China's political discourse towards the 21st century: Victimhood, identity, and political power


Political discourse is critical to the legitimisation of China's ruling elite and critically informs its formulation and execution of political action. This study explores the theme of victimhood in China's contemporary political discourse. The constructed nature of political discourse—the ‘official story’ in Benedict Anderson's phrase—draws upon a range of supporting sources. Of central importance is the role of history and one of its key features is the portrayal of China as victim. This offers a distinctive pole of identificatory attachment for the construction of a modernist reading of national Chinese political identity. The study conducts discourse analyses of three primary texts. It is concluded that objectified discursive power remains an influential factor in Chinese politics.

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    Representative authors on this subject include Lin Zexu, Gong Zizhen, Wei Yuan (first generation of Qing Court reformers in mid-19th century), Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Yan Fu, Tan Sitong (reformers in late 19th century), Zhang Binglin, Zou Rong, Chen Tianhua (radical scholars in early 20th century), Sun Yats-sen, Huang Xin, Cai Yuanpei (revolutionaries and scholars in early 20th century), and Li Dazao, Chen Duxiu, Lu Xun (leading scholars in the first quarter of this century).

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    For definition of “discourse practice” used in this article, see previous sections on Norman Fairclough's formulation of discourse and discourse analysis.

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Renwick, N., Cao, Q. China's political discourse towards the 21st century: Victimhood, identity, and political power. East Asia 17, 111–143 (1999).

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  • Chinese Communist Party
  • Political Discourse
  • Schematic Knowledge
  • Chinese Nation
  • Discursive Space