Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-gsnzm Total loading time: 0.348 Render date: 2022-09-25T06:30:19.401Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Moral Performance and Cultural Governance in China: The Compassionate Politics of Disasters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2016

Bin Xu*
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta. Email: xubincn@hotmail.com.

Abstract

This article examines the Chinese state's moral performance during several major disasters, including the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the 1998 Yangtze River floods, and the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. Drawing on the theatrical theory of symbolic politics, I argue that the Sichuan earthquake marked a turn in the state's moral performance. While the Chinese state continued to project an image of a secure, heroic state, it endeavoured to construct a sympathetic image through leaders' displays of compassion and sorrow, a mourning ritual for ordinary victims, and narratives of response and rescue. This shift towards a more compassionate performance can be explained by the state's deployment of cultural resources to respond to societal challenges since the new millennium and its effort to repair its image amid the crises of 2008. The compassionate performance was temporarily effective because it found common ground with the traditional political culture of disaster, which still shapes the public's expectations of the state's moral conduct, and the new public culture that values equality and dignity of human life. Nevertheless, the political dilemmas of the compassionate performance became evident. Its efficacy largely relied on the presentation of suffering at the scene, which, however, led to public demands for the state to address the causes of the suffering. When the state failed to construct an “accountable state” image, this “dilemma of scene” had repercussions for its legitimacy. The efficacy of paternalism was also limited because it was less appealing to the growing urban middle class. By addressing moral performance, this paper contributes to the literature on politics of disaster and advances the important research agenda on cultural governance.

摘要

本文考察中国政府在几次重大灾难中的道德表演, 包括 2008 年四川地震, 1998 年华东水灾和 1976 年唐山地震。基于符号政治学中的戏剧理论, 我认为四川地震标志了政府道德表演的一次转型: 中国政府继续塑造一个能够提供安全的、同时具有英雄气概的形象, 但更重要的是其努力塑造富于同情心的形象, 这一形象塑造通过一系列的手段, 比如领袖表达同情和悲伤的情绪, 政府为普通遇难者的哀悼仪式, 以及关于灾难响应和恢复的叙述。这一朝向同情表演的转型是由于政府用文化资源应对自新千年以来来自社会的挑战, 以及其在 2008 年一系列危机中试图修复其形象。同情表演暂时有效, 是因为它能与两种灾难政治文化找到共同点: 传统灾难政治文化, 至今依然影响着公众的对于政府道德行为的期待; 新的公众文化, 其强调生命的平等和尊严。然而, 同情表演的政治困境同样明显。同情表演的效果相当程度上依赖于在表演背景中呈现出苦难, 但这种呈现往往引起公众要求政府对苦难的根源采取措施, 此时如果政府不能塑造一个 “负责任” 的形象, 这种 “背景困境” 会导致同情表演反过来损害其合法性。这一点在关于校舍倒塌的争议上表现的非常明显。同时, 同情表演中的父爱主义也只有有限的效果, 因为其对快速增长的城市中产阶级的吸引力有限。本文通过阐述道德表演, 最终试图对于灾难政治学有所贡献, 同时也试图推进对文化治术的研究。

