Competing Constructions of Chinese
Identity at the Turn of the 21st Century
Wenshan Jia, Ph. D., Chair, Associate Professor
Department of Communication Studies
Chapman University California, U.S.A
• What self-image should China present herself on
the stage of the 29th Olympic Games?
• What kind of identity should China remake in
the deepening phase of globalization using the
29th Olympic Games as the major instrument?
• Canton and Minority Groups
• Opium War= Sinocentrism was shattered.
▫ Cultural Nationalism
▫ Self-Strengthening Movement/ Empowerment
Historical Background II
• 1950s to 1960s: Socialism
• 1970s: Change of Direction
• 1980s: Socialism vs. Political/Economic
• 1992: Deng Xiaoping =Embrace Economic
• 1990s: Genuine Capitalist-Globalist
• 21st Century: Sino-Centric Globalization
• Framework Based on Mary Jane Collier’s
identity negotiation theory (2006) and Young
Yun Kim’s intercultural personhood theory
• Ethnographic Research for the Past Two
▫ China’s Preparation to Bid for the Right to Host
the 19th Olympic Games.
▫ China’s Preparation for the 19th Olympic Games.
▫ Fieldwork and Observations:
Eve of Opening Games, Opening Ceremony, Rehearsal of the Games, News
and Blogs for the past 20 years, CCTV, people’s Daily, Xinhua Sohu, Beijing
Olympic Games Committee Official Website, DuoWei News, Omnitalk, New
York Times, News Week, Los Angeles Times, Traveling to China for four
summers consecutively, Bohai Sea Circle, Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River
Three Streams of the Beijing Olympic
• The Construction and Reconstruction of the
▫ Into three shapes by three different groups using
the 19th Olympic Games.
▫ What a Chinese Is and Should Be:
Glocalist/ Intercultural Discourse
• Produced by emerging entrepreneurs, West-
trained Chinese professional elites, white-collar
workers and liberal sector of the Third
Generation of CCP Leadership
• “Yu Guoji Jiegui,” Getting connected with the
▫ Effort to adopt the globally received rules.
• Jiang Zeming’s “three represents” theory
▫ Having CCP represent the most advanced culture.
Globalist Discourse Cont.
• Jiang Zeming’s effort to westernize and speak
• Shanghai’s imitation of Times Square in NYC
• Hangzhou’s replica of the White House
• Jiang’s love for Italian Opera created inventive to
build the Grand Theatre near Tiananmen Square
• Western Avant Garde Architects built the Bird Nest,
Water Tube, new CCTV Tower, New Beijing
• Liberalism becoming mainstream
• Reverse Globalization
• Tu Weiming’s concept of “cultural China”
• Establishment of 250 Confucian academies
around the world
• Information sovereignty and Cultural security
• Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao Administration
stopped using Jiang’s “three represent” theory
▫ Reverting to native Chinese concepts
- Hu’s “Yi Ren Wei Ben,” dating back 2000 years.
Localist Discourse Cont.
• Societal Level: campaign to boycott English-only
• Move to remove Starbucks from the Forbidden
• Movement to request Chinese athletes to wear
Han Dynasty styles of clothing
• Opening Ceremony’s ethnocentricity
• Wen Jiabao’s affirmation of the universal human
values were attacked by some nationalistic
• Leading Spokesman: Wu Jianmin, former
Ambassador to France
▫ Intercultural Communication between countries
• Jia Yuxin and Hu Wenzhong created China
Association for Intercultural Communication some
ten years ago
• Intercultural Communication Research Centers
created at Peking University, Shanghai International
Studies University and others.
• Inclusive and Integrative Discourse
• Closest to reality
• Globalist Dicourse: “Look, I am trying to become
you and even more than who you are.”
• Localist Discourse: “Come on! Let’s recover the
glory of who we have been in history!” “Don’t try
to be who you are not and who you have not
• Glocalist/ Intercultural Discourse: “Let’s try to
stay both who we have been and become who
you have been.” “ This way can both become
• Globalist and Localist Discourses result of
dichotomous world views rooted in analytical
philosophy in modern West.
• More inclusive and dialectic view rooted in
Glocalist/Intercultural Discourse would benefit
China in the Long run.
• Interculturalor Hybridized Cultural Identitiy for
▫ Chen, B. (2003)
▫ Collier, M. J. (2006)
▫ Kim, Y.Y. (2006)
▫ SCOL (2006, 12).
▫ Tu, W. (2005)