Posted by: Third Tone Devil | 6 October 2008

Xu Wu’s Chinese Cyber Nationalism

Xu Wu is an assistant professor of “strategic media and public relations” (!) at the journalism school of Arizona State University, and a former Xinhua editor. The book (Lexington Books, 2007), dedicated “To my beloved homeland — China,” is, to my knowledge, the first monograph on the subject of Chinese cybernationalism. It is interesting for the amount of resources it covers, particularly on the early evolution of hacker groups and the influence of CND in the 1990s. It also chronicles the online events that followed the 1999 bombing of China’s Belgrade embassy and surrounded the foundation of Qiangguo Luntan in more detail than other accounts I have read. 

Despite the dedication, the book attempts to be even-handed;  it takes an understanding stand towards both Chinese nationalists and Western journalists, but expresses distate of “extreme” nationalism (as exemplified by China Can Say No). At the same time, its underlying premise that Chinese nationalism (as long as it is not “extreme”) is a natural and rightful thing, and a similar naturalization of the divide between Chinese and “foreigners” (as in “few foreigners seem to understand…”) distinguishes the book from those one is accustomed to reading in English-language academia. 

Another distinctive aspect is the grammar. It seems poor taste for a reviewer to point out grammar problems, but in this case they are so systematic, not only in the text but also in the titles (e.g. “The Indonesia’s Riot and the CCP’s dilemma”), that they really seem to indicate either a dramatic decline of quality in the publishing industry, or a growing confidence that Chinese speakers need not unduly concern themselves with deviations from standard English. The errors do not affect comprehension, but that a professor of strategic media did not ask a native speaker to read through his manuscript is hard to understand unless it was deliberate.

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