By now PSY’s k-pop anthem “Gangnam Style” has become so big that’s its fair to say its of geopolitical importance — the US ambassador to South Korea has even pointed to it as evidence of growing ties between the two nations.
While that’s all well and good for South Korea, it appears China can’t help but look on and wonder… “Why wasn’t that us?”
In an opinion article published today in People’s Daily, the Xu Chi says that the success of Gangnam Style raises worries about “creativity concerns” in China.
“With the South Korean single “Gangnam Style” and its music video proving a worldwide sensation, Chinese fans have been busy creating their own “Chinese Style” versions,” Xu writes, before listing some examples.
“But the Chinese copies seem to have attracted more criticism than praise,” Xu continues, “raising the question as to why South Korea can produce such a popular musical export, while China can only copy it.”
Xu spoke to one expert who said that the issue was a problem in China, where creativity isn’t promoted.
“The dance is very easy to learn, some of the lyrics can be memorized easily, and the singer has a kind and homely appearance, which all drive Chinese people to participate and create their own versions,” Gu Xiaoming, a sociologist and professor at Fudan University told Xu, adding that a traditional Chinese dance, the “Chinese waist drum dance”, was too hard to learn.
FYI, here’s an example of the Chinese waist drum dance.
Xu’s conclusion — that China encourages copying — is tempting, but the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos recently came up with another explanation: China’s inability to deal with satire. Here’s one key excerpt:
So, should we expect a Chinese Gangnam soon? Don’t count on it. “PSY is a satirist, making fun, and having fun,” said John Delury, an expert on China and Korea who teaches international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Korea tends to have more irony and satire in its comedy than China, and there aren’t the impediments to exporting things that question or poke fun of Korean society, politics, etc. And I think somehow people all over the world feel invited to join in, despite a huge cultural difference, when someone from a foreign place is making a bit of fun of themselves. That’s inviting. But China, especially acting in its official, soft-power capacity, is only comfortable exporting things that show off the greatness of its ancient civilisation or economic development. That’s not terribly inviting.”
Despite these issues, Gangnam style’s popularity may have reached a new height in China. Today the song topped the Baidu MP3 list for the first time.
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