More than a category: Han supremacism on the Chinese internet

  • Leibold J
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Abstract

Using the October 2008 slapping incident of historian Yan Chongnian 阎崇年 as a case study, this article attempts to contextualize and critically examine the articulation of Han supremacism on the Chinese internet. It demonstrates how an informal group of non-elite, urban youth are mobilizing the ancient Han ethnonym to challenge the Chinese Communist Party's official policy of multiculturalism, while seeking to promote pride and self-identification with the Han race (han minzu 汉民族) to the exclusion of the non-Han minorities. In contrast to most of the Anglophone literature on Chinese nationalism, this article seeks to employ “Han” as a “boundary-spanner,” a category that turns our analysis of Chinese national identity formation on its head, side-stepping the “usual suspects” (intellectuals, dissidents and the state itself) and the prominent role of the “foreign other” in Chinese ethnogenesis, and instead probing the unstable plurality of the self/othering process in modern China and the role of the internet in opening up new spaces for non-mainstream identity articulation.

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  • James Leibold

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