Two Billion Eyes

The Story of China Central Television

The first inside look at China Central television (CCTV), the little-known global media conglomerate that broadcasts to the world’s largest audience

“The problems and issues that CCTV faces at home, and those that it might introduce to the global media environment, are of imminent relevance to media watchers in the United States and elsewhere.” —from the introduction to Two Billion Eyes

With over 1.2 billion viewers globally, including millions in the United States, China Central Television (CCTV) reaches the world’s single largest audience. The official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, CCTV is also a dynamic modern media conglomerate, fully reliant on advertising revenue and aggressively competitive both within China and on the global media scene. Yet this hugely influential media player is all but unknown to the West. Two Billion Eyes tells its story for the first time.

For this unprecedented look inside CCTV, noted Chinese media expert Ying Zhu has conducted candid interviews with the network’s leading players, including senior executives, noted investigative journalists, and popular news anchors, as well as directors and producers of some of CCTV’s most successful dramatic and current affairs programs.

Examining the broader story of CCTV in a changing China over the past quarter century, Two Billion Eyes looks at how commercial priorities and journalistic ethics have competed with the demands of state censorship and how Chinese audiences themselves have grown more critical, even as Party control shows no signs of loosening. A true inside account of one of the world’s most important companies, this is a crucial new book for anyone seeking to understand contemporary China.


“Charged by the state with a global mission, and delivering everything from dramas and game shows to news, CCTV beams its programs from eight satellites to the world. Ying Zhu opens a window onto this complex, historically dynamic, and globally important institution. . . . Fascinating reading. ”
—Dan Schiller, author of Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System, and Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“An indispensable guide to the Chinese media landscape.”
The New Inquiry
“A remarkable book in many respects [that] should be read by all who want to understand the changing face of China’s media.”
Asian Creative Transformations
“Opens a fascinating window onto the emergence of a Chinese public sphere. . . . A host of probing interviews transform Western stereotypes about state monopoly into a glimpse of concrete history, the sense of a genuine historical process under way in the China of the last three decades.”
—Fredric Jameson, professor of literature, Duke University
“Up until Two Billion Eyes, the view of Chinese media has often been limited. . . . Ying Zhu expands the periphery of our vision.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“Ying’s cogent analysis and penetrating insight are invaluable for anyone trying to understand the political and social reality of the world’s most populous country.”
Publishers Weekly
“Very much an ‘inside’ story. . . . We are given not just the best book to date about Chinese television, but a far better understanding of the role of media in China’s still developing model of state-society relations.”
—Stanley Rosen, professor of political science, University of Southern California
“Portrays CCTV less through its misunderstood public image and more through the words of people who work there.”
Asian Review of Books
“A must-read insider account for anybody interested in contemporary Chinese media . . . Zhu has proved herself again to be an innovative scholar.”
—Yingjin Zhang, professor of Chinese, comparative literature, and cultural studies, University of California, San Diego
“Eminently readable. . . . Extends the knowledge of senior specialists while also being accessible to students.”
The China Quarterly
“The definitive work on Chinese television. . . . A pioneering picture of CCTV and its crucial role in the contemporary Chinese political economy. . . . Reveals a vastly more complex China than conventional wisdom allows.”
—Robert W. McChesney, professor of communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“A unique window into the corporation through the eyes of its employees. A worthy read for both industry insiders and laymen alike.”
South China Morning Post
“A captivating look at the news-entertainment-propaganda combine that plays a central role in how China understands itself and is sure to play a larger role in China’s relations with the outside world.”
—James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of China Airborne

Books by Ying Zhu

Hollywood in China
Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Movie Market

Ying Zhu

Goodreads Reviews