The vast majority of English-language resources on contemporary Chinese rhetoric locate their object of study in the geopolitical space of the People’s Republic of China. Such a perspective risks ignoring an important aspect of Chinese rhetoric--what I call “the rhetoric of Chineseness.” This term refers to the rhetorical nature of identifying as Chinese in a variety of historical, social, political, and other circumstances. It suggests that fundamental to the notion of a Chinese rhetoric is the need to understand the shifting nature of the signifier “Chinese.” Without a more complex understanding of “Chinese,” we lose the ability to see contemporary Chinese rhetorics as multifaceted discourses that are embedded in various political and social contexts.As with the other conference paper I posted a few days ago, there are things that I like about this paper--particularly some of the writings that I dug up in the Tunghai University library by former Minister of Education (and founder of Chinese Culture University) Zhang Qiyun (張其昀) and Liang Rongruo (梁容若), professor of Chinese and co-editor of the Guoyu Ribao (國語日報). But one thing I always found myself worrying about when working with such primary sources in Chinese was the question of how influential these writings were, or even how influential their writers were. It's not always easy to tell this when you're working with older sources in your own language, to say nothing of working with historical documents in another language. I wonder how people deal with this. I think the writers I cite here were somewhat influential at the time, but I sort of found that after the fact. (I also have to admit that I don't remember how I managed to come across these texts. I have a feeling it was serendipitous, though.)
Particular to my purposes here are the ways in which Chineseness was called upon by political and intellectual figures in Taiwan in the formation of a cultural and national identity that was used for a variety of purposes related to the making of Republic of China citizens on Taiwan after World War II. I will describe how, after the Japanese surrender, the incoming Nationalist (KMT) government positioned itself as the representative of Chinese culture and nationhood. Political discourse in martial law Taiwan (1947-1987) involved the invention of particular cultural and political understandings of “Chinese” in order to encourage the people of Taiwan to think of themselves as part of a once-and-future Republic of China, a nation which saw itself as the rightful government of China although it had lost control over the physical space of China. Through civic and language education, the government of the ROC on Taiwan attempted to indoctrinate its people into a view of themselves as Chinese citizens and “compatriots” to their suffering brethren on the mainland.
This study will, it is hoped, complicate the notions of “Chinese” that are often unexamined when scholars analyze “Chinese rhetoric.”
Anyway, enjoy! (Or don't...)