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Subverting official language and discourse in China?: type river crab for harmony

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2014
<mark>Journal</mark>China Information
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)47-67
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


While the promotion of ‘harmony’ (和谐) in Chinese official discourse is widely regarded as a feature of state propaganda and censorship, scarce attention has been paid to the reception and redeployment of such language among Chinese citizens. The often creative and ironic reappropriation of official language in everyday speech practices, both on the Internet and in conversations with peers, is an important aspect of Chinese language/politics and deserves careful examination. Much of the current work has regarded these discursive practices in terms of a resistance to ‘harmonization’ or, following a Bakhtinian reading, as ‘carnival’. We argue that such approaches do not fully take into consideration actors’ actual experience of consuming and producing such language play. Based on semi-structured interviews with Chinese university students conducted in 2009–11, this article shifts away from the dominant assumptions about the role of ironic reiterations of official language, in order to highlight how the presumed repoliticization of these linguistic practices also involves a depoliticization, reflecting the complexity and ambiguity of the relationships they negotiate.