Breaking Invisible Structures: Youth Politics of Resistance in the Rise of China

Title: 1247 | Breaking Invisible Structures: Youth Politics of Resistance in the Rise of China
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Communications
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Zhi Lee, Communication University of China, China (organizer, chair, presenter)
Xi Wang, The University of Chicago, United States (presenter)
Da Wang, Tsinghua University, China (presenter, chair)
Siyan Tse, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter, discussant)


In the dramatic shift toward modernity and politics, people from Asia today have been seeking to deconstruct existing power structures and reconstruct their identities embedded in the global order. As a rising entity, China gives young people both opportunities and constraints under its economic development and political suppression. This panel seeks to explore the plural and unconventional practices of young people against existing power structures in contemporary Chinese society across time and space. Four topics will be discussed by scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds, academic stages, and regional focuses. Firstly, during the outbreak of coronavirus, youngers from the mainland protest harshly against the official discourse, destroying established values while reconstructing their new beliefs through online resistance. Secondly, faced with the government's oppression against workers, today’s leftwing students fight against Chinese Communist Party by CCP discourse, revealing China’s propaganda mechanism through a gap from the CCP discourse in the 1920s and 1930s. Thirdly, using the documentary film with Mainland China's mainstream ideology as a target, Taiwanese young netizens attempt to break the existing ethical norms of cross-strait relations and dominated culture. Finally, immersing in the neo-liberalist context, young grassroots in Canton City near Hong Kong experiment with living under the clash of modernity and capitalism by creating an innovative model of relation and space. The goal of the panel is not only to understand the resistant power of young people from Asia, but also to bring up variations under the regional and national tag by examining and revealing dynamics and contingencies.

Panel Abstracts:
Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Values through Resistant Discourse of Young Netizens in Mainland China
Li Wenliang, one of the few whistleblowers of coronavirus who was accused of rumormongering by the government, died of the virus on February 7. Young netizens of mainland China outpoured their anger and grief of this incident, criticizing and protesting against the Wuhan police, the information concealment of the local government, and the improper rescue measures before Li's death. During this process, the Internet enables a kind of virtual resistance, which breaks free the traditional protests requiring that protesters must be together physically. Youngsters constitute and present their symbolic struggles through reposts, replies, follow-ups, and self-narrations in online communities. This study explores how resistant discourse on social media can influence youth values by taking Li’s death as an example, with the purpose of theorizing the process of deconstruction and reconstruction of youth values in China’s public sphere. Taking Douban Website, an online micro field composed of youth communities, intellectuals, and open space for multifarious attitudes, this paper dives into four aspects, including cognition of subjects, performances of mainstream media, problems of institutions, and possibilities of future changes. The goal is to uncover how hidden information in the online field reproduces values through the macropolitical system, the meso-media environment, and the micro-individual culture. This process reveals the dynamics of how youth communities generate endogenous cycles of resistant discourse as well as how they are trapped by the confrontation between ideals and reality.  

A Comparative Discourse Analysis between Contemporary Leftwing Students and Workers of the 1920s and 1930s
Discourse has been a powerful toolkit for protesters in social movements. In both the 2018 Jiashi Movement and the movements in the early stage of the Chinese Communist Party, the workers strived for their rights against the capitalists and the government with the help of the intellectuals. But the discourse styles of the two periods are significantly different. On the one hand, the students and workers adopted the discourse style of elite romanticism in the 2018 Jiashi Movement, extolling the elite heroes with pompous rhetoric. On the other hand, the intellectuals and workers assumed an air of grassroot realism in the 1920s- and 1930s-social movement discourse, focusing on the sufferings of works with descriptive narrative. In analyzing 96 texts of the discourse in the two periods with 4 categories of works including songs, poems, open letters and speeches, and self-stories, this paper attempts to find out the mechanism that has generated the gap. The analysis shows that first, the differences in external political environments and internal features of elites have generated the gap between the perspectives of grassroots and elites. Second, the appropriation and propaganda tradition of the Chinese Communist Party has broadened the distance between realism and romanticism. The result provides hints to the roles of elites in social movements under different historical contexts and reveals the hypocritical nature of the Chinese government. 

A Critical Discourse Analysis of Taiwan's PTT Young Netizens' Commentary on the Documentary "Amazing China"
"Amazing China" was originally a propaganda documentary produced by mainland Chinese to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the P.R.C. After spreading through the Internet, it caused a fierce rebound in Taiwanese youth. This article took Taiwan PTT as an example, and conducted a critical discourse analysis of relevant comments before November 2018. The study found that young netizens in Taiwan commented on "Amazing China" based on the three frameworks, which are "questioning", "taunting" and "resistance". These interpretation frameworks reflect the unique history, political, economic and social perception of the Taiwanese youth generation. Through the carnival of discourse, they hope to “temporarily” break through the existing ethical norms of cross-strait relations and mainstream culture, and realize the self-subject focus through the process of “re-meaninging” (deconstruction – re-construction) and “otherization.”

Prefigurative Living: Staging of Politics in the Art Community SoengJoengToi
In the past decade, socially-engaged artistic practices in mainland China not only appear in a form of rural construction (place-making) or social bonds repairing, but strike roots in cultivating mutual alliance and grass-root resistance power. The in-depth scholarly researches of Nicolas Bourrioud, Claire Bishop, and Grant Kester captured the historical context and critical perspectives of a variety of collaborative, participatory, and community-based artistic practices, while it failed to proceed a dialogue with the on-going creative resistance and cultivation of alternative art spaces in contemporary China. My project participates into this developing field of socially-engaged art with empirical studies, using approach of sensory ethnography, situating various levels of in-situ engagement of artistic production, and reconnecting the existing discourse in order to investigate the relationship between art and the broader social and political world. In this project, I will closely look into the organic structure of the grass-root community XiaKeTing (XKT) in Guangzhou and examine the kinds of knowledge that aesthetic embodiment of relations is producing within their intercommunity. I argue that the spatial experiment of XKT illustrates the staging of prefigurative politics. Its decentralized-oriented collaboration and the daily interaction is the ideology of itself, which brings an innovative imagination of a soft-antagonism and a model of new forms of working and living relation against the strengthening tension of political pressure. The study of XKT can be an overture to look into these intimate and allied youth collectives that practice as self-organized communities, and eventually being confluences of East-Asia Artivism

This panel is on Thursday - Session 05 - Room 6

Go to Room 6