Down­ton Abbey’s global charm ex­em­pli­fies Bri­tish soft power

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

y top desti­na­tion is Down­ton Abbey,” my friend Xiao Hua, who will visit Bri­tain next week, told me in an e-mail and asked me for di­rec­tions.

Xiao is one of the Chi­nese su­per­fans who have fallen for the charms of the Bri­tish TV drama. The ex­ploits of the fic­tional Earl of Gran­tham and life on an Ed­war­dian coun­try es­tate, have cap­ti­vated young peo­ple in China.

Read­ing his e-mail, I re­called Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron field­ing ques­tions on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia site, Sina Weibo.

One of the most pop­u­lar ques­tions from about 20,000 sub­mit­ted was “Would you please ask Sher­lock to speed up film­ing? They have us wait­ing two years for ev­ery new se­ries!”

Ed­u­cated and as­pi­ra­tional Chi­nese view­ers find both dra­mas to be com­pelling view­ing, pro­vid­ing some insight into the Bri­tish way of life. The shows also help im­prove English lan­guage skills.

Th­ese are just the lat­est of­fer­ings to sate a huge ap­petite for Bri­tish cul­ture and Bri­tish style.

Chi­nese par­ents are des­per­ate to get their chil­dren into top Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties and schools or place them in short-term sum­mer camps which al­low stu­dents to study in the United King­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence the Bri­tish way of life.

Some some years ago, a fa­mous prop­erty de­pict­ing a typ­i­cal Bri­tish mar­ket town called Thames Town was built in Shang­hai. Com­plete with mock Tu­dor build­ings, a statue of Win­ston Churchill, red tele­phone boxes, a Gothic church and cob­bled streets, it rep­re­sents a pic­turesque vi­sion of Bri­tain.

The UK has long en­joyed the soft power that many coun­tries crave.

Shakespeare, the Bea­tles, James Bond, the Royal Fam­ily, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the mu­sic, arts and sports have global ap­peal.

Last year, Mon­o­cle mag­a­zine’s an­nual soft power sur­vey placed Bri­tain in the top spot, over­tak­ing the United States largely thanks to the

Cou­pled with thriv­ing cre­ative in­dus­tries, this makes Bri­tain an at­trac­tive op­tion for for­eign tourists, stu­dents and in­vestors, and also oils the wheels of trade and diplo­macy. Peo­ple visit Buck­ing­ham Palace, Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle and see where Harry Pot­ter was filmed.

The UK is one of only three coun­tries that are net ex­porters of mu­sic. It is also the big­gest net ex­porter of TV shows.

Cameron an­swered the view­ers’ ques­tions about Sher­lock with an ele­men­tary ease that would have pleased the mas­ter de­tec­tive. “I know how pop­u­lar Sher­lock Holmes is, and the mod­ern adap­ta­tion, I think, is a bril­liant adap­ta­tion.”

“Of course peo­ple can al­ways go back and read the orig­i­nal Co­nan Doyle sto­ries, which are won­der­ful, but I will do ev­ery­thing I can to say that peo­ple in China want more Sher­lock Holmes and more of the mod­ern ver­sion.” Con­tact the writer at zhangchun­yan@chi­nadaily.

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