Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Hey, 'Red China' Is Brand New: A Case Study of China's Self-Depicted National Identity on Its Promotional Video 'Experience China'

Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Hey, 'Red China' Is Brand New: A Case Study of China's Self-Depicted National Identity on Its Promotional Video 'Experience China'

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

'Soft power' coined by Joseph Nye (2004) refers to a country's capability of achieving the goals through attraction. Differing from hard power which closely ties to the military and economic strength of a country, soft power emerges from the country's attractiveness of culture, political ideology, and policies. Soft power is often waived in the self-representation of a country in the form of nation branding. In the era of information expansion, the global spotlight is invariably on those who are capable of capturing global attention (Ding, 2011; Kunczik, 1997). Recognizing the significance of soft power, countries in the present era have actively participated in the new game of politics-a game 'not about oil and trading routes but about image and reputation' (Van Ham, 2008: 147). This is particularly relevant to those non-Western countries which are eager to represent themselves and keep their national image at the same pace with their fast changing reality (Anholt, 2006; Gertner, 2007). However, compared to the investigations into the Western-produced representations of others, the examination of how others represent themselves has largely been overlooked (Yan, 2009).

With the acceleration of globalisation, a couple of scholars have been celebrating for the reducing of colonizing binaries such as First/Third World and colonist/the colonized. They believe that countries in the process of self-branding have casted aside the colonial discourse in perceiving self and others (Roy, 2007). With keen interest in testifying this statement, I would like to probe into one particular branding case of China and critically look into its self-representation. Self-representation is often entangled with the self-depiction of national identity. Hence, 'national identity' will be the key term leading our investigation. Specifically, we will locate the examination of 'national identity' in the broad context of nation branding and specific theoretical framework of nationalism and Orientalism.

Nation branding is often endowed with multi-layered goals. Consolidating nationalism is the most prominent one (Huang, 2011). To fulfil this aim, countries often utilise the fetishized visual codes and specific image-signs to deliver the ideology and construct official national identity (Roy, 2007). To interpret the visual signs released, we are able to evaluate whether nationalism has been incorporated into the branding narrative. However, my research interest goes far beyond that. Inspired by Said's (2003) Orientalism, the deeper concern of this project is to unfold whether China, as one of the others, has portrayed itself conforming to the self-Orientalistic discourse-seeing itself from the Occidental-centric point of view. In particular, the end of the Cold War has rendered the First World as 'the apparently undisputed model of progress' (Lee, 1997). Struggling for modernity, the Orient thus viewed the achievement of the First World as the standard for prosperity and yielded to the Western representation (Pietsch, 1981; Worsley, 1984; Yan, 2009). Hence, a probe into Chinese self-representation might contribute to the unresolved debate upon the relationship between Western postmodemity and the ongoing modernization of the Orient (Lee, 1994).

China has long been associated with negative impressions such as 'a guarded image, troubled by reports of human rights violations and environmental issues' (Berkowitz, P. et al., 2007). This stereotyped impression is resented by China since the backward image is believed to be the 'integral part of the colonial discourse that justified foreign dominance of China' (Xiao, 2002: 285). To redress the stereotype, China has devoted to displaying a new national identity. Produced by the Information Office of the State Council of China and to coincide with President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States, the national promotional video named 'Experience China' was launched in the 'World Crossroads'- Times Square of New York on January 17th of 2011. …

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