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Analyzing contemporary Chinese literature, film, and television, Shen shows the significance of nationalism for the mass imagination in post-socialist China. Chapters move from the intellectual idealism of the 1980s, through the post-Tiananmen transition, to the national cinema of the 1990s, and finally to the Internet literature of today.




Whereas the revolutions in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to indicate the end of socialism, China, one of the largest socialist countries in the Cold War era, has been undergoing a very different transition in the past three decades. Alongside China’s recent economic success, its Communist Party–controlled state features a Leninist political structure and relatively strong support from the mass society. After Mao Zedong’s demise in 1976, the Party-state not only survived the 1989 Tiananmen Movement but also continued to function as the prime protector of China’s burgeoning market economy. In recent scholarship, “postsocialism” has become a seminal term to characterize the years of mainland China’s effort to construct “socialism with Chinese characteristics”—per official terminology—since 1978. Compared to other terms such as “postmodernism” and “postcolonialism,” postsocialism captures the immensity of China in transition—from a homogeneous, Maoist Party-state to an increasingly heterogeneous nation-state that is an integral part of the global capitalist order—while fully acknowledging the historical continuity that makes the current country the inheritor of legacies of Chinese socialism. This book investigates the cultural consequences of the dynamic relationship between the Chinese state and society in this transition through the lens of mass nationalism as expressed in aestheticized public discourses.
Yipeng Shen

Chapter 1. Heshang: Socialist Historical Consciousness in Transformation and the 1980s Pedagogy of Reform

A critical moment of history arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century when China embarked on her fast modernization under the influence of a variety of internal and external factors, among which were the long and gradual decline of her traditional society and the new threat of Western imperialism. The search for modernity continued in the twentieth century, when Chinese people, actively or passively, were deeply involved in the historical swirl of revolutions and efforts at national salvation. The PRC was founded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949 in the wake of the May Fourth New Culture Movement (1915–24/25), the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), and the Civil War between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang (1946–49). The socialist reconstruction of the means of production and the ownership system by the Communist Party-state in the 1950s concluded the first phase of the twentieth-century Chinese revolution.
Yipeng Shen

Chapter 2. Making Money Is Patriotic: New Immigrant Fiction of the Early 1990s

The immediate period after 1989 was characterized by the stagnation of political reforms and deep social doubts over the direction in which China would head. The 1989 Tiananmen Movement had forever changed the relationship between the Chinese masses and the Communist Party-state. However, a political confrontation between the society and the state did not take place, as many critics familiar with the Eastern European and Soviet Union experiences would have expected. Instead, a disillusioned mass society and an authoritarian Party-state caught in international economic and political pressures made compromises with each other and eventually found their common grounds in the continuance of economic modernization and the repositioning of China in the global picture after Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Tour. The 1980s reform marked both the departure of the Party-state from Maoism and the reintegration of China into the global capitalist order. China’s economic success and reconnection with the West received widespread applause, until the Party demonstrated in 1989 its determination to maintain political power at any cost. The Tiananmen Movement1 fundamentally changed the sociopsychological reality of post-1989 China, but it was not until after Deng’s 1992 Southern Tour that a full-scale merger of state, market, and global capital took off as the Party-state’s primary reaction to its post-1989 legitimacy crisis.
Yipeng Shen

Chapter 3. Patriotism, History, and Leitmotif Films in the Late 1990s

Since film was introduced to China in the 1900s, it has provided people with new possibilities to imagine and reconfigure modern life. The film industry, criticism, and historiography within the territorial borders of mainland China have since formed a “national cinema” tradition. The border issue is mentioned here since this chapter deals only with cinema of mainland China; Hong Kong and Taiwan have their own cinematic traditions.1
Yipeng Shen

Chapter 4. Netizens, Counter-Memories, and Internet Literature into the New Millennium

China was first connected to the Internet in 1994. Thousands of Chinese-language websites and millions of Internet users have since emerged. In just four years, 40 million mainland Chinese people became frequent users of Internet-related services.1 In 2008 China surpassed the United States for the first time in terms of the total number of Internet users. By the end of 2012, the total reached approximately 564 million.2
Yipeng Shen

Conclusion: Dreams in the Twenty-First Century

Xi Jinping (b. 1953) became China’s new supreme leader in late 2012 at the First Plenum of the Eighteenth Party Congress. Since assuming the positions of president and Party general secretary, Xi has endeavored to promote the “China Dream” (Zhongguomeng) as a central ideological guideline for society. This has, theoretically and practically, become a hallmark maneuver of his administration. According to official narratives, the Dream is defined by its ultimate goal to rejuvenate the Chinese nation, which can be achieved through the efforts of each and every member of society to construct China as a wealthy and strong modern country and make the Chinese people happy and prosperous. China watchers in the West have offered different interpretations of the Dream. US-based China strategist Helen Wang (2010) characterizes it as a variant of the American dream now pursued by the vast population of China who aspire to live an American-style middle-class life. Reporter Evan Osnos (2013) notes the tensions between the pluralization of the Dream for ordinary Chinese under American influence and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain social control. Their journalistic emphasis on the Dream’s American roots is corroborated by political scientists such as Sujian Guo and Baogang Guo (2010).
Yipeng Shen


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