University of Leicester
2015kongdphd.pdf (1.75 MB)

Imaging China: China’s cultural diplomacy through loan exhibitions to British museums

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posted on 2015-09-21, 13:07 authored by Da Kong
China’s worldwide cultural promotion has attracted considerable attention in the past decade. Art exhibitions sent out by the Chinese government, as an important part of such initiatives, have been ever more visible in Western museums. How and why the Chinese government uses such exhibitions, however, has rarely been explored. This study examines how such exhibitions have contributed to China’s cultural diplomacy, through shaping the image of China in the British media. It demonstrates how China’s loan exhibitions contribute to an advanced and civilised, democratic and humanist (with Chinese characteristics), innovative and creative, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, open, collaborative and peaceful image of China, and how such image is consistent with China’s cultural diplomacy in the new century. This study examines the factors which have an impact on the media interpretation of such exhibitions, namely the image of China in the media. It explores the involvement of the Chinese government and the influence of museum professionals on both sides (China and the UK) in producing and delivering these exhibitions, and the relationships between them. It demonstrates that the Chinese government plays a vital role in delivering loan exhibitions, but the role is more bureaucratic and facilitating, rather than didactic or propagandistic. The Chinese government is aware of the value of loan exhibitions for cultural diplomacy, but still allows the museums involved enough freedom in shaping the exhibitions. This study also considers the operation of China’s current system of managing loan exhibitions, and their implications for China’s cultural diplomacy and Chinese museums. It concludes that the Chinese government should reform the current system to encourage Chinese museums on all levels to actively engage in international collaboration, without intervening in their professional independence.



Knell, Simon; Gibson, Lisanne

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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