Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Online Cultural Conservatism and Han Ethnicism in China

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Online Cultural Conservatism and Han Ethnicism in China

Article excerpt

Abstract

This research note analyzes the intellectual and ideological contents of cultural conservative discourses on the internet in the past several years in China. Our findings show that online cultural conservatives valorize Han ethnic culture and Chinese cultural tradition at the same time through conflating the two. They also demonstrate that online cultural conservatives reinterpret historical China in order to represent it in a totally positive light and that they vehemently attack the negative images of historical China found in intellectual, official, and popular cultural discourses. They claim that the real culprit that had prevented historical China from progressing into modernity was a non-Han ethnic group (the Manchus). Our analysis on political thoughts of online cultural conservatives shows that they partially agree with Chinese neo-leftists and liberals on critical assessment of contemporary Chinese reality but they diverge greatly from the two schools on the choice of solution for the problems. Online cultural conservatives' proposal is to reinvigorate traditional Chinese culture and their political vision combines international relations realism, cultural determinism, and Han ethnicism.

Keywords: Chinese cultural conservatism, online forums, Han ethnicism

1. Introduction

This research note analyzes the intellectual and ideological contents of cultural conservative discourses on the internet in the past several years in China. In the 2000s, cultural conservatism gradually became an influential force in the general intellectual sphere. One of its wings is composed of cultural conservative intellectual thoughts written in the forms of scholarly articles and books by academics. Another wing contains the social, popular cultural, and educational practices organized by civil organizations and grassroots citizens. We identify online cultural conservative discourses as an additional wing of the cultural conservative movement in contemporary China. This wing of cultural conservatism is strongly influenced by Han ethnicism. Ethnicism against domestic minorities is an important part in Chinese identity formation and nationalism, but few scholars have paid attention to it (Carlson 2009). James Liebold (2010) is the only work who has explored online Han ethnicism and Chinese natoinalism. This study contributes to filling the research gap by interpreting online Han ethncism in terms of its cultural conservative and political theoretical roots.

We find that the contents of online cultural conservative discourses differ substantially from those found in scholarly cultural conservatism. They are not written by the academic elite and they are not written as scholarly pieces that address a scholarly audience. Additionally, some of these discourses are generated through the collaborative efforts of groups. This study's analysis is organized into three sections. The first deals with how online forum participants' valorize and support various Chinese traditional cultures, the second examines how forum participants reconceive Chinese history, and the third section analyzes how forum participants' political stance and thoughts differ from those of the mainstream.

The data of this study have been collected from major online forums that carry cultural conservative discourses in the late 2000s and relevant discourses on general online forums such as Tianya. Our main focus is Hanminzu wang (Han ethnic group net), which is the single most important source of online cultural conservatism discourses in China. It is the recognized center of discussion of cultural conservative thoughts and the original platform of the Han ethnic dress movement. Its membership reached 119,000 in 2010, greatly surpassing all other specialized online forums on cultural conservatism (the second largest forum has around 30,000 members only). We have read the majority of entries posted on the forum in the past several years. Hanminzu wang supplies most of the citations of this study. …

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