Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary China

By Yingjie Guo | Go to book overview

6

RECLAIMING THE ‘OTHERED’ CHINA

Nationalist appropriations of postcolonialism

Although the last four chapters have suggested almost unrelenting contestation between cultural and political nationalists, the waters have been muddied somewhat through the introduction of the intellectual currents associated with postcolonialism and particularly the critique of Edward Said and his work on ‘Orientalism’. This time the frontier is drawn between Occidentalism and Orientalism, and national identity is defined via the prism of postcolonialism instead of against the revolutionary identity constructed by the Party-state. Vis-à-vis a common ‘enemy’ - Orientalism - anti-imperialists and postcolonialists find themselves side by side, and their differences are largely ‘trumped’, although what constitutes Chineseness in the cultural nationalists’ imagination generally excludes socialist ideas and practices.

The introduction of postcolonial theory to China has had the effect of, as it were, thrusting the ‘enemy’ - the Orientalist and Cultural Imperialist - squarely in front of Chinese eyes, so that China, particularly its intellectual elites, is incited or forced to respond. Such has been the response that it has evolved into a postcolonial discourse significant enough to attract a fair amount of attention from Chinese and Western academics. 1 What is most striking about this discourse is that it is articulated by two groups of nationalists who are avowedly hostile to each other: official anti-imperialists and postcolonialists who are eager to distance themselves from the Party-state and official nationalism. 2

Of particular interest in this chapter are two interrelated aspects of Chinese postcolonialism. One is the ‘complicity’ between unofficial postcolonialism and official propaganda. 3 Although many analysts have pointed to the ‘complicity’, it is still unclear exactly how postcolonialism has reinforced official anti-imperialism and what implications their ‘complicity’ has for China. The other is the nationalist thrust of the postcolonial discourse. It is argued that while unofficial postcolonialism and official anti-imperialist propaganda reinforce each other in the face of a common ‘enemy’, the former deliberately excludes socialist elements from its new

-109-

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Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Rethinking Nation and Nationalism 9
  • 2 - Renationalizing the State 24
  • 3 - Rewriting National History 49
  • 4 - Reconstructing a Confucian Nation 72
  • 5 - Repossessing the Mother Tongue 91
  • 6 - Reclaiming the 'Othered' China 109
  • Conclusion 133
  • Notes 144
  • Bibliography 172
  • Index 189
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