The Harmonious Language of Young Hans in Urumqi, Xinjiang

  • Elena Caprioni


In recent years, Chinese President Hu Jintao and the leadership of the Communist Party have held up harmonious society (hexie shehui) as crucial for guaranteeing the country’s prosperity, the nation’s rejuvenation, and the people’s happiness. The government has repeatedly asserted that as complement to the current dramatic socioeconomic transformation in China, a harmonious language environment is essential for transforming China into a truly harmonious society. The words of Chinese citizens, consequently, matter insofar as whether they can work toward or against the ultimate realization of this nation-building effort. In examining the spoken vocabulary of the Han society in Urumqi—the capital of Muslim-populated Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China—this chapter sheds light on how the younger generation of Han Chinese residents reacts to the state’s new agenda of building a harmonious country. A detailed comparison of official propaganda slogans coupled with firsthand oral records is useful for interpreting Han feelings in an increasingly unstable Xinjiang, fraught as it is with ethnic tensions and social disputes. Based on field observations and empirical studies, I argue that Han youths in Urumqi do not fully subscribe to the state’s rhetorical emphasis on harmony.


Gross Domestic Product Chinese Character Chinese Communist Party Harmonious Society Peaceful Development 
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© Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, Lida V. Nedilsky, and Siu-Keung Cheung 2012

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  • Elena Caprioni

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