit a contemporary art exhibition of young Chinese artists in either Hangzhou or Shanghai.  We may also visit a major music venue in Hangzhou.  These fieldtrips intend to provide an opportunity for students to get immersed in the local culture.  








Jeroen De Kloet, China with a Cut: Globalization, Urban Youth, and Popular Music, Amsterdam University Press, 2008. 

Nimrod Baranovitch, China’s New Voices: Popular Music, Ethnicity, gender, and politics. University of California Press, 2003


Born, Georgina.  “Music and the Materialization of Identities”, Journal of Material Culture, 16(4) 376-388, 2011. 

Fong, Vanessa L. “China’s One-Child Policy and the Empowerment of Urban Daughters” in American Anthropologist 104(4), 2002. 

Fung, Anthony Y.H. “Fandom, Youth and Consumption in China” in European Journal of Cultural Studies 12(3), 2009.

Huang, Hao.  “Voices from Chinese Rock, Past and Present Tense: Social Commentary and Construction of Identity” in “Yaogun Yinyue,” from Tiananmen to the Present. in Popular Music and Society, Vol.26.2, 2003.

Huang, Yu. From ‘Talent Show’ to ‘Circusee’: Chinese youth resistant acts and strategies in the Super Girl Voice Phenomenon. Critical Arts 28(1) 2014. pp. 140-151.

Kam, Lucetta Y.L., “Desiring T, Desiring Self: ‘T-Style’ Pop Singers and Lesbian Culture in China” in Journal of Lesbian Studies, 18. 2014.  

Liu, Jin.  “Alternative Voice and Local Youth Identity in Chinese Local-Language Rap Music” in Positions 22:1, 2014. 

Qiu Zitong, “Cuteness as Subtle Strategy: Urban Female Youth and online feizhuliu culture in contemporary China.” in Culture Studies 27 (2), 2013. 

Samson Young. “The Possibility of Authenticity: Sounding the Socialist China in FM3’s Buddha Machine." In Hee Sook Oh (ed.), Contemporary Music in South East Asia. Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 2014.

Wang, Jing (Adel).  “Utopian Impulses in China’s Sound Culture: The Raying Temple Subculture Collective,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, 27.2. 2015 (forthcoming)

Wang, Jing. Brand New China: Advertising, Media and Commercial Culture. Harvard University Press, 2008. Chapter 6 Hello Moto: Youth Culture and Music Marketing. 228-246.


Assignments (Group presentation +Individual research paper)

Students will be assigned in groups to conduct fieldworks with topics related to youth culture and popular music culture in China.  Fieldwork includes conducting participant observation and on-site interviews.  In the last week of the class, students will present their fieldwork, research questions and analysis, using PPT or edited videos.

Each student must turn in individual research paper (3000 words not including references and notes). 

Papers should be submitted through email to adel.wang@gmail.com by Nov.12 (Thursday), 2015. Please note that this date is tentative and may be subject to change. 

Papers will be graded passed/not passed. The paper has to include: a) an introduction presenting the research question or research theme; b) literature review; c) a description of the subject of research; d) an analysis and discussion of the results of the investigation; e) a conclusion; and f) a “List of references” that include at least 8 academic sources that are used in the paper. Only papers including all of these points will be able to pass. 


Finals 100 points

Group Presentation (15 minutes, PPT with pictures, videos or audios) 40

Individual research paper (3000, typed, single space, 12 font) 60

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