China in Australia: The Discourses of Changst

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China matters significantly to contemporary Australia in terms of trade relations, capital movements, education and global order. Australian public discourse on China, however, inhabits two conflicting parallel universes, one a narrative of economic complementarity, the other of fear and anxiety. The spectre of the rise of China haunts Australian society in and among these two spheres: one in which China’s economic rise is to be encouraged as a sign of it joining the capitalist world system, and the other in which China’s ascent is regarded as a threat to be contained. The paper examines this problematic discourse, calling it Changst [China angst], arguing that it is permeated with a developmentalist logic (Chakrabarty, 2000) that misreads China through the homogenising history of both capitalism and Eurocentrism. This reading of China as but a copy of Western capitalism evokes anxiety because its distinctive forms of capital flow disrupt the comforting teleology. Equally, when Chinese society, including its education system, is perceived as not-yet modern, this induces fear of cultural contamination from the outpouring of Chinese international students. The exploration of this anxiety is conducted via six Australian case studies, showing how China’s engagement with Australia produces intense but unwarranted angst.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-341
JournalAsian Studies Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


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