C-Pop – Western influences in popular Chinese music | Sunday Observer

C-Pop – Western influences in popular Chinese music

28 February, 2021

Difficult as it is to admit, global culture has largely shown itself to be mostly Westernised. Western movies, music and books are a staple everywhere, and while this has been slowly changing as of late with certain cultures finding stronger voices that are heard internationally; the influences of the west in every other part of the world are deeply rooted and cannot be ignored. Even for nations like China, whose cultures have recently shown to be as prominent on the global scale as the west, have very strong western influences in almost every aspect of their culture.

The most unique relationship that the cultures of China have with influences from the west is in its music, especially in its Pop music.

Chinese Pop Music, known colloquially as C-Pop, as expected is as large and fragmented as most features of the nation. Split into three subgenres, the development of C-Pop has been sporadic and tumultuous depending on the region.

Mandopop, though the distinction as such is only a recent phenomenon, is the oldest of the three genres. Defined as popular music sung in Mandarin, the primary language of mainland China, Mandopop was inspired heavily by Jazz, most notably by American jazz musician Buck Clayton.

However, while the following couple of decades saw t a golden era for Mandopop, the rise of the Communist party in China ensured its fall.

Denounced by the new government as indecent, as pornographic, pop music saw a huge decline, and many artistes of the time fled to the then British occupied Hong Kong.


These mass migrations of artistes to Hong Kong gave rise to Cantopop, or pop music sung in Cantonese. Unlike mainland China, the people of Hong Kong wholly accepted western culture, considering it to be a sign of sophistication.

This acceptance and surge of pop artistes led to a strong development of Cantopop, becoming the most prominent music industry of the C-pop genres for decades. Modern technological advancements like television saw a further spike in popularity, achieving a sort of, golden era of Cantopop, even developing its own 60’s band fever.

However, this prosperity was not to last, as UK handed over sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China in the late 90’s, falling back under the Communist Party.

However, due to a cultural revolution in mainland China, pop music was no longer seen as improper, allowing it to remain relevant, though Cantonese eventually gave way for Mandopop to regain its status as the strongest of the three C-pop genres.


Hokkienpop, sung in Taiwanese Hokkien is completely different compared to its contemporaries. Having been under Japanese rule for most of the pop revolution the world was undergoing, Hokkienpop was inspired by traditional Japanese enka music, which was also inspired by Western jazz.

Taiwan was resistant to most Japanese influences but accepted modern Japanese education which exposed them to western culture. However, Japan’s wars forced the budding Taiwanese music to halt any progress as any musical talents were conscripted.

Even after China regained Taiwan as a territory, Hokkienpop was suppressed in favour of Mandarin.

Over time, the Taiwanese music industry became the second largest in Asia at its peak, behind Japan, but rampant piracy caused the industry to wane.

The mid 2000s caused a surge of foreign music to become popular, though as of recently, Hokkien music with nationalistic, anti-Chinese messages have seen a rise in popularity.

For even a nation like China, a nation with such a strong national identity that is at times outright antagonistic towards foreign influences, it has been impossible to avoid foreign influences entirely.

Resisting these changes has only crippled its culture and in the case of Hong Kong and Taiwan, shows how accepting it and creating a new unique cultural identity can open up unlimited possibilities for progress.

Something that China itself has realised with time, and is one of the reasons it is the superpower nation it is today.