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The politics of national identity in post-tiananman China: cultural nationalism v. state nationalism


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Guo, Y 2001 , 'The politics of national identity in post-tiananman China: cultural nationalism v. state nationalism', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In much of the existing literature on 'Chinese nationalism', the critical distinction
between nation and state is rarely made, and 'Chinese nationalism' is generally
treated as a generic concept and an undifferentiated whole. Consequently,
nationalism often appears as loyalty to the state rather than identification with the
nation, and the state usually predominates in what is presumably national identity,
whereas the nation becomes something represented by the. state in mute
acquiescence. Yet, in a 'revolutionary development' in China's politics of national
identity since 1989, both the official configurations of the nation and the state's
monopolised right to name the nation have come under rigorous challenge.
This study aims to contribute to a better understanding of 'Chinese nationalism'
by exploring one of the critical aspects neglected in the literature - the disjunction of
people and state that brings the category of nation and the phenomenon of
nationalism into play. It relocates arguments about nationalism outside of the
common statist frameworks of analysis and examines the cultural nationalists'
challenge to the Party-state by means of discourse analysis. It. argues that the
challenge centres on the projects of revolution and Westernisation, which cultural
nationalists hold responsible for the identity crisis in China and the dissipation of
the national ethos. A political frontier is drawn between competing projects based
on competing evaluations of China's cultural traditions, the socialist legacy, the
official version of patriotism, modernity, and authentic experience and authentic
The politics of identity unfolds on three levels in the main. On the first level is
the struggle for hegemony in determining what constitutes Chineseness. Cultural
nationalists demand that what the state is and what it does match the nation's will,
beliefs, values, interests and its conception of itself. They further seek to reform the
Party-state in accordance with their conception of national essence and national
will. Their conception calls in question the legitimacy of a Party-state that portrays
itself as the sole legitimate representative of the nation. Furthermore, the
reconstructed national identity alters existing systems of meaning - the meaning of
Chineseness, the hierarchy of values and the vision of historical destiny. In doing
so, it transforms the basis upon which the nation makes decisions about its collective life and thereby influences those decisions. The CCP's compromise with
cultural nationalists suggests that it is no longer able to hold its ground or continue
to monopolise the right to name the nation.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Guo, Y
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