China's opening up: nationalist and globalist conceptions of same-sex identity

Loretta Ho

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] Since the late 1970s, the phrase that has captured the imagination of China's enormous socio-economic change is kaifang (opening up). This phrase signals not only a series of state-directed projects to make China a 'modern' nation, but also a self-conscious desire to find a new sense of national importance and 'Chineseness'. This nationalist self-consciousness is not new, but it indicates a desire to leave China's socialist past behind and become a world power in the new millennium. This thesis explores the complex and heightened manifestations of national pride and identity that have emerged since the era of opening up. Its central question examines how a renewed form of Chineseness, with a specific focus on a fresh form of Chinese same-sex identity, is articulated in both nationalist and globalist terms, with particular reference to China's opening up. This thesis thus contributes to an understanding of how Chinese same-sex identity in urban China is variously constructed and celebrated; how it is transformed; and how it presents its resistances in the context of China's opening up to the mighty flux of globalisation. In doing so, the research illuminates how seemingly modern and authentic Chinese gay and lesbian identities in urban China come into being at the intersection of certain competing discourses. These discourses are predominantly represented in the contexts of 1) an increasingly globalised gay culture, 2) the ongoing construction of an indigenous Chinese identity, 3) a hybridised transnational/Chinese identity, and 4) the emergence of a gay space in Chinese cyberspace. By indicating how these discourses are simultaneously globalised, localised and deterritorialised, and are necessarily entangled with global power relations, I demonstrate how an essentialised notion of Chinese same-sex identity is continuously transformed by the imaginary power of China's opening up to broader contexts. I conclude that it is within the paradigm of China's opening up to the current globalising world that same-sex identity in urban China, as a rapidly changing notion, can best be understood. ... To an extent, the articulation of seemingly modern and authentic Chinese gay and lesbian identities in urban China is in a state of continuous tension between opening up to a global identity and preserving a local authenticity. Furthermore, the development of these gay and lesbian identities is conditioned and regulated by political thought and action. In this way, political conditioning ensures control and conformity in the articulation of Chinese (same-sex) identity in a self-censored (or ziwo shencha) manner. Most fundamentally, self-censorship is practised more effectively at an individual level than at a state level. Against this background, I argue that the articulation of same-sex identity in urban China is paradoxical: open and decentred, but at the same time, nationalist and conforming to state control.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007

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