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The China Quarterly 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Asian Development Bank. 2008. “People's Republic of China: providing emergency response to the Sichuan earthquake.” Asian Development Bank Technical Assistance Report Project No. 42150.Google Scholar
Berezin, Mabel. 2002. “Secure states: towards a political sociology of emotions.” In Barbalet, Jack (ed.), Emotions and Sociology. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 3352.Google Scholar
Bernstein, Thomas P., and , Xiaobo. 2003. Taxation without Representation in Rural China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brady, Anne-Marie. 2009. “Mass persuasion as a means of legitimation and China's popular authoritarianism.” American Behavioral Scientist 53(3), 434457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bramall, Chris. 2011. “Agency and famine in China's Sichuan province, 1958–1962.” The China Quarterly 208, 9901008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brissett, Dennis, and Edgley, Charles (eds.). 2005. Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Sourcebook (2nd ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Brownell, Susan. 2012. “Human rights and the Beijing Olympics: imagined global community and the transnational public sphere.” British Journal of Sociology 63(2), 306327.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Burke, Kenneth. 1945. A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
Cai, Yongshun. 2008. “Power structure and regime resilience: contentious politics in China.” British Journal of Political Science 38, 411432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Callahan, William A. 2006. Cultural Governance and Resistance in Pacific Asia. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Cheng, Bor-Shiuan, Chou, Li-Fang, Wu, Tsung-Yu, Huang, Min-Ping and Farh, Jiing-Lih. 2004. “Paternalistic leadership and subordinate responses: establishing a leadership model in Chinese organizations.” Asian Journal of Social Psychology 7(1), 89117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chu, Yun-han, and Chang, Yu-tzung. 2001. “Culture shift and regime legitimacy: comparing mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.” In Hua, Shiping (ed.), Chinese Political Culture: 1989–2000. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 320347.Google Scholar
Duan, Wei. 2008. Rangzai yu jianzai: Qin Han shehui ziran zaihai yindui zhidu de xincheng (Disaster-alleviation Rituals and Disaster Reduction: Formation of the Disaster Response System in Qin and Han Societies). Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe.Google Scholar
Edelman, Murray J. 1964. The Symbolic Uses of Politics. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
Esherick, Joseph W., and Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N.. 1990. “Acting-out democracy: political theater in modern China.” Journal of Asian Studies 49(4), 835865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farh, Jiing-Lih, and Cheng, Bor-Shiuan. 2000. “A cultural analysis of paternalistic leadership in Chinese organizations.” In Li, J.T., Tsui, Anne S. and Weldon, Elizabeth (eds.), Management and Organizations in the Chinese Context. New York: St. Martin's Press, 84127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fewsmith, Joseph. 2003. “China and the politics of SARS.” Current History 102, 250255.Google Scholar
Geertz, Clifford. 1980. Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth-century Bali. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
Gusfield, Joseph R. 1981. The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking-driving and the Symbolic Order. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Heilmann, Sebastian, and Perry, Elizabeth J. (eds.). 2011. Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.Google Scholar
Hung, Ho-fung. 2011. Protest with Chinese Characteristics: Demonstrations, Riots, and Petitions in the Mid-Qing Dynasty. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaufman, Joan, Kleinman, Arthur and Saich, Tony (eds.). 2006. AIDS and Social Policy in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kertzer, David I. 1988. Ritual, Politics, and Power. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Li, Xueju, Yang, Yanyin and Yuan, Shuhong (eds.). 2005. Zaihai yingji guanli (Disaster and Emergency Management). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui chubanshe.Google Scholar
Manning, Peter K. 1977. Police Work: The Social Organization of Policing. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
Nussbaum, Martha Craven. 2001. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Brien, Kevin J., and Li, Lianjiang. 2006. Rightful Resistance in Rural China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Perry, Elizabeth. 2002. “Moving the masses: emotion work in the Chinese revolution.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 7(2), 111128.Google Scholar
Perry, Elizabeth. 2013. “Cultural governance in contemporary China: re-orienting Party propaganda.” Harvard-Yenching Institute Working Paper Series, http://www.harvard-yenching.org/sites/harvard-yenching.org/files/featurefiles/Elizabeth%20Perry_Cultural%20Governance%20in%20Contemporary%20China_0.pdf. Accessed January 2015.Google Scholar
Redding, S.G. 1990. The Spirit of Chinese Capitalism. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, Judith. 2001. Mao's War against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shieh, Shawn, and Deng, Guosheng. 2011. “An emerging civil society: the impact of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake on grass-roots associations in China.” The China Journal 65, 181194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sorace, Christian. 2014. “China's vision for developing Sichuan's post-earthquake countryside: turning unruly peasants into grateful urban citizens.” The China Quarterly 218, 404427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thaxton, Ralph. 2008. Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China: Mao's Great Leap Forward Famine and the Origins of Righteous Resistance in Da Fo Village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thornton, Patricia M. 2007. Disciplining the State: Virtue, Violence, and State-making in Modern China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thornton, Patricia M. 2009. “Crisis and governance: SARS and the resilience of the Chinese body politic.” The China Journal 61, 2348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tian, Renlong. 2007. “Tianren heyi yu Han dai yingzai moshi” (The theory of “unity of man and heaven” and disaster response in the Han Dynasty). In Hao, Zhiqing (ed.), Zhongguo gudai zaihaishi yanjiu (Studies of Disasters in Ancient China). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 5171.Google Scholar
Tong, Yanqi. 2011. “Morality, benevolence, and responsibility: regime legitimacy in China from past to the present.” Journal of Chinese Political Science 16, 141159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turner, Jonathan H., and Stets, Jan E.. 2006. “Moral emotions.” In Turner, Jonathan H. and Stets, Jan E. (eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions. New York: Springer, 544566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turner, Victor Witter. 1957. Schism and Continuity in an African Society: A Study of Ndembu Village Life. Manchester: Rhodes-Livingstone Institute.Google Scholar
Xie, Xuren. 2011. “Gongzai dangdai, lizai qianqiu: jinian nongcun suifei gaige shizhounian” (Contemporary achievements with long-term effects: 10th anniversary of the agricultural taxation reform). Zhongguo caizheng 6, 810.Google Scholar
Xu, Bin. 2012. “Grandpa Wen: scene and political performance.” Sociological Theory 30(2), 114129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Xu, Bin. 2013. “For whom the bell tolls: state–society relations and the Sichuan earthquake mourning in China.” Theory and Society 42(5), 509542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Xu, Bin. 2014. “Consensus crisis and civil society: the Sichuan earthquake response and state–society relations.” The China Journal 71, 91108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yang, Dali L. 1996. Calamity and Reform in China: State, Rural Society, and Institutional Change since the Great Leap Famine. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Zhang, Ning (ed.). 2012. Kexue fazhanguan yu shiliuda yilai lilun chuangxin (The Theory of Scientific Development and Theoretical Innovations since the 16th Convention). Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe.Google Scholar
Zhao, Yuezhi. 2008. Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Zhou, Xun. 2013. Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958–1962: An Oral History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
13
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Moral Performance and Cultural Governance in China: The Compassionate Politics of Disasters
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Moral Performance and Cultural Governance in China: The Compassionate Politics of Disasters
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Moral Performance and Cultural Governance in China: The Compassionate Politics of Disasters
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *