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Reviving the past, civilising the modern: cultural governance and hegemonic discourse in China

Dr Ying Miao,Department of China Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

In ‘traditional’, non-democratically elected regimes, cultural governance based on the establishment of a hegemonic discourse is often an important source of legitimacy.

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This paper shows how the Chinese state juxtaposes ideas from the Confucian and socialist past against modern concepts of equality, democracy and justice in the proclaimed ‘core socialist values’, which poses as a hegemonic discourse in guiding state-society relations. By dividing the values into three dimensions: state, society, and personal, the CCP effectively builds a discourse of the modern, civilised citizen living in a society shared with a remix of values from the Confucian and revolutionary past, guided by a strong party-state. The realisation of these values on a personal and societal level is instrumental to achieving the state-led goal on a national level: prosperity, democracy, civility, and harmony. By using cultural nationalism as a pervasive ideology, this kind of discourse is able to become hegemonic while retaining crucial flexibility. Through identification with China’s Confucian-cultural roots, reclaiming of revolutionary heritage and championing of the reform effort, the Chinese state is able to build up and re-enforce its legitimacy as the only vessel capable of achieving the ‘China dream’.

DR Ying Miao studied and worked in the UK before joining Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. She obtained her PhD at the Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge. Her doctoral thesis explores the social identity, attitude and behaviour of the Chinese middle class. Her research interest lies primarily in China’s sociopolitical development and transformation, with a comparative perspective with that of the West, especially Britain. Dr. Miao is also an academic correspondent and contributor to CNPolitics, an independent not-for-profit organisation aimed at introducing, translating and reviewing the latest social science research papers related to China.


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