Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


East Asian Studies


Marc Blecher

Committee Member(s)

Sheila Jager, Chair
David Kelley, Chair
Ann Sherif
Hsiu-Chuang Deppman
James Dobbins
Suzanne Gay
Bonnie Cheng


Jazz, China, Globalization, Modernity


Two important questions arise regarding the development of Jazz music in China. First, what common elements explain why Jazz music in these two cities, and indeed the country as a whole, is so less well developed than in other non-Western countries that managed to import and adapt it? Second, what explains the different aesthetic foci in the country's two greatest cities and major centers of such Chinese Jazz music? I will examine Jazz music in these two cities, with reference to the historical roots of Jazz in China, the competing co-development of different concepts of Chinese modernity in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as the economic and political factors that affect the development of Jazz music.

More important, however, is the need to paint a fuller picture of the complexity of arts in China. Over the past century, the West has developed the view that Chinese artists remain locked in a struggle against the Chinese government. This view is not only wrong, but carries an ideologically pointed supposition: that art for arts sake must contradict the norms of the state. Consequentially, the politics of Chinese Jazz music do not necessarily reflect this binary struggle of artist against the state; rather, they reflect a deep history of hegemonic ideological commitment to the political, moral and social benefits of music. Studying the musicians of Beijing and Shanghai reveals subtle influences on Chinese Jazz music, audiences, and venues: artists must balance political, aesthetic, financial and intellectual motivations for their work. Information such as the political tendencies of musicians, how well are shows attended and who attends them, economy and even simple queries regarding the architectural, aesthetic decoration and physical construction of a Jazz club or the average dress of musicians on stage, can tell us more about the roles of culture, politics, economics and history, on the larger Chinese stage.

I will argue that the development of contrasting Jazz aesthetic forms in Shanghai and Beijing can be explained by supportive or suppressive local policies towards artists and their craft, the presence or absence of local history of the music, and the financial, political and aesthetic foci of musicians, venues and audiences. Finally, this phenomenon of cultural localization in China marginalizes the overall development of Jazz music as a plethora of dissimilar aesthetics, according to the political, economic and historical identities of each region.